Bulbs for troughs

Dell Sherk ds429@frontier.com
Tue, 20 Oct 2015 13:56:06 PDT
Would styrofoam containers offer as much insulation for bulbs as planting in ground would do? Here where it can go down to -10 F, I have had poor results with normally hardy crocus cultivars grown in large planters.

Dell, in West Virginia – zone 5 – 7 depending on the whims of the climate. (However, here, everyone knows that climate change is a myth just like the absurd idea that burning fossil fuels is a problem.)

From: Jane McGary
Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 2:28 PM
To: Pacific Bulb Society
Subject: Re: [pbs] Bulbs for troughs

Travis asked,
"My question: What bulbs like growing in troughs? Do bulbs dwindle if 
they aren't refreshed every few years (by dumping the contents and 
adding fresh growing medium)? Ian grows Galanthus and Tecophilaea in 
troughs. Anyone else grow bulbs in troughs? "

Growing bulbs in troughs is a good compromise between putting them in 
the open ground (where predators may eat them) and growing them in pots 
(where they may not have adequate root room). Fertilizing them is 
necessary; some growers use bone meal, but if any animals (dogs, cats, 
raccoons, coyotes) have access to the troughs, you are better off with a 
soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Grow Blossom Booster (lower nitrogen) 
applied at half strength in fall and spring. Renewing the soil does not 
have to be done as often as in pots but I would recommend it at least 
every four years. Adding prilled lime (Cal-Pril) to the mix will boost 
nutrition for most bulbs, since like me Travis lives in an acid-soil and 
rock area.

Keeping Galanthus in troughs is a way to segregate special, expensive 
forms and rare species, and permits easier ways to shield them from bulb 
fly. Tecophilaea is a good subject for a trough because (1) it grows 
better with adequate root room, and (2) it flowers best if grown close 
to the limit of its cold-hardiness rather than in a frost-free greenhouse.

If you keep your troughs small enough, you can move them under 
protection during severe cold spells. You can also cover them easily 
with a frost blanket such as microfoam (Reemay is not adequate).

Making troughs on a base of a styrofoam fish box, as mentioned, is a 
popular way of creating containers that are not too large or heavy to 
move, although they are more fragile than the traditional hypertufa 
trough. Another option has been devised at Wild Ginger Farms by Truls 
Jensen and PBS member Emma Elliott; they use deep, sturdy "propagation 
flats" from Anderson Company, which are small enough to move (if you're 
as big and strong as Truls, anyway) and offer adequate root room for 
small alpines and bulbs. I recently planted up several of these with 
alpine seedlings. More information on troughs is available through 
http://www.nargs.org/ and the many articles on the subject that have appeared in 
rock and alpine gardening society journals over the years.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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