Newbie questions

Paul McCarthy via pbs
Wed, 28 Apr 2021 19:34:54 PDT
Thanks for so many encouraging and detailed responses. Hopefully there are
other novices out there who learned something from this query. PBS is a

- Paul

On Wed, Apr 28, 2021 at 5:13 PM Uli <>

> Hello Paul,
> Welcome to the PBS! Your questions are absolutely appropriate and I will
> try to answer them as good as I can. But let me first say that the way
> you ask and what you ask shows that you are a good observer and I am
> sure you will end up with a successful collection of bulbs. We all make
> mistakes! You live in one of the best climates to grow winter growing
> bulbs (and much more)
> For the labels I recommed the old fashioned lead pencil on thick plastic
> labels or aluminium if you can get it. Fading labels are a pain, if you
> use them longer you will find that brittle labels are a pain, too.
> Your pictures show plants in the process of going dormant but most are
> not yet dormant so I recommend watering them until the foliage has died
> down completely. For sure they are not dead! The longer you can keep the
> remaining green leaves green the better for the young bulb. Once they
> have really dried up you should stop watering. I noticed that there is a
> Lilium with the other bulbs, this needs a different treatment as it is
> summer growing. It happened to me that I did not notice an evergreen or
> summer growing pot in the trays of winter growing seedlings and I killed
> it with the standard winter grower's regime. Never force a plant into
> dormancy if it does not "obey" . It may be wrongly named and thus be
> something else or, more likely many first year seedlings skip the first
> dormancy and remain green especially in a mild summer climate like
> yours. Each pot needs an individual treatment at this time of the year.
> My recommendation for your climate is to sow winter growing bulbs
> outside, in the open, exposed to the weather, the rain and fluctuating
> temperatures. You seem to be in a frost free location, so no problem.
> Why did you put your seedlings into a cold frame? I use an old hotbed
> window above some of the pots which I consider too fragile for the open
> air treatment but even that produces so much warmth that I remove it
> during dry spells. Warmth or even heat always signals the onset of
> dormancy. That is why I think you live in a great climate, you should be
> able to keep your bulbs green well into May or even June because it will
> not be hot. The Dutch bulb fields are in a similar climate, not for
> nothing. Just a few days of warm weather will not matter if you keep
> your plants shaded (removable shade cloth) and well watered. Full sun
> during the winter months is fine but as soon as the sun gets stronger
> partial shade/shade cloth or diffuse bright light like on the north side
> of a wall is better.
> Re-potting seedlings: I absolutely agree with Jane in all what she
> wrote, never prick out bulb seedlings in growth. But turning a crowded
> seedling pot upside down and have the entire root ball on the other hand
> is fine, then repot into a larger pot, the bulbs will use the available
> space, as Jane said, you can gently loosen the root ball without taking
> it apart. I often do that in the second season when I realize that a
> seedling pot is too full, immediate watering, shade for a few days, I
> never had any losses this way. If you use a soft plastic pot the pot may
> bulge which is always a sign of overcrowding, if there is no bulging
> there is still enough space underground. All the pots I see on your
> pictures are not overcrowded.
> Fertilizer: Why do you say that slow release fertilizer is a bad idea?
> Personally I do not use it for seed but did you have problems with it?
> Fertilizing seedlings is very important, especially at the end of the
> growing season before dormancy sets in. It is this period where the
> bulbs increase most in size and fertilizing with a high potash and
> phosphorus and low nitrogen product is very beneficial, type tomato
> fertilizer. Slow release fertilizer release the nutrients temperature
> dependent and I had a disaster once in my greenhouse. It became very hot
> and all those plants fertilized with SL fertilzer had burnt roots
> because of a sudden release. I now use a water soluble balanced one.
> First dormancy is the most critical time. once you are sure the leaves
> have fully died down stop watering and move the pots to a place where
> they do not get wet uncontrolled. As your summers are not as hot as mine
> in Portugal, I would think that once every four weeks a small amount of
> water is enough. Most young bulbs do not want to remain brutally dry for
> months on end, I have lost seedling bulbs this way. And for heavens
> sake, keep the bulbs in their compost in their pots! Too much water is
> not good either. This sounds more complicated than it really is and you
> will soon get the experience. Most bulbs are forgiving but the odd one
> may teach you a lesson..... You mention pot size. The bigger the
> seedling pot is the more stable the conditions are in it. I use square 8
> x 8 x 8,5cm pots as standard but for some seeds I use up to 6 liter
> pots. The big pots are good for Ranunculaceae and those which resent
> transplanting.
> Transplanting: I do not recommend transplanting bulb seedlings during
> their first dormancy. As Jane said, there may be many seeds left which
> will still germinate in the second season (or even later) which you
> would lose and I would also worry about missing very small bulbs in the
> process. You will have to find your compost which remains stable and
> well draining/moisture retentive for more than one season. I find
> especially South African Gladiolus species are better kept in their
> initial pots for at least two seasons. Obviously big seedling bulbs like
> Freesia can of course be transplanted once dormant. In case of doubt, if
> I toss out a pot and find only very tiny bulbs I put everything back
> into the pot. Potting needs some discipline and organisation in order
> not to mix up things, personally I do not reuse compost.
> You ask about Amaryllid seedling. They very often skip the first
> dormancy so watch them and keep watering and fertilizing them as long as
> they remain green.
> The length of the dormancy is depending on the individual plant species.
> Many will show new shoots even without watering, this always is a sign
> that dormancy is over for this particular bulb. This is triggered by
> soil temperature in some plants, so dormancy will be much shorter in a
> mild climate compared to a hot one. Some have an internal clock and will
> sprout whatever the conditions are and some will be started by the first
> watering. This should not be later than the beginning of October. Those
> which show no sign of growth by then should be watered once and then
> left alone. One drench in October supplies enough moisture to wake up a
> dormant bulb and the moisture remains for quite a time. If such a late
> riser is overwatered it may rot because it cannot handle so much water
> at this moment.
> I have looked again at your pictures: Your bulbs are in good condition.
> I noticed that you have sown them very early in the season, which is
> absolutely fine, they will germinate when the time has come, probably
> much earlier with your climate than with mine. This means you are on the
> winning side time wise, even if you stopped them by frying them
> accidentally this spring. You are using different sizes and types of
> pots. I think the ideal model is the tall square one. Most bulbs have
> deep roots and/or bulbs. Bulging would be visible as most pots are soft,
> I don't see any. The size of your seedlings is VERY good!
> I will send you my contribution the the Bulb Garden about growing seeds
> privately.
> Here is a picture of my seed pots in the open garden, some are under the
> mentioned old hotbed window.
> Bye for now,
> Uli
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