At Vineyard Gardens nursery, we are in the process of restoring and replanting the display beds on State Road. In the unfolding we’ve had to displace a lot of bulbs. Many were able to go back in the ground but there were leftovers which I decided to pot up for spring. I recalled a post by a gardening expert in England who decided to pot his bulbs deeper because in previous years he’d experienced them getting too tall and falling over. I decided to follow suit and plant deeper than I might otherwise.
Here is my process for potting our “leftover” bulbs:
1) POT AND POTTING MIXTURE. I use Happy Frog Potting Mix, one of the products available at the Vineyard Gardens Garden Center. It’s light and fluffy with good drainage and high organic content.
2) MIXED, UNKNOWN BULB VARIETIES. The bulbs I dug up are already in big clumps so they will have a nice, naturalized effect when they emerge in the spring. Ordinarily when potting up bulbs we use individual, packaged bulbs. These “clumped bulbs” can be handled a little differently when potted-up because the individual bulbs will be placed tighter than they would be in the ground. Usually when we pot bulbs we only get one season out of them so we’re not concerned about spacing for years of growth and development.
3) A WHEELBARROW OF CLEAN, COARSE SAND.
4) ADD BROKEN CROCKERY TO THE BOTTOM OF YOUR POT. This keeps the soil and sand from escaping every time you water yet allows the water to drain out. Standing water, like in a pot with no drainage hole, will rot the bulb. Paperwhites and Hyacinths do survive in standing water but after they flower they are composted.
5) ADD AN INCH OF SAND IN THE BOTTOM.
6) ADD A NICE THICK LAYER OF POTTING SOIL WITH A SPRINKLE OF OSMOCOTE, A TIME-RELEASE FERTILIZER. We have Osmocote for sale at Vineyard Gardens Garden Center. There are a couple of different kinds, one biased for general growth (green label) and another specifically for developing flowers (pink label). We use Osmocote on practically everything we grow at the nursery. Plants burn up fertility, especially in containers. They are stressed and many nutrients are washed out in runoff due to their need for constant watering.
7) ADD ANOTHER THIN LAYER OF SAND. The whole process is a little like making Lasagna, layer upon layer. I add this layer of sand so the bulbs don’t sit directly in the wet soil. It also provides a quick, easy root run as the bulbs are developing their feeding roots over the winter.
8) ADD THE BIG CLUMP OF BULBS JUST AS THEY CAME OUT OF THE GROUND. Peel off any bulbs that got severed by the spade when they were dug out. Feather apart (divide) really big clumps and any loose little bulblets on the outside of the main clump. Nestle the clump down into the soil base. Add any random loose bulbs around the perimeter.
9) ADD ANOTHER LAYER OF POTTING SOIL UP TO THE RIDGE, A COUPLE OF INCHES FROM THE TOP OF THE POT. Scatter any other tiny loose bulb near the top, then press them in an inch or so. Add a thin layer of potting soil to finish it off.
10) GIVE THE WHOLE POT A GOOD SHAKE AND TAMP TO SETTLE EVERYTHING IN.
11) TOP IT OFF WITH SAND. Sand makes a nice even surface for new growth to come up through and acts as a mulch to prevent moisture evaporation. Bulbs need perfect drainage but adequate moisture, so sand is an important material in the process. Ordinarily at this point I would water it but we’re late in the season and I wouldn’t want for the soil to be sodden when we get another hard freeze.
12) FINISHED POT.