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Seasonal Tip

Forcing Bulbs
September 21, 2009

Autumn has arrived and we have just begun to enjoy its splendors. Even though winter seems to be so far away, there is something we can do now that will bring color and cheer to us in the heart of the cold winter weather. With a little planning and preparation, we can bring our gardens indoors and start the gardening season early next year through a process called "bulb forcing."

Bulb forcing is not difficult. You just have to improvise a bit to provide the types of conditions that bulbs require in order to flower, but rather than having these conditions provided by nature, you provide them in your home.

Process:

  • Any 4-to-6" deep container with drainage holes is suitable for forcing bulbs. You can also force them in a larger flat container and then pot them just before they bloom.
  • Fill your container ¾" full of moist potting soil. Place bulbs on top so the tips are even with the rim of the pot.
  • Fill in around the bulbs with potting soil and water thoroughly. It is ok if the bulb tips become exposed during watering.
  • For a pot that is full and bursting with color, place bulbs shoulder to shoulder until all of the space is filled.
  • Chill the bulbs between 35° F and 50° F for 10 to 16 weeks. To do this, you can use an old refrigerator, unheated garage, or shed. The bulbs will still need to be watered occasionally during this time.
  • At some point during the 10 to 16 week period, pale shoots will emerge. Move them into a cool, dim area until the shoots turn green and then move them indoors. Flowers will soon appear. For extended blooms, remove the pots one at a time. As each new pot begins to send up buds, bring another out of cold storage.
  • After the flowers are spent, continue to water the plant until spring and then plant in the ground. The following year it will sprout and bloom naturally.

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