Bonsai Gardening Secrets:
Mulch Your Spring Flower Bulbs in the Fall for a Beautiful Spring
by Michael J. McGroarty
Flower bulbs need a good, long, winters
sleep. Like some people we know, if they wake up before they are fully
rested, they get kind of cranky, and then they don’t bloom well at
Actually what happens is during a mild winter, the soil stays too
warm, and the bulbs begin to come out of dormancy early. They start to
grow, and once the tips emerge above the soil line, they are subject
to freezing if the temperatures dip back down below freezing. And
that’s usually what happens. After the bulbs have emerged, they freeze
and then don’t bloom at all, or if they do it’s a very sad display.
Another reason this happens is because the bulbs are not planted deep
enough. They may have been deep enough when you planted them, but as
the soil goes through the freezing and thawing process, the bulbs can
actually work their way up in the ground. One way to keep your flower
bulbs sleeping longer, which will protect them from freezing, is to
mulch the bed.
In the fall just apply a 3-4” layer of well composted mulch. This
layer of mulch will do a couple of things. It will maintain a higher
moisture content in the soil, which is good, as long as the soil isn’t
too soggy. Well composted mulch also adds valuable organic matter to
the planting bed. Organic matter makes a great natural fertilizer.
A 3-4” layer of mulch also acts as an insulator. It will keep the soil
from freezing for a while, which is good because you don’t want the
bulbs going through a series of short cycles of freezing and thawing.
Then when the temperatures drop below freezing and stay there for a
while, the soil does eventually freeze. Then the mulch actually works
in reverse and keeps the soil from thawing out too early. Keeping it
in a frozen state is actually good because the bulbs remain dormant
for a longer period of time.
When they finally do wake up it is spring time, and hopefully by the
time they emerge from the ground the danger of a hard freeze is past
and they will not be damaged. If you can keep them from freezing, they
will flower beautifully. The extra organic matter will help to nourish
the bulbs when they are done blooming, and the cycle starts all over
We also plant annual flowers in the same beds with our spring bulbs.
By the time the danger of frost is past and it’s time to plant the
annuals, the top of the bulbs have died back and are ready to be
removed. The mulch that is added in the fall also helps to nourish the
annual flowers, as well as improve the soil permanently. Anytime you
add well composted organic matter to your planting beds, you are bound
to realize multiple benefits. The key words here are “well composted”.
Fresh material is not good.
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
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