- Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide
- Step 5 – Prepare and Care for the Soil Properly
- Vegetable Garden Soil
- Buying Fertilizers
- Fertilizer Selection
- Using Fertilizer
- Methods of Applying Fertilizer
- Van Engelen
- What to Do When You Bring Your Bulbs Home
- When to Plant
- Planting Location
- Planting Depth
- Protecting from Squirrels and Rodents
- Early Emerging Foliage
- After Bloom Care
Illinois Vegetable Garden Guide
Step 5 – Prepare and Care for the Soil Properly
The soil provides food and water to plants. If these materials are not available or if the soil is in poor physical condition (hard and crusty when dry and sticky when wet) the plants will not grow and develop properly. To promote good growth and development of your plants, prepare the soil before planting by adding organic matter, applying fertilizers, correcting acidity, and plowing the seedbed properly. Take care of the soil during the growing season by applying starter fertilizer and by side dressing with fertilizer.
Improve soil tilth. A soil that is in good tilth, or physical condition, is loose and easy to work, and has proper water-holding capacity, drainage, and aeration. You can improve your soil tilth by adding organic matter, either by spreading manure, compost, or similar matter on the soil and working it in before planting or by turning under a green-manure crop.
Stable manureis a common form of organic matter used in gardens, although it is not readily available. It can also fulfill part of the fertilizer requirements of the soil. Because stable manure is low in phosphorus, add 1 to 1½ pounds of superphosphate to each bushel of manure. Use 500 to 1,000 pounds of horse or cattle manure per 1,000 square feet. Poultry, sheep, and goat manure should be used at half this rate.
Compost is an excellent source of organic matter and is easy to produce. It can be made from leaves, straw, grass clippings, manure, and any other disease-free waste vegetable matter. To make compost, pile these materials in layers as they accumulate during the season. Add 1 pound of a lime-fertilizer mixture to each 10 pounds of dry refuse; add ¼ pound to each 10 pounds of green material. The mixture can be made from 5 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer plus 2 pounds of fine limestone. This fertilizer treatment will hasten decay and improve the fertility of the compost. Spread soil over the material to hold it in place (Fig. 1). Water the pile to keep it damp and occasionally turn and mix the soil and decaying material. The pile will be ready to spread over garden soil in 6 to 12 months.
Green-manure crop. By growing a green-manure or cover crop, such as rye or oats, during the fall and spring and plowing it under, you can improve your soil tilth. The seed can be broadcast over worked-up unplanted areas and between rows of late vegetables. Stir the seed into the soil with a rake, hand cultivator, or harrow.
Fertilize the soil. Fertilizer applications should be made before planting. Later in the season additional applications may be necessary.
Have your soil tested, especially if it is your first year in your present location. A soil test will indicate the amount and availability of nutrients in your soil. Gather small amounts of soil from about eight well-scattered spots in your garden, mix them together, dry at room temperature, wrap in a sturdy ½-pint container, mark the container “For Vegetable Garden” and take it to the nearest soil testing laboratory. If you do not who does soil testing in your area, contact your local extension office. The lab will analyze the soil and send results of the test along with fertilizer and lime recommendations for your garden.
If you do not have your soil tested, you can follow a general fertilizer recommendation of adding 1 pound of an all-purpose fertilizer such as 13-13-13 per 100 square feet.
The main elements applied through fertilizers are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. When considered as fertilizer, they are usually referred to as nitrogen (N), phosphoric acid (P2O5), and potash (K2O), respectively. A fertilizer marked 3-12-12 contains 3 percent nitrogen, 12 percent phosphoric acid, and 12 percent potash.
Trace or minor elements are very rarely needed in Illinois soils.
Work fertilizer into the soil. Spread the fertilizer over the garden area and disk or rake it into the top 4 inches of soil before planting each crop. Or you can apply the fertilizer to the soil just before spading or plowing in the spring or fall.
Use starter fertilizer when transplanting to give your plants a faster start. Starter fertilizer is an all-soluble fertilizer high in phosphorus, for example 10-52-17 or 10-50-10. Mix the fertilizer with water (about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water). When you transplant, place about 1 cup of the solution around the roots of each plant. If a regular starter solution is not available, mix 1 cup of 0-45-0 or similar fertilizer in 12 quarts of water and use 1 cup of solution for each plant.
Side dress fertilizer later in the season. Often the soil needs more fertilizer, especially nitrogen, later in the season. Side dressing – applying fertilizer in a band along one side of the row about 4 inches from the crops – should be made for leafy crops, greens, and root crops when the plants are half-grown and for tomatoes, peppers, beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, etc., when they begin to set fruit. Use 2½ pounds of ammonium nitrate, 2 pounds of urea, or 5 pounds of nitrate of soda per 1,000 square feet. Avoid getting dry fertilizer on plant leaves as it will injure them. Hoe the fertilizer into the soil surface. In dry weather, water the soil to make the fertilizer more quickly available to plant roots.
Correct soil acidity. A slightly acid soil is best for growing most vegetables. If the soil test indicates that your soil is more acid than it should be, apply the recommended amount of lime. Add lime only if it is needed and avoid overliming.
Some soils are too alkaline. This can be corrected by adding sulfur to the soil. A soil test will indicate whether your soil is too alkaline. Work the lime or sulfur into the soil at the same time that you apply fertilizer.
Plow and prepare the seedbed properly. Plowing or spading can be done in either the spring or the fall. With fall plowing the soil can be worked and planted earlier in the spring, but not as much cover crop can be grown as with spring plowing.
Do not plow or spade the soil when it is too wet. A good test is to squeeze a handful of soil in your hand. It should crumble and not feel sticky.
You may apply fertilizer just before plowing or spading. Turn the ground over to a depth of about 8 inches. If fertilizer is added to the soil after plowing, rake or harrow the plowed area to work the fertilizer into the soil.
Just before planting prepare the seedbed for planting by working the soil with a rake or harrow. A freshly prepared seedbed will prevent weeds from coming up before the vegetables.
For small-seeded crops a smooth and finely pulverized surface insures easier planting, better germination, and a more even stand. Heavy soils low in organic matter should not be worked into too fine a consistency because they tend to get hard and crusty, preventing emergence of seedlings. Many Illinois soils should not be overworked.
Choose a Step
- Step 1 – Make Good Use of Your Location
- Step 2 – Plan Your Garden Layout
- Step 3 – Grow Recommended Varieties
- Step 4 – Obtain Good Seed, Plants, Equipment, and Supplies
- Step 5 – Prepare and Care for the Soil Properly
- Step 6 – Plant Your Vegetables Right
- Step 7 – Keep Down Weeds
- Step 8 – Control Pests
- Step 9 – Water Properly
- Step 10 – Harvest at Peak Quality
Vegetable Garden Soil
Fertilizing your garden is a two-stage
Fertilizing your vegetable garden is a two-stage process, performed before planting and again midway through the growing season.
- Broadcast Fertilizing: When you’re preparing the bed for spring planting, apply a complete fertilizer — such as 10-10-10 — evenly to the entire garden according to the soil test recommendations. Do not overfertilize. A hand spreader helps keep the job neat as it distributes the granules. Turn the fertilizer into the soil with a hand spade or tiller and smooth out the surface to prepare for planting. This first fertilizing step will see most of your vegetables through their initial period of growth. Halfway through the growing season, the plants will have used up a lot of the nutrients in the soil, and you’ll have to replace these nutrients.
- Side dressing: As the nutrients are used up by the plants, a second boost of fertilizer will be needed to supply the plants with essential elements through the remainder of the growing season. Use the same complete fertilizer at the same rate as used in the spring, but this time apply it as a sidedressing to the plants. With a hoe, make a four-inch deep trench along one side of the row, taking care not to disturb the plant’s roots. Apply the fertilizer in the trench and then cover the trench with the soil you removed. Rain and irrigation will work the fertilizer into the soil, becoming available to the plants.
Side dressing Individual Plants
When long-season vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers need a second application of fertilizer, there’s no need to trench an entire row. Cut a four-inch-deep collar-trench around the plant 12 to 18 inches from the stem. Spread about 1/2 cup of the same fertilizer used in the spring around each plant and cover it with soil. Water the garden well after fertilizing.
Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:
- Starting a Vegetable Garden: Learn how to get your vegetable garden started, from planning your plot to planting seeds and sprouts.
- Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
- Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year’s garden.
- Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
By: Joseph Masabni
Plants must have light, moisture and nutrients to grow. The sun provides light. Moisture comes from rainfall or irrigation. Nutrients come from fertilizers, compost or manure.
If plants are not growing well, fertilizing them will help only if a lack of nutrients is the cause of the problem. Plants grown in poorly drained soils, in excessive shade, or in competition with tree roots will not respond to fertilizer.
Fertilizers are either organic or inorganic. Examples of organic fertilizers include manure (poultry, cow or horse), bone meal, cottonseed, or other naturally occurring materials. Inorganic fertilizers are man made products. They usually have a higher nutrient content.
The three numbers on fertilizer containers are the fertilizer analysis (Fig. 1). They indicate the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer, respectively.
These figures are always listed in the same order. So, a 100-pound bag of 10-20-10 fertilizer contains 10 pounds of nitrogen, 20 pounds of phosphorus, and 10 pounds of potassium. This equals a total of 40 pounds of nutrients. The rest of the fertilizer, or 60 pounds in this example, is a carrier or filler such as sand, perlite, or rice hulls. A complete fertilizer is one that includes all three elements.
All parts of a plant need nitrogen for growth—the roots, leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Nitrogen gives plants their green color and is needed to form protein. A lack of nitrogen causes the lower leaves to turn yellow and the whole plant to turn pale green. On the other hand, too much nitrogen kills plants.
Phosphorus is needed for cell division and to help form roots, flowers and fruit. Phosphorus deficiency causes stunted growth and poor flowering and fruiting.
Plants need potassium for many of the chemical processes that allow them to live and grow. A potassium shortage shows up in various ways, but stunted growth and yellowish lower leaves are common symptoms in many plants.
When you buy fertilizer, consider the cost per pound of the nutrient(s). Generally, higher analysis fertilizers and larger containers are less expensive. For example, a 50-pound bag of 10-20-10 may not cost any more than a 50-pound bag of 5-10-5 fertilizer, but the 10-20-10 bag contains twice the nutrients.
Figure 1. This bag contain 13 percent nitrogen, 13 percent phosphorus, and 13 percent potassium (or potash).
Most gardeners should use a complete fertilizer with twice as much phosphorus as nitrogen or potassium. An example would be 10-20-10 or 12-24-12. These fertilizers usually are easy to find.
Some soils contain enough potassium for good plant growth and don’t need more. But since a slight excess of potassium will not injure plants, it is usually best to use a complete fertilizer.
Do not use lawn fertilizers on gardens. They contain too much nitrogen, and many have chemicals for lawn weed control that can injure or kill vegetables.
Soils with pH levels below 5.7 need lime. Lime adds calcium to the soil and makes it less acidic, raising pH to an acceptable level.
Gardeners should have their soil tested about every 2 years. This is especially important for beginning gardeners who are unfamiliar with growing plants. A soil test clearly indicates the levels of nutrients in the soil and recommends the amounts of each nutrient to add.
To collect a soil sample, select a time when the soil is moist but not wet. Dig down about 4 to 6 inches and take a handful of soil. Do this in several different places in the garden. Place each handful of soil in a large container and mix. From this mixture, take about ½ pint of soil for the sample (Fig. 2).
Figure 2. Take soil samples from several areas of the garden and mix them together.
Soil can be tested in midwinter to prepare for spring planting. County Extension agents can give you a soil sample container and explain where to send the sample for testing.
If the garden soil has not been tested, use 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer such as 10-20- 10 for every 100 square feet of garden area. A plot 10 x 10 feet (or 5 x 20 feet) would be 100 square feet (Fig. 3). If a garden is 30 feet long and the rows are 3 feet apart, each row is almost 100 square feet. Use 2 pounds of fertilizer if the garden is sandy and 3 pounds if the soil is mostly clay.
Figure 3. Use 2 to 3 pounds of fertilizer such as 10-20-10 for every 100 square feet of garden area.
Do not use too much fertilizer. This can kill plants. Two cups of most fertilizers will weigh about 1 pound. If a fertilizer has more nitrogen, use less. Two pounds of 5-10-5 fertilizer supplies as much nitrogen as 1 pound of 10-20-10.
If you are using organic fertilizer such as barnyard manure, spread it evenly over the garden and work it into the soil. Use 20 to 30 pounds of manure for every 100 square feet of garden. Do not use too much. Do not use fresh manure because it can injure plants.
Methods of Applying Fertilizer
Fertilizers are applied four ways: Broadcast before planting. The proper amount of fertilizer is spread evenly over the garden and mixed with the soil to a depth of 3 to 4 inches before rows are made. This method is the least likely to cause plant damage and usually is best for home gardeners.
Band or row applications. The fertilizer is applied in a strip to the side of the row before planting (Fig. 4). With this method you must be careful to prevent the roots from coming in contact with the fertilizer band, which can kill plants.
Starter solution. This is used only on transplants such as tomato, pepper, eggplant and cabbage. Mix 2 tablespoons of garden fertilizer in 1 gallon of water and stir well. Pour 1 cup of the mix into the hole and let it soak in before transplanting.
Figure 4. Band or row application of fertilizer.
Application to growing plants, or side dressing. This is especially helpful on sandy soils or when there has been a lot of rain that may have leached nutrients from the soil. Fertilizer is sprinkled along the sides of rows and watered into the soil (Fig. 5). About ½ cup of garden fertilizer for every 10 feet of row usually is enough. The amount and timing of fertilizer needed varies according to the type of vegetable planted. Sidedressing increases the yield of most vegetables.
Fertilize fall gardens in the same way as spring gardens. If a fall garden follows a well fertilized spring garden, you’ll need only about half the spring fertilizer rate at planting. Apply 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet.
Figure 5. Sprinkle fertilizer along the sides of rows and water it into the soil.
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Contact Your County Office
The best type of soil for flower bulbs is a sandy loam. It can be described as a balanced mixture of clay, sand, silt and a modicum of organic matter. Sandy loam usually is around neutral pH and affords good water drainage, root permeability and adequate nutrition. All flower bulbs require neutral pH soil (7.0) in order to grow roots. Less than 7.0 pH is acidic. Higher than 7.0 pH is alkaline. Acidic or alkaline soil prevents bulb root growth. Flower bulb planting sites (woodlands, display gardens or lawns) should be amended to neutral pH so that the bulbs may develop mature root systems. For detailed information on how to correct pH levels, one should contact a good local nursery or garden center.
Clay soil is dense and heavy, rich in nutrients, moisture sodden in the winter and hard and dry in the summer. Clay soil impedes root growth and has poor, uneven and damaging water retention and drainage. Clay planting sites should be amended with sand, peat moss, neutral pH organic matter and/or neutral pH, well-aged leaf compost at least one foot beneath the bulb planting depth so that bulbs never sit in water. One should never amend individual planting holes since it would be like carving cups that could fill with water and rot the bulbs.
Sandy soils are light and dry, prone to heat retention, nutrient-poor and acidic. Silt soils are light but easily compacted, moisture-retentive and fertile. Peat soils are too high in organic matter and extremely moisture-retentive. Chalky soils are alkaline and are usually too light and nutrient-poor.
For further information about soil types, refer to the Royal Horticultural Society.
Here, we have excerpted their fine information on soil types for your reference.
The Different Soil Types
“Soils vary enormously in characteristics, but the size of the particles that make up a soil defines its gardening characteristics:
*Clay: less than 0.002mm
*Stones: bigger than 2mm in size
*Chalky soils also contain calcium carbonate or lime.
The dominating particle size gives soil its characteristics and because the tiny clay particles have a huge surface area for a given volume of clay they dominate the other particles:
Clay soils have over 25 percent clay. Also known as heavy soils, these are potentially fertile as they hold nutrients bound to the clay minerals in the soil. But they also hold a high proportion of water due to the capillary attraction of the tiny spaces between the numerous clay particles. They drain slowly and take longer to warm up in spring than sandy soils. Clay soils are easily compacted when trodden on while wet and they bake hard in summer, often cracking noticeably. These soils often test the gardener to the limits, but when managed properly with cultivation and plant choice, can be very rewarding to work with.
Sandy soils have high proportion of sand and little clay. Also known as light soils, these soils drain quickly after rain or watering, are easy to cultivate and work. They warm up more quickly in spring than clay soils. But on the downside, they dry out quickly and are low in plant nutrients, which are quickly washed out by rain. Sandy soils are often very acidic Silt soils, comprised mainly of intermediate sized particles, are fertile, fairly well drained and hold more moisture than sandy soils, but are easily compacted.
Loamsare comprised of a mixture of clay, sand and silt that avoid the extremes of clay or sandy soils and are fertile, well-drained and easily worked. They can be clay-loam or sandy-loam depending on their predominant composition and cultivation characteristics.
Peat soils are mainly organic matter and are usually very fertile and hold much moisture. They are seldom found in gardens.
Chalky or lime-rich soils may be light or heavy but are largely made up of calcium carbonate and are very alkaline.
Where building or landscaping has mixed up different soils, it can be very difficult to tell what type of soil you have, and it may change markedly over a short distance.”
Identifying your Soil Type
The best way to tell what type of soil you have is by touching it and rolling it in your hands.
Sandy soil has a gritty element~you can feel sand grains within it, and it falls through your fingers. It cannot be rolled to make a sausage shape. If it is not a coarse sand and perhaps a sandy loam it may stick together better
Clay soil has a smearing quality, and is sticky when wet. It is easily rolled into a long thin sausage and can be smoothed to a shiny finish by rubbing with a finger. If is it not a heavy clay it won’t get quite as shiny and be as easy to make a sausage.
Pure silt soils are rare, especially in gardens. They have a slightly soapy, slippery texture, and do not clump easily If soil froths when placed in a jar of vinegar, then it contains free calcium carbonate (chalk) or limestone and is lime rich.
Another important aspect of soil type, is the pH (acidity or alkalinity). This will also affect the type of plants you can grow and how you manage your soil.
Working with your Soil
Now you know what type of soil you have, you can start to work with it and improve it.
Clay soils are rich in nutrients and very fertile if their cloddiness can be broken up by the addition of organic matter. This breaks down the clay into separate crumbs, making the water and nutrients held within the clay more easily available to plant roots. Breaking up the clay into crumbs also makes the soil warmer, more easily workable and less prone to compaction.
These light soils are usually low in nutrients, and lose water very quickly being particularly free-draining. You can boost the water and nutrient holding capacity of your soil by adding plenty of organic matter to bind the loose sand into more fertile crumbs. Fertilizers may also be necessary to give plants grown in sandy soils an extra boost.
These soils are made up of fine particles that can be easily compacted by treading and use of garden machinery. They are prone to washing away and wind erosion if left exposed to the elements without plant cover. However, they contain more nutrients than sandy soils and hold more water, so tend to be quite fertile. You can bind the silt particles into more stable crumbs by the addition of organic matter.
These soils are the gardener’s best friend, being a ‘perfect’ balance of all soil particle types. But even though they are very good soils, it is important to regularly add organic matter, especially if you are digging or cultivating these soils every year.
Chalky soils are alkaline, so will not support ericaceous plants that need acid soil conditions. Very chalky soils may contain lumps of visible chalky white stone. Such soils cannot be acidified, and it is better to choose plants that will thrive in alkaline conditions. Many chalky soils are shallow, free-draining and low in fertility, but variations exist, and where there is clay present, nutrient levels may be higher and the water holding capacity greater.
Certain soil types are prone to particular problems. Clay soils can suffer drainage problems and may not suit plants that need free draining conditions. Light, sandy soils need a lot of watering.”
Sincere thanks to the Royal Horticultural Society.
Never Use Acidic or Alkaline Soil Amendments
Flower bulbs must be planted in neutral pH soil.
Never amend soil with or use top dressings of mint mulch, horse manure, chicken droppings, mushroom compost, other “hot” manure, garden compost, household compost or commercial soil amendments for flower bulb planting holes or beds. They are not neutral pH. These top dressings or soil additives create acidic or alkaline pH levels that prevent or retard root growth, mummify bulbs. To the extreme, they can actually rot the bulbs themselves. Immature root growth results in stunted plant growth, paltry foliage and few, if any flowers, or no plant growth.
Garden and household compost often fail to decompose fully due to insufficient heat generation, and can be a breeding ground for damaging fungus and weeds.
In a nutshell, what is good for tomatoes or roses is not necessarily good for flower bulbs. If one has to do any sort of soil composition work, it is best to do so for the entire planting site or bed, never in individual bulb planting holes. We recommend that nothing ever be placed in the bottom of each planting hole to avoid even the slightest possibility of root burn.
Spring flowering bulbs are some of the most rewarding plants you can grow. All it takes is a little
elbow grease on the front end and patience. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you head
out into the garden this fall. These tips will work for any type of spring flowering bulb you plant
– daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, you name it!
What to Do When You Bring Your Bulbs Home
If you have purchased your bulbs through a mail order source open the box of bulbs as soon as it
arrives. Inspect your order to be sure that all bulbs on the list are there and in good condition.
They should be firm and mold free.
If you cannot plant right away keep the bulbs in a cool, dry place, such as a garage, or basement.
Warmth and moisture will signal the bulbs to start growing. Check on them occasionally to be sure
they aren’t getting moldy or soft.
When to Plant
Spring flowering bulbs can be planted anytime in the fall after temperatures cool down, but before
the ground freezes. Your bulbs need to establish strong root systems before winter sets in.
If you live in a warm climate where air temperatures don’t fall below freezing, bulbs, with the
exception of daffodils, will require some pre-cooling by being stored in a refrigerator before
planting. About 6 to 8 weeks will do the trick, but they can stay in the refrigerator longer if
necessary. Remove any fruit (especially apples) in the refrigerator. The ethylene gas given off
by ripening fruit will kill the flower inside the bulb.
Plant bulbs in an area that drains well. Most bulbs need from 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day, some
varieties (Spanish bluebells and daffodils) are more shade tolerant than others. When planting under
trees select shade tolerant varieties and site them at the drip line rather than right under the tree.
If the bulbs are going to come back year after year, like daffodils, try to find a place where they
won’t be disturbed later in the season and where it won’t be a bother to allow the foliage to die
back naturally after they flower.
Spring flowering bulbs appreciate well-drained, humus rich soils. Add a little compost or bagged humus
to the bottom of the planting hole as well as some synthetic bulb fertilizer. I prefer a synthetic
product to the traditional bone meal because it doesn’t attract squirrels and rodents.
The rule of thumb is to plant bulbs at a depth that is 3 times their height. For example, if a daffodil
bulb is approximately 2-inches tall, dig a hole 6-inches deep. Smaller bulbs such as miniature daffodils
are generally planted 3- to 5-inches deep. You will want to plant the big ones like Allium gigantium
‘Globemaster’ 6- to 8-inches deep. Once covered with soil, a 2-inch thick layer of mulch
is optional to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool. Just remember that if you do plan to add
mulch, factor it into your planting depth.
When planting any type of bulb, position it so that the peaked end points up. That’s where flower stems
will emerge. The flatter, usually larger end goes at the bottom of the planting hole.
Protecting from Squirrels and Rodents
To protect your bulbs from rodents burrowing underground and eating them, create a chicken wire basket
that you can place in the hole dug for the bulb. Line the bottom with the wire and bend up the sides
about 2 inches. Once the basket is in place cover the bottom with a blend of 50-50 compost and topsoil,
add a little bulb fertilizer and then drop in the bulb. Fill in the hole with the remaining soil.
If you have a problem with dogs, squirrels or other animals digging into your bulb plantings, you can
place a piece of chicken wire over the top of the entire bed space and hide it with mulch. Just remember
to remove the wire before the bulbs begin to emerge in the spring.
Early Emerging Foliage
Sometimes warm winter weather causes bulb foliage to begin emerging early. Bulbs are equipped with a
certain amount of anti-freeze that can help them get through cold so the leaves should be okay. The only
time to be concerned is once the flower has completely opened. If it looks like that may happen, my best
advice if to cut a bouquet and enjoy the blooms in the house.
After Bloom Care
If you want the bulbs to bloom again the following year, the name of the game is to keep the leaves green
as long as possible. This gives the foliage time to recharge the bulb for next year’s blooms. For the best
results, wait about eight weeks after the blooms have faded to remove the foliage. In areas where tulips
are not perennial you can remove the bulbs as soon as the flowers fade.
Professional Resources ”
A number of planting techniques can be used for flower bulbs.
– Laying out the bulbs
For a beautiful display in parks and planting beds, it is important to lay out the bulbs evenly over the location being planted. It would be advisable to start by laying out the bulbs at the proper distance apart. This prevents surprises when coming to the end of the planting bed!
Before the bulbs are laid out, the soil should be thoroughly loosened to a depth of 25 cm. (10 inches) Next, the bulbs can simply be planted, after which they will produce good roots.
– Planting can then be done with a trowel, one by one. A single person (planter) can plant 600 to 700 bulbs/hour depending on his/her experience and the kind of bulb.
– Another method uses raised planting beds. After laying out the flower bulbs, they are covered with a layer of soil 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) thick. This method is used more frequently when the planting is intended for a one-year display.
After planting, the planted areas should be evenly raked. To keep the soil from drying out, freezing or panning, it would be advisable to mulch the area with 2-3 cm (1 inch). of organic material (peat litter/compost).
– Scattering the bulbs
Bulbs can also be scattered into a border or naturalising zone to provide a more natural look. The bulbs are then planted wherever they land. Here again, planting is easier if the soil as been loosened before planting. The number of bulbs that can be planted per hour will be much lower because the existing planting will have to be considered.
– Bulbs in the grass
When bulbs are being planted over a small area in the grass, a piece of sod can simply be lifted for planting each group of bulbs. After making sure that each bulb has been placed upright in its planting hole, the sod can be replaced. Once the sod has been tamped down, the planting location will be invisible after a few days.
– Planting by machine
Because labour costs are the biggest expense involved in planting flower bulbs, a special machine can be used that will save 90% of these costs. This machine lifts the sod up and scatters the bulbs into a planting trench. The machine can plant around 10,000 narcissi (daffodils) and 25,000 crocuses or other small bulbs per hour. In this method, the flower bulbs are planted in rows; this makes it a perfect method for planting verges. This method does not lend itself for planting round patterns. It is a fast planting method that greatly reduces labour costs.
– Layered (lasagna) method
To ensure a longer flowering period when using flower bulbs, choose kinds with consecutive flowering periods and plant them at the same site. By planting them at different depths, they can be planted at practically the same spot. This method is most commonly used in spring-flowering beds that have to remain attractive throughout a single season.
In general, the flower bulbs that will bloom last are planted at the deepest level. The earliest to bloom in the spring will be planted closest to the surface. This technique is also referred to as the “lasagna technique” and can be applied to planting bulbs in the ground as well as in pots and containers.
Planting time and planting depth
It is important to plant flower bulbs at the right time. Flower bulbs that bloom early (from January to March) should be planted in September/October. The best time to plant the ones that bloom later (March-May) is October/November.
A general rule for the planting depth is to plant the bulbs at a depth at least twice the height of the bulb (a minimum of 5 cm / 2 inches). Not planting bulbs deep enough results in poor rooting that leads, in turn, to an uneven emergence of short spindly plants. Planting too deep can result in rotting as well as late emergence.
A good crop rotation plan that keeps flower bulbs from being planted no more often than once every four years in the same place will limit the need to apply soil disinfection agents.
Sometimes, however, a flower bulb planting site is so important for the image of a garden, park or city, that the same location is used every year. In this case, it will be highly probable that soil diseases such as Rhizoctonia tuliparum will become a problem. Many flower bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths and lilies are susceptible to this disease, but other perennial plants can be harmed as well.
If it is highly probable that Rhizoctonia will be found in the soil, it is possible to work tolchlosfos-methyl (0.5 litre/200 litres of water or 0.11 gallon/44 gallon of water) through the soil with a rotary cultivator previous to planting.
The soil will have to be loosened prior to planting. If the soil has a low pH, it would be advisable to lime it immediately before planting; if the pH is too high, it can be reduced by adding peat litter to the soil.
Improving the soil and increasing its organic level can be accomplished by adding organic fertilisers such as compost and manure.
Manure contains somewhat more nutrients than compost, and, like compost, it maintains soil structure and the biodiversity of the soil. Manure is available in fresh, granulate and powder forms. Packaged manure is usually cow manure, but chicken manure is sometimes added. The packaging indicates how much manure to use.
Fresh manure does not release its nutrients immediately but needs some time to decompose. The use of stable manure at least one year old is preferable; fresh cow manure contains ammonia that can “burn” the leaves of plants.
When planting in clay soil, it is best to apply manure in the autumn; in gardens with sandy soil, an application in early spring (March) is best. Fresh manure should be spaded under shallowly (not more than 10 to 15 cm. /4-5 inches deep).
Manure is a very good choice for applying to new planting sites.
Compost is the best choice for both fertilizing and improving the soil. It introduces nutrients into the soil, improves soil structure, and maintains a healthy biodiversity in the soil. This gives plants more resistance to harmful bacteria and fungi.
Compost makes sandy soil easier to work and more water-retentive. Soil with a high clay content is made easier to work and more air-permeable when one part compost and one part sand are worked into it. Actually, compost is a better soil-improving agent than manure. It ensures a balanced development of bacterial organisms in the soil.
Too much compost is not beneficial; an exceedingly high concentration of compost near the roots could possibly burn them. A thin layer of compost can be applied to borders and lawns once a year in March or April (or in the autumn for heavy clay soils).
Courtesy of the International Flower Bulb Center (www.bulb.com)