Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "March is the Time to Begin Planting Bulbs Indoors" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
"It's time to look at the calendar, not out the window! If you planning to have tender bulbs in your summer garden, NOW is the time to start planting them in your home. Visit your local garden center and pick up such bulbs as tuberous begonias, cannas, calla lilies, caladiums, and dahlias--just to name a few. If you can start them during March in your home and transplant them to your garden in early May, these plants will bloom earlier and longer in your garden for you! (We will have all these bulbs in our stores very soon!)
In the past, many of you have planted these summer flowering bulbs directly into the garden--and that is OK! But if you start them this month in your home, it will motivate you, encourage you, and excite you that spring is really coming. Please try it--you will feel better!
Some of you have stored these bulbs in your basement for the winter. It's now time to bring them upstairs, wake them up, repot them, and watch them come to life. These bulbs have been hibernating all winter, like you, and NOW is the time to get moving! Are you getting the message yet? It's time now!
All you will need is a good sterile potting soil mix like Coast of Maine's Bar Harbor Blend all natural soil. Use new pots or wash your old pots with bleach before adding soil to them and then you're ready to plant. I use one cup of bleach to a gallon of water to sterilize the containers. You can reuse them year after year. Brush off any soil stuck to the pots and dip the pot in this mixture for 30 seconds. Allow them to dry and you're ready to plant--so let's clean those pots now.
Here are suggestions for pot size; tuberous begonias use 4 to 6 inch pots, cannas use 6 to 8 inch pots, calla lilies 4 to 6 inch pots, caladiums 4 to 6 inch pots, and dahlias will depend on the size of the bulbs types. Dahlias that grow 1 to 2 feet tall – use a 6 inch pot, 2 to 3 foot tall growing--use an 8 inch pot, and 3 to 6 foot tall growing--use a 10 inch pot.
When you purchase these bulbs for the first time, ask the sales person to show you what side of the bulb is up. Please do not be embarrassed to ask for help, this is new to you and you want to do it right the first time! (We love to answer any gardening questions you have!)
Planting depth is easy, usually, as most bulbs need to be covered with one inch of soil in your container. Once the bulbs have been planted, give the soil around them a good watering and place the containers where it is warm in your home. These bulbs do not need light until they begin to emerge from the soil; warmth is more important to wake them up and get them growing.
The soil should be kept moist while these bulbs develop so poke your finger into the container and feel for moisture before you water again. Until the roots form, your soil will not dry up so be careful not to over-water. Once the plant pokes through the soil, give it a good drink of water and fertilizer such as Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Fertilizer or Tiger Bloom by Fox Farm! This is a great fertilizer for root development and flower production on all flowering plants--especially bulbs.
Once the bulbs begin to grow move them to a sunny or brightly lit window where they will stay until they are ready to go into your garden. I spin the container every week, some times more often if I notice they are bending towards the light. This will keep them growing straight. If at all possible, choose a room that stays cool to keep the stems short and thick; if they are growing fast and thin, move them to another window that is not as hot.
Two weeks before you're going to plant them in your garden, put them outside during the day and back in the house at night to get them acclimated to the outside temperatures. Do this the first week and the second week move the plants into your garage or tool shed for the night time. If the weather is stormy during the day leave them in the tool shed or garage as they need to prepare for the move outside.
Start with just a few bulbs the first year and see how you make out. This is just another area of gardening you must learn how to do. You may fail, but you could also succeed and this is a great learning experience for you. When you succeed, pat yourself on the back and call me on Sunday to tell me all about it. If you're having problems, call me. I will be there for you. Enjoy."
Many thanks to Paul Parent!
March 10, 2011