Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Spring Bulb Fertilizing

Growing tips break ground
A hint of green on gray branches
Spring unfolding
~ Marie B. Rice, 1932-2011, Haiku

Spring has sprung here in the Pacific Northwest, er… well, actually a couple of weeks ago if you consider all the bulbs that have come up and the number of early daffodils blooming today. So for us this post is timely for the tulips, muscari and other later bulbs just emerging, not yet blooming. As for the rest of the U.S., this post will give you the info you need for the upcoming thaw, it's strong a little while longer, and be ready to fertilize your bulbs when they emerge in the warming days to come.

When organically fertilizing flowering bulbs the nutrient of choice is usually fish bone meal, but rock phosphate is an alternative choice for the vegan/vegetarian gardeners reading today.

Both are great sources of phosphate for encouraging blooms and root development but the success lies in the application. If you are accustomed to applying synthetic chemical fertilizers, you are used to just scattering the granules on the ground and leaving them to dissolve. Easy yes, but if you want to do more to better the earth, soil health and your own health you will consider transitioning your gardening to organic practices whenever possible.

This brings me to today's topic. Fertilizing your spring flowering bulbs organically. A recent walk through the neighborhood brought this post to mind. This gardener sprinkled bone meal around their bulbs and flowering plants.


The bone meal is a good thing, but leaving it in big blobs like that isn't. They left out one important step...working the fertilizer into the soil.

Organic fertilizers need to be broken down by the naturally occurring microbes in the soil. So as you sprinkle your bone meal or rock phosphate you will need to lightly scratch it in with a rake, lightly working it into the soil surface so most of it comes into contact with the soil and its billions and billions of microbes. Easy enough to do but it takes a few minutes more of your time.

Now the granules are surrounded by microbes so those little treasures can do their very important work of breaking down the bulb food and making it available to the roots.

The time to apply the bone meal for spring flowering bulbs is when the leaf tips are breaking ground. If you can see where the bulbs are, you can work around the tender green tips and not damage them.

In Bloom in My Garden Today: Corylopsis veitchiana (winterhazel), Cyclamen coum (spring), Daffodils,Daphne caucasica ‘Eternal Fragrance’, Heath (Erica carnea ‘springwood white’), Hellebore, Hyacinth ‘blue jacket’, Primrose (double English)

Author's photos