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Week of October 31, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

While much attention may still be focused on planting spring flowering bulbs outdoors, this is also a good time to be buying and planting winter flowering bulbs.  No, I didn’t just lose my mind – that happened a long time ago.  Of course, I’m talking about bulbs that can be forced into bloom indoors this winter. A lot of people shy away from forcing bulbs indoors because they don’t want to fuss with the prolonged cold treatment (typically 6 to 12 weeks) needed to prepare them for forcing.  Well, that cold requirement only applies to bulbs such as crocus, hyacinth, tulips and, daffodils which are cold hardy.  On the other hand, tender bulbs, such as paper white narcissus and amaryllis, don’t need this pre-treatment.

Amaryllis is clearly the Queen of tender bulbs for winter forcing.  Its huge blossoms are incredibly colorful and beautiful.  Though very easy to force, here are a few rules to ensure good results:

1. Use a pot which is about 6 to 8 inches deep and with a top diameter that is 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb.  I prefer to use a clay pot since soil in such a pot dries faster than in plastic or glazed pots and thus reduces the chances of bulb rot.

2. Pot up the bulb so that the top 1/3 to ½ of the bulb is exposed above soil level.

3. Water the soil thoroughly at first and then sparingly until growth appears.

4. Place the potted bulb in a sunny window at a temperature of 60-70 degrees F.

5. When the plant begins to bloom, move it away from direct sunlight and to a cooler location.

  • Refrain from parking the family 16 wheeler on the lawn.  Recent rains left soils quite soggy.  Wet soils, especially those with a high clay content, pack very easily when tread upon too much.  So, stay off the lawn except for mowing.  This advice does not apply to a lawn such as mine which consists of an assortment of green leafed plants, a few of which could be called grass.
  • Stick a label into the ground marking the location of perennials such as Japanese anemones, aconitum, and platycodon which are noted for being late starters in spring.  Otherwise, they will be hard to locate and may be subject to damage from some early digging in the flower border.
  • Pick up the drops from apple and other fruit trees and dispose of these, perhaps by burying them.  Old fruit scattered on the ground often carry disease-causing organisms capable of infecting next year’s crop.
  • Use a wire brush to clean soil and rust from garden tools.  Then apply a protective coat of oil to metallic surfaces, and treat wooden handles with warmed linseed oil.
  • Wash flower pots, window boxes, and patio pots before storing them for winter.  Clay pots should be stored indoors. Otherwise, they can crack when exposed to freezing temperatures.

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