Now is actually a good time to start thinking about your potting soil for healthy plants this spring.
There are two types of flowers: annuals and perennials. Annuals are planted every year typically in the spring or early summer and will only last for the season meaning you will not get more than one season from the flower. Perennials are planted one time and come up year after year. They often get big enough that they can be split and although they come back every year they may get large enough to require splitting or the plants will choke each other and die.
Potted vs forced bulbs
People often associate forced bulbs with amaryllis bulbs or paper whites bulbs which can be found on many store shelves ready to gift during the holiday season. Forcing a bulb is taking the bulbs and placing it close enough to the surface that the bulbs are tricked into believing that it is time to bloom hence the name forced bulbs. Typically forced bulbs are surrounded by rocks, moss or decorative material rather than dirt since deep roots are not required. A potted bulb is a bulb that has been planted at the proper depth in soil and will only bloom once the soil and air conditions reach the correct proportions.
How deep to plant?
As a rule of thumb bulbs should be planted two to three times the bulb’s height. A crocus for example would be planted three inches beneath the soil.
Each package of bulbs will come with its own directions based on the type of bulbs. The best visual impact is achieved by planting no fewer than five bulbs of one type together. The most efficient way to do this is to dig holes wide enough to plant the grouping at one time.
What side is up on a bulb?
Think of a bulb as a pyramid, and plant with the widest section down.
What type of potting soil should I buy?
Regardless of type, potting soil should contain compost, make sure that is on the list of ingredients. When it comes to compost, the description should read along the lines of aged forest products. Remember, compost can mean yard waste or sewage and that is not the compost that you desire for your bulbs.
Compost is a key ingredient because it acts as a Ph buffer and reduces the need to fertilize. The four types of potting soil are all purpose, premium, professional and plant specific. If you like to tinker and desire to add plant food for your plants, rather than buying plant specific potting soil ( i.e. for cactus or African violets), then all purpose is the way to go. Planting a variety of species and looking for the best chance of growth?
If the answer is yes than premium mixes are the way to go, they typically help with water drainage and aeration and contain the proper compost levels. Professional potting soil is typically the highest quality available in your area and come from local family-owned garden shops where the potting soil has been mixed locally with the proper composts added.
Can I reuse potting soil?
The answer is both yes and no. To begin, only use the amount of potting soil that is required for the plants, not the pot. A pot that is two feet tall and 18 inches in circumference rarely is ever needs to be completely filled with potting soil, especially for bulbs. Consider inverting a smaller pot, filling space with closed bottles or other materials to take up space.
Questions to consider: Did you buy the correct type of potting soil the first time? If you picked premium or professional you are more likely to be able to reuse it. Are you using it for the right type of plants? Using Potting Mix for African violets even if it is new is not the right pick for tulip bulbs for example. Are you willing to dump out the old potting soil and give it a little TLC? If you picked the right soil the first time, if you are not planting something with specific potting soil requirements, and if you can invest a small amount of TLC time, then yes, reuse your potting soil. I like to place a large tarp down, dump all my container soil out, sort threw and discard the stems, roots and debris and if I don’t need to increase the volume (meaning that I physically need more soil) then I add a few handfuls of compost or spray it with compost tea.
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