Forcing Bulbs

Forcing bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, or hyacinths to bloom indoors is a great way to get a late winter burst of color indoors. It's a relatively easy project that can be done quickly. All you need is a container with drainage holes, potting soil, bulbs and a place to keep them cold (40-45f, 14-23c) and dark.

Some folks like to pot them up and bury them under mulch in the garden or in a cold frame while others will keep them in the refrigerator. Anyplace that meets the cold & dark criteria will do. We've even kept them in picnic coolers in the garage.

The bulbs themselves should be a good size- 1 1/2 inches (3.8cm) in diameter, free of mold, and firm.

A six inch container will hold up to seven bulbs. Fill the container so that the potting soil is 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) below the rim. Arrange the bulbs in the container in the desired pattern and cover them carefully so that just the very tops are showing. Water them thoroughly and place them in their "hiding" place. Water them again once a month until you are ready to begin the blooming process.

When you are ready, bring the bulbs out of storage and place them in a cool area with medium light. In 4-5 days, the shoots will start to green-up and you can then place them in a warmer (room temperature) spot that gets a lot of sun. In 3-4 weeks, the bulbs will begin to bloom and you'll be rewarded for your effort and patience. If you planted more than one container, bring them out every two weeks and you will have a succession of blooming bulbs.

Keep the bulbs watered and give the container a quarter turn each day to keep them growing straight.

Forcing bulbs takes a lot out of them. Therefore, most suggest that you dispose of the bulbs after they bloom. We hate to throw anything away so it doesn't hurt to take them outside when they are done blooming and place them soil and all in the ground if the weather is cooperative and the ground isn't completely frozen. Give them some bulb fertilizer. The commercially available products general have an N-P-K ratio of roughly 1-4-4, but any combination where the potash and potassium are higher than the nitrogen number will work fine. If they bloom next year, you have more flowers, if not there was nothing wasted.

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