Fertilizing bulbs at planting

Bob_B(Sunset 14, Ca.)October 10, 2011

I note on the bulb forum that there is a difference of opinion as to the effectiveness of super phosphate vs. bonemeal when planting bulbs. The usefulness of any fertilizer at this time was even questioned.

Any thoughts among you California bulb planters?


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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

My understanding is that our alkaline soils prevent the proper uptake of chemical phosphorus, so expensive fertilizers are just a waste of money. I prefer to use organic compost as a top-dressing, but I only grow lilies, not daffs or tulips.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:30PM
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If you maintain a healthy soil, no fertilizer is ever needed. At cleanup spring and fall I add a couple of inches of finished compost, before replanting the planting beds. Those areas not intensely planted I keep well mulched to eliminate most weeding. Al

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 9:13AM
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A soil test is your best guide. In my yard the level of phosphates is very high, and nitrogen is low. Phosphates and potash need to be 'in the soil' to do any good, so they must be added at planting time. Many bulbs are adapted to low-nutrient soils, so therefore the advice to do nothing...
Bone Meal is commonly recommended, but I think that is somewhat passe'; Older gardeners will tell you that today's bone meal is not the same as it once was, most of the nutrients having been steamed out during processing. Older products I have not seen in 30 years are hoof and horn meal or Blood and Bone. These were minimally processed. Any good balanced fertilizer should be fine for bulbs, I like to use organic types in the soil because I think they last longer and provide nutrients at a more even rate.

If you are growing bulbs in pots, they respond very well to liquid fertilizer applied weakly(1/8 strength) and weekly. Do not be afraid to give growing bulbs constant low dosages of nitrogen - they will really respond. "Chemical" fertilizers are better in pots as they don't need special flora and fauna to be made available to the plant roots.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 1:16PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

I like osmocote plus, the plus is minerals like iron.
But, I don't put it in the planting hole like martha steward does. I saw her put in about a cup of this stuff in each hole, and that would burn the roots. I only use a tiny bit on the surface, must less then even is recommended. The company will suggest you use more, but my soil is very much alive with home made compost.

Here is a link that might be useful: I like using this

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 8:20PM
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