tilling a flower bed that already has bulbs

sallysueva(6b/7a VA)November 10, 2005

I would like to till my flower bed, but I have quite a few tulip, asiatic lily, and daffodil bulbs already in the ground. Do I need to dig these up, till, and replant them? I also have a bunch of new bulbs I want in the ground.

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creatrix(z7 VA)

Yes, you need to remove the bulbs before tilling.

Why are you tilling this bed? Are there other plants besides the bulbs?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 7:34PM
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blueheron(z6 PA)

Yes, it isn't necessary to till garden beds. No-till gardening has become very popular and for good reasons.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2005 at 8:11PM
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sallysueva(6b/7a VA)

I thought beds needed to be tilled, to work in mulch. There are other periennial plants, too. My beds, when created, weren't the best soil, and have a lot of rocks in them. They were basically created with fill-dirt. What I've planted has done okay, but it sure would save me a lot of work if I didn't have to till!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 10:12AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Add a reasonable amount of organic matter on top of the soil on a continual basis, and if you have any worms at all, THEY will do the tilling for you. Every single year, a good population of worms will 'till' in bushels of organic matter for you.

If YOU do the tilling, the worms will pack their little suitcases and head for more productive ground (so to speak).

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 11:36AM
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My middle-ground solution to the till or no-till issue is to haul organic matter (compost, planting mix, composted manure, whatever's appropriate for the occasion) around with me when I'm planting and add a good bit to every hole. If there's some empty space around the hole, I'll break the surface up to a few inches (usually above the level of fairly deep-planted bulbs like tulilps or daffodils) and mix the stuff in there, too, usually mixing with my little hand fork. If I'm seeding or planting something shallow like ground cover, I again improve to just a few inches.

And I dump purchased organic compost on top of everything as mulch, on the theory that it should be of some benefit to the soil when it rots in or gets mixed in. (It's not as good as real homemade compost, probably, but it's half-decent stuff, better than bark chunks that will be there undecayed until the end of time.)

The theory is that this will slowly improve all of my soil (since I don't intentionally have _any_ bare soil, everywhere will have a planting hole now and then, if only for ground covers) and keep it going as long as I keep dumping compost and things on top.

It seems to more or less work - when I dig in already-improved areas, I can see that the soil is much better than the soil in areas that have been untouched since we took over the garden. And the improved areas almost always have lots of worms in them, so I choose to believe that they're carrying the improvement further down than I dug myself.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 5:59PM
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When I need to stick more bulbs in a bed that already has bulbs and I don't exactly know where those old bulbs might be, I just takes my narrow trowel and picks a spot and commences to dig down carefully.

Sometimes you get lucky and hit virgin ground. Sometimes you may hit and displace some old bulbs. Just stick the old ones back...they don't seem to mind. Most bulbs under the ground are multiplying and making new bulbs anyway. And bulbs are cheap...if you ruin a few of the old ones, hey, that's the way it goes.

I agree with the no-till crowd. The only time I would till a bed is when it's a bed I have to dig up down to a depth of 12 inches or so, in effect rejuvenating the whole bed. And this I only want to do once and I want to do it thoroughly. The effort will ensure good growing for quite a few years with only top dressings of compost or other organic improvers necessary.

I really wish "Dreamer" would run ads on TV and continually not dropdown on my gardenweb. Give me a break.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2005 at 7:19PM
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sallysueva(6b/7a VA)

Thanks for all your advice. I think I will go with the no-till approach, as I have lots of earthworms and want them to stay. I agree with the Dreamer popup...quite annoying!

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 10:01AM
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