raforSeptember 8, 2010

Hello Everyone,

This is my first fall/winter in NE and I have a gardening question about bulbs. In the Pacific NW I could pot up bulbs and keep them protected up next to the house and then just plant the whole pot in the garden in the spring and then remove the pot as the leaves faded after blooming. I was wondering if I can do that here. I would put the pots either in my garage or in my basement. Is that doable? Would they need to be sparingly watered? I'm near Concord NH. Thanks for any insight on this.

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Welcome to New England. You'll find it quite different than the PNW!! Temperature swings can be 40 degrees in one 24 hour period during spring and fall, and winter can be quite cold and long. You might want to check out skiing (alpine & nordic) and/or snowshoeing if you don't already do that so you can spend time out-of-doors in winter, as well as thinking about evergreens and tall garden structures that will enhance the winter white.

I'm just north of Concord, and the short answer is that it would be difficult to do this successfully, but I have a few questions. Is your garage or basement heated? Bulbs need chilling in general (with exceptions for things like Amarylis and paperwhite narcissus.) What kind of bulbs? How big is the pot and what kind of material is it made of? Wood and heavy grade plastic are in my experience about the only materials that will survive the repeated freeze-thaw cycle of early spring here in central NH.

The general rule of thumb with outdoor pots is that things in them need to be 2 zones more cold-tolerant than the zone they are in to survive pot life. And if they are going to be outside they will freeze solid if outside all winter and probably even after you put them out in spring. It would be difficult to know when to put them outside as well. Most years we still have some snow and hard freezes at night in April and frost until May, but last year all our snow had disappeared by mid-March while we still had a heavy frost the last week in May at my house, so spring can be long and unpredictable or short and unpredictable. When I have tried bulbs in large, heavy-duty containers left outside all winter, no bulbs have survived, even daffodils. It may have more to do with spring's temperature swings than winter's cold; I'm not sure.

I guess that if you have a place that gets cold, but not as cold as outdoors and some pots that will survive some freeze-thaw, it would be worth a trial run, but not put too much money into it until you know how it goes. My strategy is to plant lots of bulbs that will emerge over time (in March reticulated iris through late daffies and tulips in May) but then plant perennials and shrubs in front of or near them that will emerge to cover up the dying bulb foliage.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 7:51AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Well, there is also the question of what is the purpose of this activity. You can plant bulbs in the fall, let them bloom in spring, then dig and toss them for the same effect.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 9:09AM
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What I did previously in the spring was either bury the plastic nursery pot I planted them in or put that pot inside a decorative one. The advantage was that I could stash them in an out of way place in the yard when they got ratty since you can't cut back the leaves until they are completely done. Then they would resprout again the following spring and I could move them out into the garden or decorative pots again. Why throw them out and replace every year? My garage is unheated, my basement gets warmth from the furnace and since it's underground. So I'm not sure the basement would be cool enough, but I think I will try this and put them in the garage. I can always cover them with a blanket if the garage gets way too cold.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 1:36PM
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That's why we braid the bulb foliage. After the flowers bloom and you just have the green leaves left, braid the leaves, coil up the braid and tuck it down next to the ground. You don't really see it as all the leaves die. Once the leaves are dead, you can just go around, pick up the brad bundles and toss in your compost heap.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2010 at 10:29PM
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