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Published October 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Forcing bulbs

Those first few flakes of winter have fallen and melted (and fallen again!). The turtlenecks and sweaters have made their way to my dresser and I am eagerly looking forward to the coming season… until it lasts forever.

By: By Robin Trott, Extension Educator, Alexandria Echo Press

Those first few flakes of winter have fallen and melted (and fallen again!). The turtlenecks and sweaters have made their way to my dresser and I am eagerly looking forward to the coming season… until it lasts forever. By February I am ready for a touch of spring. Luckily, there is a way to get a little spring in that cold, bleak month.

While you’re shopping for your fall bulbs to plant in the ground, don’t forget to pick up a few extras to force for the early spring. Nothing is better to fight off the winter blahs than a pot of blooming tulips in February. Many bulbs, including tulips, hyacinth, daffodils, squill, grape hyacinth, Dutch iris and crocus, can be forced to bloom in pots in late winter and early spring. The trick is to get them started early.

Here are a few tips to forcing bulbs in the winter:

•Select premium quality, large bulbs. Your local garden center carries a nice variety from which to choose.

•Plant one type of bulb per pot in commercial potting mix. (Different kinds of bulbs have different bloom times and can make for uneven pots.) Tulip bulbs have a noticeably flat side. Place this toward the outside of the pot as this is where the first leaf will sprout.

•Leave the tops of the bulbs exposed and place them close together. (They can be touching.) In a 6-inch pot, plant 6 tulips or 3 hyacinth or 6 daffodils or 15 crocus.

•Water the bulbs after planting.

Trick the bulbs into thinking that winter has come and gone. Place them in a cool area (34 to 48 degrees), such as a refrigerator or a root cellar, for at least 12 weeks. Continue watering your bulbs during this cold treatment to keep the soil moist.

After 12 weeks, bring your pots to an area with bright, indirect light and temperatures from 55 to 70 degrees. Your bulbs will begin to grow quickly and will bloom in just a few weeks.

Indoor, forced bulbs don’t keep or re-bloom very well, so once bulbs have finished flowering, throw them away.

A little effort now will bring big payoffs in those dreary, February days. Pot some of your favorites now for the earliest winter flowering, and plant some more in a few weeks to extend your indoor blooming season.

For more information, please contact me at the Douglas County Extension Office, (320) 762-3890.

Good luck! Stay warm and happy gardening (indoors)!

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