Stephen Vinisky, Oregon

Tips for Growing Large Blooms and an Experiment To Try

April 1, 2013

Categories: Bulb Information, Fertilizing, Growing Daffodils, Landscapes and Naturalized Daffodils, Planting, Soil

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John B’s comment about growing ‘Mexican Hat’ to size prompts this post. While visiting England and N. Ireland, it was both humbling and enlightening to see the incredible HUGE size of flowers achieved by Brian Duncan and Clive Postles. Our friends in New Zealand and Australia grow incredibly large flowers too. Here are four tips for growing daffodil flowers to their fullest potential. Below that is a simple experiment for you to try in your garden to prove to yourself that you can grow larger flowers.

My epiphany came around 1990. I had a neighbor at the top of our hill that grew fruit trees commercially. He used a four foot long subsoil chisel and a huge tractor to rip trenches for his tree planting. I used the subsoil chisel to rip an 18″ apart, four foot deep, crosshatch pattern (checkerboard) on an area prior to discing and tilling. By happenstance, some rows were exactly on the deep trenches made by the subsoil chisel. The bulbs on the trenches and their flowers were noticeably larger.

 Tips for Large Flowers:

1) Deep soil preparation. Deeper digging is better.

2) Optimum fertility. Do a serious soil test. Use a local soil lab. Adjust PH, NPK, minors and trace elements as called for.

3) An inch of water a week beginning when foliage is 4″ tall.

4) Plant in full sun or as close as you can get to full sun.

 An Experiment To Try in Your Garden:

A simple experiment to try in your garden is to buy 10 bulbs of the same variety this coming fall. Any variety will do but choosing a cultivar with potential for entering in a show would be ideal. Choose bulbs that are roughly the same size and weight. This summer select a three foot long area in which to plant the bulbs you’ll be buying in the fall.

Divide your three foot long planting area in half. Double dig the first half. I mean really double dig or “bastard trench” an area 18″ long and one spade width wide. That means to dig out one spade length deep and put the soil on the side of your 18″ long trench. Then dig down one more spade length deep at the bottom of your trench putting the soil on the other side of your trench. You now have an 18″ long trench that should be between 13″ and 16″ deep. Amend the soil and add nutrients as called for using the soil from the top part of your trench and put the amended top soil into the bottom of the trench. Amend the remaining “bottom” soil and fill in your trench.

Next dig the next 18″ only to a single spade depth. Amend the soil and replace. Plant five of the 10 bulbs you buy next fall in the single dug portion and plant the remaining five bulbs in the double dug portion. That’s it. Try it and see if YOU see a difference in the size of blooms you grow by planting in deeply dug soil versus “average” dug soil. I think you’ll be surprised at the results!

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