I have gotten so many questions lately from our gardeners about their bulbs. They are coming up and it’s only the beginning of November!
I am a little unfamiliar with this problem. In New England (my recent, and longtime home) this isn’t a problem. If the bulbs begin to show green, they are soon nipped by frost and go back to bed like good little bulbs. But, here in the Pacific Northwest, it appears this is a real issue!
I have checked everywhere for more information on this problem and have not been able to find specific suggestions on how to handle it. But, let me “soldier on”.
Bulbs will begin to sprout when they have had enough time, darkness and moisture to produce good root growth. When it gets warm the bulb thinks it’s spring. How does figure that out? It’s under the surface of the ground, and can only react to what nature is telling it…and right now, it’s being told it’s warm enough to send up some shoots. The bulb thinks it must be spring! But it’s NOT spring, and we gardeners are puzzled. We have every right to be puzzled. Just remember the bulb is not puzzled, it’s just doing what it’s supposed to be doing. Or so it thinks!
In all my research, I think I’ve come up with enough information to suggest why this may be happening.
Like so many problems, we often have to back-track to the beginning. Bulbs need to be planted at least 3 times their depth. That means a dry bulb that measures 2 (two) inches from root to tip, should be planted 6 (six) inches in the ground! That’s pretty deep. Take it seriously!
Here at Horizon House, we garden in large beds. Those beds are actually large containers. I wonder if our bulbs think we are forcing them? In that scenario, bulbs are planted in a much more shallow manner, and come up pretty quickly once they sense it’s warm! If that is the case, it would say to me that we need to be ever vigilant to plant our bulbs deeply, so they don’t get an early wake-up call.
Right now, we’ve got early shoots appearing…what do we do? There is not much you can do, unfortunately. If you cover them, they will just continue to reach for the sun. They will become leggy and vulnerable. I would just leave them. In nature this would happen as well. The bulbs won’t die. They might not flower particularly well come spring, but the following year they should be fine.
Remember to let the foliage die down naturally come “post-blooming” time. The bulbs themselves need the nutrition that comes from the leaves. You might also give them a “shot” of fertilizer at that time.
A further suggestion might be that in the spring when you’re so happy to be out in the garden and are digging, if you run across any shallow bulbs, get them down deeper. If you buy new bulbs, plant them DEEP! In our beds, it’s easy to not go deep enough.
I don’t know if this has helped your quandary at all, but at least it has given us all something to think about. As we garden, we learn. Sometimes we just have to stand back and let nature “do it’s thing”. I also feel it’s telling us that global warming is even affecting our bulbs!