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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Forcing Spring

I was left a question....that I just wanted to answer. I thought I would save this topic until just about the time when we would be needing a little taste of spring....needing to FORCE Mother Nature just a little to give us a break from the winter blah's. It was a question about forcing bulbs and branches.

I have done this a couple of times...and it was kinda neat to have blooms of spring so early...and on the table for such a cheerful display!!! Makes me wish I had known what tablescaping was back
There is more than one method of forcing. I will address a couple today...after guys are on your FORCING is the act of making a plant grow or flower before it's natrual season. It is the process of fooling Mother Nature. When you force bulbs you are absolutely putting her to the test by forcing bulbs to grow and flower indoors. By making spring come early you can enjoy blooming hyacinths, daffodil and narcissus species, tulips and other bulbs inside as early as the Christmas season or throughout the winter.

Forcing BulbsMany of the old stand by bulbs which flower feely in the garden during the spring months can be grown indoors. By choosing varieties that are recommended for indoor starting, we can grab a little spring cheer early. Make sure you purchase bulbs that are a good size, free of disease and nice and firm. (kinda like buying produce at the grocery!)
Many garden centers sell forcing kits...that come with a container, soil and well as directions! If you don't have one of will need the above ingredients...or this will not work! lol (the following directions are from an article I read in a gardening forum online...I thought it best to use the words of the expert that I took my directions from, rather than dazzle you with my own version and confuse you all to heck lol)

"Choose a container. ( if you are not buying a kit.) Be sure that the container has drainage holes or is a specialized vase just made for forcing bulbs like hyacinths. The worst enemy of bulbs is sopping wet soil, so put some small stones, gravel, or broken pot pieces in the bottom of the container. Next consider your potting soil. Remember bulbs come with their nutrients inside their bulb, so your planting mix doesn’t have to provide nutrients, but it is essential that it has good drainage. Dampen the soil before you begin potting and add the mixture until the pot is around half full. Layer the bulbs in the pot as tightly as you like. It is alright for them to touch. If you are planting tulips, place the flat edge of the bulb against the edge of the container. The flat side is where the first large leaf comes from and by placing them all to the outside you will create a uniform appearance to your arrangement. Most bulbs can withstand a double layer in the pot, so at this point just add enough soil to cover the first layer of bulbs right up to the tips. Now you can put a second layer of bulbs in the pot, being careful not to place them directly on top of the underlying bulbs. Then fill your container with soil to the top of your container allowing some space for watering. Make sure to label it so you’ll know what you’ve planted.

Next you need to decide where to put your bulbs for their chill time. You can use a refrigerator set at 40 degrees but remember to keep them watered! Also be sure not to allow any fruit to ripen in the fridge that has bulbs in it. The fruit releases ethylene gas, which is very toxic to bulbs. Other options included placing your container in a box and surrounding it with leaves or straw and placing it in an unheated garage, shed or cold frame or safe place outside ( most bulbs are like candy to squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and deer). Unless your basement has a cold-room that maintains a temperature around 40ยบ you really cannot store the bulbs in the house until the ‘chill’ time is over. The basic idea is to give then dark and cold (not necessarily freezing) conditions for the required time.

After the correct amount of time has passed, bring your container out and clean it off. If the shoots that have emerged and are white don’t worry, as they will green up once exposed to the light. Pick a cool spot to start the forcing process. Keep them out of direct sunlight for a few days and turn the container one quarter turn each day so the plants grow straight in the container. Keep the pots watered, but not soaking wet. Once blooming has started, your flowers will last longer if you keep them out of direct sunlight, and put them someplace cool, at night. Remember the natural bloom time of these flowers is usually the springtime, when Mother Nature supplies naturally cooler temperatures at night, so if you follow this rule you will be rewarded with a longer bloom time. Blooms that are kept cooler and away from direct light also maintain their colour longer too. If you want to plant the bulbs after they finish blooming cut the flower stems back but not the leaves and allow the plants to mature. Once the ground thaws you can plant them outside and treat them as a green plant for the rest of the garden season. Do not cut the leaves back until they wither in the fall. Just remember forcing bulbs stresses them and uses all of their food stores so it can take a couple of years for them to recover and bloom again and sometimes they may never bloom again. But don’t be afraid to experiment, and enjoy your early spring flowers! Forcing bulbs to bloom at unusual times of year can be a great experiment and is a great deal of fun whether you are a gardener or not. This is also a great project to do with the kids as a science fair project, a badge for Girl Guides or Scouts or just for some winter fun. Give bulb forcing a try you’ll love spring flowers in the middle of the winter.

Forcing Branches
Bring home the delicate blossoms and branches of flowering trees. Place them in vases or create your own pretty keepsakes.
Get a jump on spring and bring flowering shrubs indoors. Forcing blooms is easy with a few simple steps:
In late February or early March, look for shrubs with long branches and lots of swollen, plump buds. Cut branches in the afternoon when flowers have the most moisture.
Using sharp pruners, cut branches at least 12 inches long and at a 45-degree angle. To draw water to the blooms, smash the bottom 2 inches of the cut end using a hammer or mallet.
Place branches in room-temperature water and put in a cool spot away from sunlight. Change water often for longer bloom time. Keep branches moist by covering with a plastic bag or by misting daily.
Depending on the shrub (forsythia and pussy willows are quick to open), buds will start flowering in 1 to 4 weeks. Once they start to bloom, move branches to a sunnier spot and enjoy! They'll last up to a week.
Best shrubs for forcing: Azalea, beauty bush, crab apple, flowering quince, forsythia, magnolia, pussy willow, redbud, rhododendron, serviceberry, spirea, witch hazel, and fruit trees (such as cherries, pears, and apples). "

I once forced Willow Branches. They started out as pussy willows that I was so enchanted with...and ended up being a huge tree in two years! I had them in a vase of water...and one day looked and to my surprise noticed roots! I ran them out to the greenhouse...threw them into some dirt and plotted my next move....(kinda like a mad scientist taking over the world...Tootsie plots against the grass and where she will take over for a new garden) lol

Two years after planting those little branches in the ground, I had a tree that was taller than the garage next door! Let me say...there is nothing more rewarding than a tree you started all by yourself. WAY better than one you bought!

Happy Forcing! Let me know how you make out!