Fertilizing Spring Bulbs

This week is the first week of spring, yeah! I celebrated spring’s arrival by spending hours fertilizing emerging spring bulbs. If you have not gotten up off your gardening couch to look outside your window you ought to – little green fingers are popping up all over. Wellfield has over 40,000 little green “fingers” emerging!

Now is the time to consider fertilizing Narcissus and Tulipa varieties. Beyond making sure they had some good compost, I did not fertilize bulbs at all for years. Then, my bulb supplier recommended I think about fertilizing daffodils. As perennials, daffodils are not heavy feeders, and as any reader of this blog should know by now, I am a firm advocate of getting nutrient cycling going and soil microbiota really active, so that reliance upon supplemental fertilizer is lessened. Funny, I have yet to see a forestry bulletin with fertilizer recommendations. Why are fertilizer recommendations only discussed in gardening and farming publications?

However ideal a forest, or other natural system, might be as a goal to move towards, the fact remains my bed systems are not there yet. Thus, a little hand up might be a good idea. I want my large daffodil swaths to thicken up sooner rather than later.

Daffodils mostly multiply vegetatively via bulbils growing off the mother bulb. Slowly, the clump expands and the original patch thickens and expands. It is suggested spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils should be fertilized twice a year with a balanced fertilizer. I fertilize once or twice in the spring with an organic liquid feed fertilizer combined with humic acid, and I feed the bulbs just enough to give them a bit of a boost to flowering.

Josh Steffen
Horticulture Manager