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Re-using last Spring's compost for bulbs again?

FiddlingOnFiddlingOn HertfordshirePosts: 66
I have a couple of pots that I planted with Spring bulbs last year and following their removal planted peacock orchids (the latter were a disaster as I think I allowed the bulbs to dry out in the Summer). My question is, can I simply re-use this compost to plant next Spring's bulbs? I will be buying new bulbs (probably narcissus and tulips) and I think I read somewhere that bulbs don't require feeding since everything they'll be using to grow with is already contained within the bulb (unless you're going to use the same bulbs again for the next season in which case you feed them after flowering). That being the case, I don't see the point in splashing out on new compost if all they require is a growing medium. Am I right? Appreciate any thoughts.
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  • BijdezeeBijdezee BPosts: 1,484
    I re-use mine but I do add granular organic feed to it. The bulb uses the nutrients in the soil as well as the foliage as it dies down ready for next year. So yes, it does need to be fortified a bit, I also topdress it with some fresh compost. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,129
    I would do similar to @Bijdezee. I would add fresh compost to the old stuff. I don't add feed though, although I feed when the bulbs are dying back, so it amounts to the same thing.  :)

    I wonder if your Acidantheras rotted? They aren't totally hardy either, so they might simply have suffered from cold if they went in too soon  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,568
    I too would add some nutrients as you'll get abetter display from the bulbs and when the flowers finish I'd feed again and let the foliage die down in a quiet corner and then plant the bulbs in the garden.

    Acidanthera do well in my garden soil here but are only now putting on strong foliage and thinking about flowering in the next few weeks.   They came with me in a pot when we moved here nearly 4 years ago -  from a cooler, wetter garden - and have self seeded as well as multiplied in the ground after I planted them out.   
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,129
    I've never been able to keep them over winter @Obelixx - they obviously succumb, even in raised beds, in suitable sites. I just treat them as annuals - kept in the growhouse in small pots , and planted out when conditions are  warm enough.  I do two or three in small pots and plant out the whole pot. It works quite well. I'm too lazy to dig them up, and they're readily available very cheaply   ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • FiddlingOnFiddlingOn HertfordshirePosts: 66
    Thank you Bijdezee, Fairygirl and Obilixx for your input. I wasn't actually planning on keeping any new bulbs for the following season but will just buy new again. (Bulbs never do terribly well in the garden and I'm fed up being disappointed every time I plant new ones only to find they don't do well the next season!)

    I'm not sure what happened to my acidantheras. I've had them in the past and they've been lovely. I bought new bulbs/corms whatever they are this year and gave some of the same stock to my partner's Mum and hers were lovely. The flowers that came through on mine had dried out tips as though they went a bit wrong while the buds were forming. I've since pulled the bulbs out of the pots and they've not rotted but I'm guessing suffered from lack of moisture in the bud forming stage. You're lucky, Obelixx, to have them multiplying in your garden as they're so pretty and smell lovely. Guess you get the weather in France!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,129
    Sounds like they've been too dry right enough @FiddlingOn. Possibly more likely if you're in a drier area, or have lighter soil. Mine are more likely to rot! 

    What problems do you have with your bulbs generally? Most are fairly reliable, apart from the fancy tulips and the reticulata Irises. It may just be down to conditions, but if you give us some info, perhaps we can offer some help.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • FiddlingOnFiddlingOn HertfordshirePosts: 66
    Thanks for your interest, Fairygirl. Several times in the past I've planted lots of narcissus bulbs and although I might get a good show the first Spring thereafter far fewer come through and then all I get are leaves. Photographs show March 2014 and then March 2015, you can see the drop off.

    I live in Hertfordshire and our soil I would describe as stony and of quite a sandy consistency. When I've tested the pH it's come back as neutral. The only bulbs that fair better are the tete-a-tete type. I always plant to the recommended depth so have given it up as a bad job now. I've had some drumstick alliums that have repeat flowered for the past 4 years or so, so they seem to do OK but haven't multiplied. I also have half a dozen really old tulip bulbs that manage to come out every year, although what sort they are I've no idea. If I knew what they were I might be tempted to plant a few more of those!



  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,129
    They would normally do quite well year on year, but it may be down to the soil not having enough nutrition, and maybe being a bit drier.  That will suit the tulips, but most daffs/narcissus need more moisture. Alliums are the same - they like a drier site. If you're planting deeply enough, it's unlikely that's the cause, although it can often be that. 
    The wee ones [tete a tetes] will possibly benefit from moister conditions when they're growing, as they come into growth earlier, but the bigger ones are possibly struggling a bit more, and just not getting enough to produce their buds. You also have a lot of planting there, so it's all extra competition. The ones at the left hand side, right by the fence, could be having very little moisture as the fence creates a bit of a rain shadow too. 
    I wonder if it's worth trying one small section, and putting some bulbs in, with some compost which is more loam based, and then making sure it's not allowed to dry out too much. A good layer of mulch- some good compost or leaf mould etc, would help retain it too. Soggy, waterlogged soil can be a problem for some of the fancier narcissus, but most will thrive in moister conditions.
    If you see an improvement, then that's possibly been the reason. We used to have daffs growing along a boundary where the spring ran off down into the neighbouring field, so it was permanently wet.  They were always beautiful  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • FiddlingOnFiddlingOn HertfordshirePosts: 66
    Thank you for taking the time to make your detailed response, Fairygirl. That's most interesting regarding the dry conditions - I'd not thought of that before. I've now planted some hellebores which seem to be a little more successful, especially the Corsican ones planted elsewhere in the garden. I'm guessing now that's because they come from a dry area so suit our garden. The hellebores give some interest during the cold season and the flowers do seem to last a long time so they do make a good alternative. It's all making sense now!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,129
    It might be worth doing a wee experiment. Bulbs are readily available just now too, and often very cheaply, so it wouldn't be an expensive trial  :)

    It's lovely to have them in spring, especially if other plants are a bit later. We have the opposite problem here, in that they can easily rot, so I do quite a lot in containers, and then pick the best spots in borders. I just accept I'll lose some as time goes on though  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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