This fall I was on a bulb planting craze (typical for me), and still hadn’t lost my zeal by Christmas. An unseasonably warm start to winter lured me into ordering A Lot more bulbs when Holland Bulb Farms had an amazing sale. Boxes labeled ‘Open Immediately’ arrived as the temperature took a dive. Overnight, the ground was too frozen to dig without a drill and I wasn’t outfitted with specialty power tools.
An idea occurred. I’d seen something on YouTube about making container bulb gardens so flung myself into researching the how to’s of what is called Lasagna growing. The aim is to layer various bulbs, according to size and variety, in a large container with several inches of potting soil in between the layers. The bigger bulbs like tulips or daffodils go on the bottom of the pot and you continue upward until the smallest bulbs make up the final layer. The only snag was that I had never done this before, and any potted plants I’d ever left out over winter always froze solid. I lacked funding for the pricy frost/freeze proof pots I discovered online after learning about them from the brilliant British gardener, Monty Don.
After assembling my largest plastic, metal, and wooden pots (plus others), I fell to and filled each one with potting soil (my favorite brand is Proven Winners/P.W.) mixed with bags of compost and raised bed soil. It took a heaping lot to fill all these containers. I layered in various tulips, daffodils, alliums, hyacinths, miniature iris, and windflowers, finishing up with crocus and a generous dash of viola seed. I also tossed on Shirley poppies, sweet alyssum, tiny snapdragons and marigold seeds. The violas are thriving. All seedlings are battling for space. After every pot was crammed full of bulbs and seeded, I circled the containers in a nook outside my kitchen. Heat from the dryer vent blows that way and I figured that would help warm them. I wrapped the pots in old towels, topped with cardboard from Amazon boxes, and weighted each with rocks. Then I banked the pots with extra bags of soil and compost, like sandbags bracing for the river to rise. Over the assembly, I spread a blanket, tucked them in, and weighed it down.
You may ask, was this attractive? No. Not at all. But I reminded myself of the glories to come. Most of the bulbs survived to spring, except for the crocus that froze to mush. Crocuses were the top, most vulnerable, layer. The seeds are germinating like mad and don’t begin to have room in these stuffed full pots. Pity. I must rethink how to better do seeds next fall, but they’re coming up. Growing seeds outdoors in winter/containers really does work. Also, it’s recommended to start these lasagna bulb gardens in late fall instead of January, but my pots did well. Given enough protection, they don’t freeze solid.
I am gardening in zone 6b, in the windswept, at times bitter cold, Shenandoah Valley. If you decide to tackle this project, watch for super late season bulb sales and good potting mix. And may God bless all who grow with you.
(Tulip, hyacinth, and daffodils layered in pots.)
I’m moving the pots I can lift to other spots in the garden that need a pop of color. Safe to say they ARE hardened off now. True story.