Q. I planted gladiolus for the first time last year and had lots of luck with them. I wish they were/are longer lasting though. Any suggestions on how to enjoy these lovely flowers longer? – P.L., Albuquerque
A. That’s easy. You can enjoy blooming gladiolus in your garden when you employ a process I’ve learned called successive planting.
You plant some of your treasures as per usual and they get off to a good start. Mark your calendar and in two weeks time plant several more gladiolus. Two weeks later plant another round of bulbs.
As the first round comes into bloom, the second round will be aiming towards maturity. When that round blooms the third round will be getting ready. So on and so on.
You can plant successive rounds of gladiolus through the middle of August; that way you have a season-long blooming. The only concerns I see would be having plenty of bulbs stored and ready to plant, and making sure that the area you’ll be planting in gets enough sun without being cooked.
Gladiolus can handle quite a bit of sun, but offering a space that perhaps gets a break from truly intense midday heat would be best for them.
Since you grew them so successfully last year, you know the drill as far as planting and keeping them watered. As to the storing of the yet-to-be planted bulbs, you’ll want to keep them in a place that is fairly cool and dry. Find a space in an indoor closet, the bottom of the pantry or a spot in the garage that has a consistent cool temperature.
Remember, stored bulbs shouldn’t be kept in a plastic bag ever. When you purchase bulbs that are in a plastic bag, be sure to decant them into a paper bag and staple the original labeling to that bag.
I don’t know if you do any vegetable gardening, but you can do successive planting there, too. Planting veggies like peas, carrots and radishes in successive plantings will give you a longer harvest. So, get out there, purchase the gladiolus you’ll be able to plant, store them thoughtfully and enjoy yourself.
Q. You always recommend the use of potting soil, but mine never drains. What am I doing wrong? Also, I see it (potting soil) already sold containing fertilizer. What’s your take on that stuff? – S.A., Albuquerque
A. I don’t want to sound mean, but my first question to you is “Do your pots drain? Do they have drain holes? Have you put potsherds in the bottom to keep the soil in but allowing the water to drain?”
If your answers are yes to my questions, then I’d ask if the soil you’ve purchased is labeled as the water-holding type. If that’s the case, I suggest that you mix some clean sand, vermiculite or perlite into the soil to guarantee a bit more drainage.
Even “normal” potting soil could benefit from having some vermiculite, perlite or clean sand worked through it before planting. That way the soil will be less likely to cake or cement in the containers.
I also wonder if your pots sit vacant during the winter. If that’s the case, you do want to give that soil a good roughing up before you plant each year. Having sat fallow, that soil has more than likely settled, there’s not much oxygen in it having.
If the soil has been used for two or more seasons, it’s time for fresh, new soil.
You asked about prefertilized soil. To me that’s a double-edged sword. Granted, you’d supposedly not need to fertilize because it’s already in the soil, but if the normal soil is new, it probably contains all the nutrients in it your plants need for the initial planting.
It seems to me that containing too much fertilizer would encourage too fast a growth spurt. Perhaps diluting it by mixing in unadulterated potting soil would be the ticket.
But back to the “never drains” part of your concerns. I believe by working in some clean sand, perlite or vermiculite will help. Also, don’t over-water the pots. Get in the habit of sticking your finger in the soil before watering. If it’s moist, hold off watering for another six hours to see if that helps.
Happy Diggin’ In!
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.