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The Dutch bulb harvest

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They say “timing is everything,” and unfortunately, mine can be off. I have been fortunate enough to visit Holland, but not in spring, when the famed Keukenhof garden is in full, glorious bloom. And I have never been there in late summer, when the excitement of the harvest fills the air. Millions of bulbs are grown annually in the Netherlands, and bulb production is a large part of its economy. There are huge growing operations and many more small family farms – growing beauty is a way of life.

Late in summer when the bulbs have harnessed all the energy needed for next year’s blooms, and the foliage has died completely back, the harvest begins. Huge, specially designed harvesting machines are brought in to dig the bulbs, along with the soil, and transfer them to a system of conveyors that allows much of the soil to fall back to the ground. The bulbs are loaded into trucks and taken to large drying sheds. There, they are sorted and graded for size and maturity. Bulbs are checked for quality based on their size, measured around the circumference at harvest. Larger bulbs will generally produce bigger and better flowers. Bulbs that are big enough are sold for garden and cut-flower production; smaller bulbs are replanted so they can reach full maturity in another year. The bulbs are then peeled if necessary, disinfected and dried at a high temperature. They are then stored and closely monitored for proper temperature and humidity conditions. Many of these bulbs have been grown specifically for companies like Breck’s – the rest go to flower auctions in Rijnsburg, Lisse and Aalsmeer.

Back here at home, summer is winding down and fall bulb planting season is quickly approaching. Go to now to be sure you get your favorite flowers next spring! And while you anxiously await the arrival of your bulbs, get the planting beds ready by digging in lots of compost and other organic material. When you plant, be sure to add some bone meal for best flower production. Bulb Sorter Bulb Sorting Bulb Farming

About Mary Pat

Mary Pat has written 23 post in this blog.

August 25, 2014