This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
I class these altogether, as the in-treatment is much alike. To have them early, the bulbs should be potted as soon as possible in light rich loam, with a little sand and cow-dung which has been lying in a heap for some time, all well mixed together. Before potting, it is advisable to sprinkle a little soot over the drainage, which helps to keep worms at bay, as they are very apt to get into the pots when covered up.
When potted, give a good watering, letting them stand over a night before covering up, to get them dry all round the bulb; if covered up at once, when damp, it induces them to rot. If required early, make up a hot-bed - which must not be at all violent - some little time previous; then place about 4 inches of ashes all over, making it level, so that the pots stand solid. Before covering all overhead, it is a good plan to take a pot a size smaller than those the bulbs are in, and invert one on each pot; this keeps all clear and free from slugs, neither are they so liable to damp. Then cover all over to the depth of 6 inches. The bed should be regularly examined that the heat is not too strong, as a gentle heat of 60° makes the roots start earlier than if placed on a cold bottom.
If all goes well, in about six weeks many of them will require to be removed to another situation, which should be close to the glass where a temperature of GO0 can be maintained at night. They will soon begin to grow, and throw up their flower-spikes. If taken from this house into one with a temperature 10° lower, just when the flowers are beginning to open, for a few days before taking them to the conservatory, they stand longer and have a richness which they have not if hard forced all along.
Other two or three lots should be potted at intervals of three weeks, receiving the same treatment, dispensing with the little bottom-heat which the early ones received. We find that, by procuring the various colours separate by the dozen, and placing three in a 6-inch pot, they make a finer display than a single bulb in the same sized pot.
They stand rougher treatment than is generally supposed of them. Having some water-tight zinc flower-trays for dropping into baskets, a lot of Hyacinths, Narcissus, and Tulips when in full flower were taken out of their pots, most of them having all the soil removed from the roots, and arranged to colour and height; a little soil was put amongst them, and after a good watering, they were mossed all over, when they stood for about three weeks. The white Roman Hyacinth should not be neglected for early work, as it comes in early, and is invaluable for cutting; and if the small bulbs are put into a 6-inch pot almost touching each other, they mix in well along with other things. A. H.