Ciao, ortolani senza paura;
A student at my Organic Gardening Workshop was complaining this past Saturday about her saffron plants not coming up, and assumed the supplier had sent her a defective batch, or she had planted them incorrectly. This usually happens the first year when this little indestructible corm (Crocus sativus), will emerge at different times depending on how deep it was sown or affected by the temperature in that particular zone. Remember, there are two types of fall crocuses, but do not buy autumn meadow crocuses (Calchicum autumnale), which are inedible; a good way to differentiate the two varieties is, calchicums have 6 stamens, whereas saffron corms only have 3.
I’ve been growing saffron for over 10 years and have several hundred plants growing in my vegetable and flower gardens, plus in several pots. Once the plant dies down in June, I do not water or fertilize. Overwatering signals the bulb to emerge, and fertilization will induce the bulb to produce more foliage and fewer flowers when it finally breaks dormancy in late September. In mid September, I prepare the soil by surface grubbing, which breaks the crust, aerates the soil and gets rid of the weeds, if necessary, although I keep my beds almost weed-free.
When the foliage begin to surface, it’s a good time to start watering again, and soon after the grass-like vegetation appears, you’re rewarded with a slew of purple flowers and red stamens.
At this point do not over fertilize but keep it watered. If necessary, use organic water soluble fertilizers or organic foliar sprays.
Nick Mancini, The Organic Italian