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Methods of culture

  • Safraneraie en hiver
    Crocus Sativus is a plant with inverted blooming: as opposed to its peers, instead of producing flowers in spring, the bulbs lose all their leaves in June – from which it obtains its botanical classiciation as deciduous – then enters the phase known as ‘dormant’ all summer to emerge from its lethargy at the end of August; produces its first shoots during September; and flowers from the beginning of October until mid-November, sometimes longer.

    That said, it is impossible, if not guesswork, to claim to know the date flowering begins, nor even to predict the yield.

    In any event, it is your know-how as well as the weather conditions before flowering which will determine the final outcome.

  • Sol et bulbes
    Crocus Sativus seems to be able to tolerate all types of soil. My first observations showed me a preference for clay-chalky soil, slightly sandy and gritty, but in all cases light and well-drained.

    It should be south-facing, sunny and warm, and if possible on a slight slope. Soils which are excessively sandy should be avoided, as they are not very fertile, as should those which are too heavy because of water stagnation, which may rot the bulb roots or even the bulbs themselves.

    The pH, or hydrogen potential, which determines the alkalinity or acidity of the soil, should be maintained at neutral (pH 7).
  • Fleur de safranThe future plots should be dug over or rotovated in autumn or at the start of winter. There is no need to work the soil too deeply, as that destroys the ecological horizons, so contributing to destroy the micro-organisms responsible for the fertility of the soil.

    In spring, after the physical action of freezing and thawing over the whole area of the soil worked, you should aim to go over it once or twice with a rotovating tool with straight teeth, so as to crumble the soil as much as possible to a depth of 20 – 30cm, without creating the hardpan of ploughing.

    The bed is ready to receive the bulbs.

  • Fleur de safranSeven or eight months will pass between the winter soil preparation and the appearance of the first emerging shoots.

    During that time, the main difficulty is the management of intruders . . . what the uninitiated vulgarly call ‘weeds’ (bad plants). A little aside, here, to insist that no plant is bad. They may become undesirable at a certain time, from which arises the need to control their spread, but in all cases they form a bio-indicator of the life of the soil, its imperfections, and so the different adjustments which should be made.  

    Using chemical herbicides is always the easy answer . . . destroy whatever is affecting the plants in the plot! That does not suit my way of thinking … !

    I will not go on about the disastrous ecological consequences caused by this type of agriculture since the start of the 60s. Fortunately, several more or less well-publicised studies have produced some edifying reports as to the impact of these methods on the fragile eco-system, and seem to have created the beginning of a state of awareness in existing or potential consumers.

    Many alternatives to chemicals can be used, clearly with more or less success depending on the methods and above all on the conditions of use, but the essential is that any ecological initiative must consist of regulating, rather than destroying.


    In my saffron fields, the intruders are controlled at the seedling stage by a superficial raking of the soil, by hand or mechanically.  You can also take into account the lunar and planetary positions relative to the constellations.  At this stage we are going into the realms of bio-dynamics.  However, there are no strict rules.  In each place … to each plant … in every case … to each individual … his own method!  

    One thing remains certain: our farmer-grower-cropper ancestors, nomadic or settled, knew how to make the right agricultural moves … the essential actions for their survival … and with all due respect for the harmony of the eco-system in which they evolved!

    Must modern man become so ignorant, selfish and pretentious as no longer to respect the world in which he and his children must breathe … ?
  • Just like all cultivated plants, crocus sativus needs appropriate fertilisation, even if apparently, as in any culture, the agronomic value of the soil is fundamental.

    Apport de fond :

    Above all else, analysis of the soil is recommended.  This should provide invaluable indications  
    which will show how to correct any deficiencies.  For a future plantation, a thorough manuring is required in most cases, except in the case of a plot which has laid fallow for several years.

    In autumn, and before working the soil, a good composting with poultry or sheep manure works very well.  Failing that, a base of well-rotted animal compost will also work

    Maintenance recommendation :

    • Winter : for an established saffron bed, a maintenance fertilisation based on an organic mixture whether solid or liquid will clearly be preferable to a mineral intake.  This mixture should be made up of the major bases N and K, depending on the culture’s requirements and its vegetative stage).

    • Summer : during the bulbs’ dormant phase, spraying a phosphorous primary fertiliser on the ground seems to stimulate the shoot as well as the floral production.

  • This takes place in July, and up to mid-August.  To hope for flowering in year 0 (planting year), it is desirable, in our latitudes, to plant before August 15th and to choice the bulb very carefully (size, origin, and acclimatization).

    Well-prepared soil, loosened to a depth of 30cm, will make this easier.

    Bulbs should be placed at the bottom of a furrow dug with a hoe or a motorised cultivator, one at a time, with the base of the corm pointing towards the bottom of the furrow and in direct contact with the soil.

    The furrows should be spaced at 20 to 40cm, depending on the required density, and the bulbs should be placed every 10cm throughout the length of the furrow.  Ideal density is in the region of between 10 and 30 bulbs per square metre.  This variation in density will determine the lasting quality of the saffron bed.

    In fact, crocus sativus is a plant which reproduces in a vegetative manner, which means by the formation and multiplication of bulblets on the base of the mother bulb.  The flower however possesses stamens and anthers which are full of pollen - which the bees adore - but there is no pollenisation.  While the bulblets are growing larger in the soil, the volume of earth exploitable by them becomes more and more restricted, leading to the stifling of the bulbs.

    At this point, it becomes necessary to lift all the bulbs from their original plot, to sort them in terms of their different sizes, to keep the largest bulbs, which will form the future saffron beds, for immediate planting, and to plant the bulblets.