As the weather turns from vibrant summer tones to muted autumnal colour, don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the season done over. Autumn holds plenty of planting possibility and bulbs are the very best of this.
This autumn, get planting bulbs in anticipation for a delightful display next year.
Dig in deep
Contrary to what you might believe, bulb planting is done best in well-drained soil. So, with the rains of August behind us, the soil is primed and ready now for planting.
The easiest way to get the bulbs in the ground is with a bulb planter. That’s to say, a specially- designed tool that can remove a large core of soil for you to pop the bulb into. If you don’t have one, you can use your trowel instead.
One of the most common mistakes with planting bulbs is not putting them deep into the soil enough and then they can get dug up or eaten by squirrels.
Bulb planters have a long handle, much like a spade, and at the end is the corer which you can work into the soil and remove a neat core of soil without difficulty. In addition, the long handle will also remove any risk of back strain.
Remember, the general rule of thumb is that the bulb wants to be at a depth three times its length. So, if you’re dealing with a bulb of 2 inches in size, you plant it 6 inches under the ground.
Not only does it keep the bulbs protected under the soil over winter but securing them at their required depth will ensure that they don’t appear blind, without any flowers, next year.
Containers for kids
Once your hole is dug, you can line the base with a layer of grit or sand to help young roots push through. It’s best to situate the bulb in place by using the ‘lightbulb’ technique. This means pushing and twisting it into place using a light touch, much like you would a lightbulb at home.
Now you can use the soil and compost you have dug up to cover them back over. Don’t forget to label where you have planted them!
This is such a great activity if you’ve got kids who want to lend a hand because bulbs are easy for them to handle and the results are really gratifying.
Together with your little ones you can plant up containers of spring bulbs. For instance, plant taller flowering ones (like daffodils) positioned at the back and the shorter bulbs, like crocus, at the front for a dazzling display next year.
Naturalise or not
Instead of planting in containers, bulbs can be naturalised. This means basically mimicking how they would appear in the wild.
For spring bulbs that spring up in lawns, we can recreate this when we’re deciding where to plant them. However, try to avoid the positioning from looking too uniform and it will look more natural.
I personally love the sight of bright yellow daffodils among fresh green lawns in spring. For that reason, I choose to plant Narcissus alongside crocus in an unused corner of the lawn because it sets apart the colours beautifully.
Daffodils are particularly prone to overcrowding so spacing these properly is a must. For new bulbs, follow the spacing instructions on the packet, to ensure optimal space for flowering.
If established bulbs are blooming less, they may need to be divided. This means that we take the bulb and literally divide it into two plants. For this, you will need to dig up the bulb and carefully detach the offset from the main plant.
These offsets may take a year or so until they’re large enough to plant out, but you can carefully pop the main bulb back into place for subsequent years of enjoyment.
Planting spring bulbs is for all ages and it will bring so much joy to your garden next spring. So, add planting bulbs in autumn to your list of gardening tasks to do.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
Leave A Comment