Spring Is In The Air

18th October 2013

Autumn is Mother Earth’s natural planting time and provides a fantastic way to add early colour to garden, patio or balcony. Planting spring flowering bulbs – from snowdrops and crocuses, to narcissus, tulips and hyacinths – in autumn means you can start enjoying the joys of spring early in the season.

Here are Taylor’s Bulbs’ ten top tips for planning ahead and planting now.

1. Planting:
Before planting, loosen the soil thoroughly. You might also want to work some compost into it. Then dig a hole and arrange the bulbs in an upright position. Small bulbs can simply be put in.

2. When to plant:
Spring-flowering bulbs can be planted from September all the way into December, but try to get them in before freezing weather sets in.

3. Planting depth:
The general rule of thumb for the planting depth is to plant a bulb twice as deep as the bulb is tall. For large bulbs such as narcissus, tulips and hyacinths, this will be about 10-20cm deep. For smaller bulbs such as crocuses and snowdrops, this is about 5-10cm.

4. Planting distance:
Large bulbs need more space between them than small ones. Plant large bulbs an average of 12cm apart from each other and small bulbs at an average of 5-7cm apart. The spacing interval (or, another way of looking at it, the number of bulbs per square metre) also depends on the visual effect you want to achieve. For a casual, natural-looking effect, plant at varying distances apart and don't hesitate to put one or two somewhat farther away. If you want a solid-colour floral carpet effect, plant all the bulbs at the same distance apart.

5. Soil type and drainage:
Sandy soils drain off rainwater fairly quickly, but clay soils tend to retain moisture longer. Bulbs don't like soggy conditions, so if you have a clay soil you may take extra precautions: lighten the soil by mixing compost or sand in or sprinkle small pebbles into the planting holes before adding the bulbs.

6. Water and frost:
Water immediately after planting. This encourages the bulbs to produce roots – and the sooner the roots have developed, the sooner they can tolerate cold and frost.

7. Pots and containers:
Planting in pots and containers is easy and effective. Choose a container large enough, with drainage holes at the bottom. Place a few pottery fragments or some ceramic granules over this hole, so that excess water can escape easily. Then put potting soil into the pot until it reaches the right planting depth.

Arrange the bulbs on top and add more potting soil until it reaches just below the rim. Bulbs in containers can actually be planted more closely together than in the garden soil, which can makes for a pretty effect. For a varied, more natural look, try taking advantage of contrasting flowering heights.

8. Protection for bulbs and containers
Flower bulbs can tolerate cold winter temperatures, but don't plant too closely to the side of the pot because this is the very the place where frost can penetrate. If a very hard frost is forecast, you could wrap the pots with an insulating material such as bubblewrap or temporarily place them in a warmer spot (one that won’t get any warmer than 13˚C / 55°F).

Terracotta pots can crack due to the expansion of the soil inside them during freezing weather. You can prevent damage by planting the flower bulbs in a plastic pot placed inside the terracotta. Once again, make sure that any excess water can drain off. During a hard frost, you could fill up the space between the two pots with insulating material for extra protection.

9. Planting in layers
You can plant flower bulbs in layers (the ‘sandwich’ or ‘lasagne’ system) both in the ground and in containers. Put those that flower latest in the season (such as tulips) in the lowest layer, and those that flower earlier (say, crocuses or grape hyacinths) above. Planting in layers has no adverse effects on the bulbs: they will simply flower one after another, so the same spot of ground or container will provide flowers for many weeks.

10. Enjoying your bulbs again next year
Many bulbs can be left in the soil after flowering. Just leave them alone and let the leaves wither back on their own. Next year, these same bulbs can deliver another beautiful display, although you will have to help them along by providing fertiliser (either organic or inorganic). Apply when the shoots emerge from the soil, and then repeat the process immediately after flowering.

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