Bulbs are often thought of on those warm sunny days in Spring with their bright colourful blooms. Well, they actually take a little bit of forward-thinking and planning in the garden to get them to not only flower right but to grow correctly too. It isn’t uncommon for us to forget about them as we approach the cooler temperatures and months of the year as they only seem to be associated with Spring.
Autumn is the ideal time to get planting especially as everything else in the garden begins to slow down for the cold season ahead. There are a few key points to know prior to planting to help guarantee the success of your bulbs.
Almost all bulbs love the sun, there are a few varieties which perform better in a shaded, sheltered area of the garden, but for the majority the more sun the better the flower. When exposed to not enough light, flower stems will become softer and weak, often resulting in poor quality blooms. Make sure to always check what aspect your bulb requires.
Planting and Depth?
As a general rule of thumb when planting bulbs, plant them twice as deep as to what it is tall and the same distance apart. If you have a bulb which measures 1-inch long, plant it 2 inches deep. Most bulbs will have a clear point and a rounded base. The rounded side should be planted into the soil making contact with the dirt and the point should always be planted facing upwards to the sky. Here is a tip; if you are not too sure which way is the right way up for your bulb plant it on its side. As a bulb will always find the correct way up from being planted in this orientation. Bulbs such as Anemone and Ranucuil, look more like a spider, with these plant them with the legs facing down to the dirt.
What soil is best?
When growing bulbs in the open soil out in the garden, more often than not, they will like to be in humus-rich soil with good drainage. If the soil is more sandy add a few bags of organic compost and animal manures to the pre-existing soil and blend it all together. If the soil is heavier like that of clay, raise or mound the soil to improve drainage.
If the soil is just no good, pots are always a great option and for those who want the freedom to move their bulbs around. Using a premium quality potting mix, Terracotta and Tub will be ideal.
Spring flowering bulbs tend to require good consistent watering as soon as they begin to emerge with their green shoots from the soil surface in late August. Watering is also weather dependent, an example of this is if we experience long periods with no rain, watering will need to be done more regularly. Throughout the Winter, keep them dry, do not water unless it is needed as this will eliminate the chances of rotting the bulbs before they have even begun to grow.
Upon planting, giving them a feed will help to settle them into the soil and start their flower journey. Most bulbs will require a secondary feed once the flowers begin to finish. It is often mistaken that bulbs need food as they begin to bloom when they actually need it most once those blooms finish and the foliage begins to die back down.
It is during this time when the bulb is taking up as many nutrients as possible, as it is taking those minerals and nutrients then storing them for next year’s flower. Allow the foliage to completely turn yellow and die to the soil level. As tempting as it is to remove the old growth it is best to leave them. As the foliage begins to die back it is generating energy and food for that bulb to multiply and flower again.
Storing bulbs? Refrigerate?
If you live in high damp altitude areas it might be worth the time to dig up any bulbs which might require it. Allow the foliage to die down before digging, to dig bulbs up use a garden fork and gently work it through the soil pulling out the bulbs as you go. Remove as much of the soil/dirt and leave bulbs to dry in a cool area out of the direct sun. A laundry room, garden shed or garage is always ideal. Leave them until it is their planting season.
Refrigerate bulbs have always called for a debate, the only bulb which may require this is the Tulips. However, they do not require it to perform in the garden. If you live in the outer suburbs where Winters are a lot cooler you will not need to worry. However, if located near the city and surrounding suburbs it might be worth digging the Tulips up and chilling them for a few weeks.
Tulips can be kept in the crisper of the fridge for 4-8weeks prior to planting. Never freeze them.
Bulbs can bring you so much joy and fulfilment in the garden. Their bright coloured flowers can make a gloomy day appear brighter. One bulb holds the future promise of many flowers to come in your garden.
By Bonnie-Marie Hibbs