Spring has now finally sprung, and that can mean only one thing for gardeners – that it’s time to get out there and start planting things in the soil. At this time of year, the most rewarding things to plant are bulbs, which sprout into beautiful flowers over the course of the year. By planting bulbs now, you’ll find yourself with a beautiful display of colour by midsummer.
Bulbs are one of the easiest of all garden plants to grow, and so make a great point of entry for would-be gardeners. That said, growing a bulb still does require a little bit of forethought. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to grow bulbs, and consider any difficulties which might arise along the way.
Spring is a time where many flowering plants are first coming into bloom. These flowers include daffodils, tulips, crocus and hyacinth. The bulbs of these flowers should have been planted the previous year: tulips should have been planted in November; daffodils, crocus and hyacinths in September.
The bulbs we actually plant at this time of year are those which will bloom later – during summer. These include tender summer-flowering bulbs, like gladioli.
How should bulbs be planted?
Before planting our bulbs, we should first consider a myriad of different factors. Foremost among these should be the sort of bulb we’re planting. Hardy bulbs come from areas where the climate is especially dry during summertime, and therefore prefer sites with good drainage and good exposure to sunlight. These include tulips and daffodils.
More tender flowers need conditions that replicate the cool, wet woodlands from which they originate. Such flowers will struggle to thrive if the soil lacks the rich minerals found on a forest floor. Lighter soils can be bulked up with compost, while heavier soils can be improved with compost and grit.
Depth and spacing
The depth at which we should plant our bulbs will also depend upon the species. Daffodils, for example, should be planted at around four inches below the soil, and spaced four inches apart.
There are, on the other hand, a few things which are universally true of all bulbs, and one of them is that they should always be planted with the pointed tip facing upwards. If you can’t work out which tip is the growing end, even after consulting google, then play it safe and plant them sideways.
Containers or au natural?
Bulb-growers will also need to consider whether to plant their flowers in a container. One of the major advantages of doing so is that it allows for more flexibly. You’ll be able to easily reposition your flowers once they’ve bloomed. Then, after the flowers have returned to their dormant state, you can move the pots out of the way.
If you choose instead to plant in a border, then do so in tight groups in order to form a dense pack of flowers. Do this by removing a large patch of earth and planting your bulbs in a single group, with all of the bulbs facing upward.
Which of these two options you choose will largely be determined by your personal taste and gardening circumstances. Generally speaking, containers are a great way to display single, large, showy flowers, while border displays are better suited to larger displays.
What issues might come up?
As we’ve mentioned, bulbs are among the more forgiving of plants. Once you’ve gotten them into the ground, they will have an excellent chance of survival. That said, bulbs might well throw up a number of problems. It’s worth examining these in turn.
Bulbs, like many other living things, have a shelf-life. If you fail to plant them within an allotted timespan, they’ll likely not fare as well once they’re planted. If you leave it too long, then they might not flower at all!
Be sure to buy your bulbs immediately before you plant them in order to give them the best chance of survival. If you must store your bulbs, then be sure to check them to see whether they’re rotten before planting them.
Of course, life sometimes means that bulbs aren’t planted when they should be – perhaps you might have forgotten about them, or lost them in your shed or car, only to discover them later down the line. In such a circumstance, there’s no sense in waiting for the precise time of year that they should be planted – just get them into the ground.
Of course, there exist a number of animals which will happily eat your bulbs. Some will dig them up out of the ground and squirrel them away (squirrels, appropriately enough, will do this), while others will eat them when they find them in the soil. If you should notice that this is happening, then be sure that you’re planting your bulbs at the appropriate depth. You might cover your flowerbed with chicken wire in order to prevent burrowing critters from attacking it – just remove the cover once the shoots have begun to emerge. You should also ensure that you’re properly treated the environment so that it’s protected against more subterranean, slimy pests.
Other problems come in the form of diseases, including viruses, which transmit from flower to flower and cause them to die. Be sure to research the diseases which might affect your flowers. Once you’ve spotted them, you’ll be able to remove them before they have a chance to spread the condition further.
Once your flowers have bloomed, you might either be pleased with the results, or you might be disappointed. It’s important to consider that flowers which return year after year often fare better in subsequent years than they do in the first year of planting. If you want to try and aid their prosperity, then you might do so by keeping the aforementioned pests and diseases at bay, and by adding fertiliser to the soil during planting time in order to aid their recovery.