Home My garden Bulb planting and mulching in garden borders

Bulb planting and mulching in garden borders

Daffodil bulbs and long-handled planter
Daffodil bulbs and long-handled planter

Blog: Support British horticulture with two great lockdown gardening jobs!

Planting daffodil bulbs is best done in September but gardening timescales can be a bit elastic.

We all have lives and a combination of poor weather and illness in October meant that even though I bought my bulbs then, they sat in the garage for weeks.

Most of us now have extra time during the second lockdown, so support your local garden centres (still open) or UK mail-order businesses and plant some rays of hope for spring – something positive to look forward to. It’s also an easy job for beginners!

Popping them in a bit late will just mean they’re likely to flower a little bit later unless your soil is unworkable (waterlogged, frozen, or an unhappy combination of both). If you’re struggling with these conditions, plant your bulbs in containers. More on this next week.

Spring flowers that will last for years

Daffodils don’t mind clay soil and will naturalise – the bulbs will get bigger every year, producing more flowers, so you can leave them to do their thing once planted. Tulips, however, hate it. I always plant mine in pots, but they can be planted as late as December.

I bought a couple of bags of scented mixed daffodils from Taylors Bulbs at Dobbies Garden Centre at £4.99 each.

They’re to go in the top part of the border I dug up and replanted last spring plus a patch where a massive Euphorbia characias wulfenii bit the dust in gales. I replaced that with a Phormium Pink Panther but there’s still dead soil there, which is a no-no.

Scatter the bulbs where you want them on the surface at random, don’t try and plant in rows, you need them to look natural.

Right depth is the key to success

Planting bulbs at the right depth is the key. The general rule is twice the depth of the bulb (8-15cm) below the soil surface and 8-20cm apart. If in doubt, plant them too deep rather than too shallow!

This is quite deep, so invest in a bulb planter. The long-handled type works a bit like a spade with a metal tube at the end, great for heavy soils. Most have a scale on one side so you can be sure how deep you’re planting.

Simply push it into the soil, a plug is removed, pop the bulb in, the put the plug back. The planter also means you’re not disturbing the roots of other border plants.

If you have narrow borders, a hand tool version is good. Mine’s a bit like an elongated scone cutter – when you get to the right depth, pop the bulb in and squeeze the handle together, which releases the soil back into the hole.

Why mulching is good for your garden

Once the bulbs are in, another great job at this time of year is mulching on ornamental beds – it’s a quick fix and will really make your garden look neat and tidy.

It’s a blanket of organic matter (home-made compost, leaf mould, bark, even used multi-purpose compost as long as it isn’t disease infested) on the top of the soil around plants. If you don’t have material of your own, ask the experts at your garden centre what is right for your soil.

Aim for a thickness of 5-7.5cm and don’t cover the crowns of plants, as they can rot. The mulch smothers weeds and provides insulation in the coldest of winters.

Tiny soil organisms and worms will incorporate it into the lower levels of soil, bringing much-needed organic matter.

It’s a bit like a concealer stick for your skin – it hides a multitude of sins!

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