Wednesday, 21 March 2007


I’ve been digging up some dahlias this week to store for next year. (It’s a bit early yet but it gave me a break from painting the kitchen). Dahlias store best in moist, cool areas with plenty of air moving around them. I lost a few last year because of the frost, so this year I am going to wrap them in newspaper and then put them in the spare room of the house. There are other things I could do such as cover them in sawdust or wood shavings but I think this would be a bit too tempting to play with if my two lads found the box. If you decide to store yours like that make sure the shavings are not too dry (this will suck out the moisture of the tuber). Not too wet (as this will rot the tuber), but just right so they can be safe until late spring next year. Talking of spring…

I can’t help noticing that the spring bulb selections are appearing in the shops. Between now and the end of October is a good time to be planting the old favourites, daffodils and crocuses. Hyacinths and tulips can be left until later as they flower later in the spring, so they can go in before the first heavy frosts in winter. The bulbs need to develop a root system to take up water and nutrients from the soil, so early planting is recommended.

One of the best tools to use to plant your bulbs is a spade. (If you were to dig a separate hole for each bulb you will still be in the garden by the time they are in flower!) Pick an area where you want to plant the daffodils and did out a comma shape or something curvy, a straight line can look a bit regimental. When the shape has been dug out, stand with your back to the hole and throw the bulbs over your shoulder. If they haven’t ended up in next-door’s garden you should have the bulbs settled nicely in a naturalized manner. These can be covered over with soil. Try to keep the “pointy” end facing upwards as this is where the leaves and flowers come from. This isn’t really critical though as the bulbs have the ability to set themselves upright underneath the soil (I know a well known council gardener who has done extensive research on this matter!)
If the ground is wet work some sand or wood shavings around the bulbs as they mostly originate from dry soils and tend to rot if they sit in water for any length of time. Put bunches of bulbs of the same colour for maximum impact. If you are doing more than one patch let a few of the next batch of different colours mingle at the edges. The other option is to go for a mass of colour. Plant the bulbs in layers, the largest ones go in first then throw on some soil and then smaller bulbs can then be planted. Try to go for bulbs that flower at the same time so you aren’t left with yellowing leaves when the later flowers come out.

If you fancy planting bulbs like crocus into the grass then dig up a sod and tuck the bulbs underneath and replace the sod. In spring they will come right through the grass and look as though they have always been there. The same can be done with daffodils but they will need to be planted a bit deeper. If they are too shallow rodents can munch away at the bulbs, the flowers tend to be smaller and if there is a heavy frost you can say goodbye to them altogether. The rule of thumb is the depth of soil above the top of the bulb should be about twice the width of the bulb.

After planting you can sprinkle a little bonemeal or other slow acting fertilizer over the area, this will help them establish in spring. While the plant food is in your hand it would be a good idea to give any other bulbs a feed (if you can remember where they’re planted!) Failing this you can wait until spring when the tips of the leaves start to push through the ground and then feed with a fast release nitrogen fertilizer, I have my comfrey juice already made up ready.

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