Buy now for a colourful spring -Spring bulbs for small gardens

I know, I know, we’re still enjoying the last of the summer, but right now is the time to start thinking about spring … well, spring flowers at least, and if you’ve got a small back garden then bulbs can add an additional, much needed layer to your planting scheme.  So which spring bulbs for small gardens?

Spring Bulb planting time – soil preparation

Begin the perfect soil preparation by weeding and incorporating lots of well-rotted compost when planting bulbs. On clay soils, dig in horticultural grit as well to aid drainage as bulbs hate being sat in wet cold and soggy soil. Don’t be tempted to just throw a bit of gravel into the planting hole either as this will just act as a mini sump, it’s important that the grit is well dug into the area. Bulbs grown in pots also need good drainage so put plenty of gravel in the base to keep the hole free draining. For the bulbs I plant in pots I use two parts John Innes No 2 with one part horticultural grit, but you can but specialist bulb composts if you can’t be bothered to mix it up!

Garden centres lure their customers with bulbs for autumn planting from as early as the end of July (mainly because they want them sold by September to make room for baubles!).   But be warned, although it’s a good tine to buy them (before they dry out too much in the hot greenhouses) in my opinion August is too early to plant spring flowering bulbs and often in September the ground is still too hard. October is a great time for planting daffodils and save tulips till November.

It’s important when buying bulbs to reject any that are soft or showing signs of blue or grey mould and try and choose the largest bulbs you can afford. Smaller, cheaper bulbs may not flower well in their first years so in essence you’re buying time.

I’d suggest using a bulb planter for small gardens most bulbs or a dibber for smaller ones. Fork over the area first, add the compost and grit if needed and then use either the dibber or bulb planter which should glide into the soil. If you feel like you’re breaking your wrist (or the bulb planter) my guess is you haven’t forked over the area first and you shouldn’t be planting! Bulbs should be planted in holes around three times as deep as the bulb itself. For example, a 25mm crocus bulb needs to be planted in a hole 75mm deep.

Watch out for pests that may eat your newly planted bulbs!

Who loves bulbs more than we do? The squirrels! Although they dig up daffodils I don’t think they actually eat them. But they have a serious appetite for crocus and tulips. Bulbs are most vulnerable immediately after planting, when the soil is newly dug, fluffy and easy for to dig. Chicken-wire placed over the pot, or the freshly dug soil, will deter them, and I’ve found setting this under-ground to be an even better solution.

Tulips in a country garden in sheffield garden

Once planted, you can forget all about the bulbs until the peek through the soil next spring, and although it’s a lot of effort now, you’ll be glad you made the effort when they poke through the soil and brighten up your small garden on those dark spring days.

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