gardening with Anne McKeon

Buy flower bulbs as early in the season as possible as it is then that the best quality is available. Bulbs that remain in shops unsold for a while tend to get handled frequently by undecided customers and by young little hands. Reject bulbs of poor quality as these tend to produce poor quality plants. A good quality bulb has a firm neck, a clean firm surface with the base also firm, and is free from rot.

Plant bulbs as soon as possible after purchase. By the way, spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, etc, should be planted from September to November. The nearer to late November the better for the planting of tulips. If bulbs have to be stored prior to planting they should be stored in a dry, airy place. Bulbs should be planted into the ground to their own depth and a half, eg, if your bulb is two inches in depth plant it two inches plus one inch into the ground (ie, one and half times the depth of the bulb ). A trick when planting would be to push the bulb into the soil and then turn it clockwise, so ‘locking’ the bulb into the ground and making it more difficult (but not impossible ) for the birds to pull them out. Care when planting will result in a good return of flowers.

Most bulbs require free draining soil. It stands to reason that if they are going to spend much of their lives underground, they will not be happy if up to their necks in water. Add coarse sand to heavy soils. Never add fresh manure. If you are planting bulbs into containers rather than into the open ground, make sure that the drainage holes are not blocked.

Bulbs demand very little attention (though some is necessary ) and so are ideal for both the avid gardener and the less enthusiastic planter. There are no hard and fast rules regarding the feeding of bulbs. With poor soils however, it is beneficial to dig in fertiliser before planting. If feeding is required while bulbs are growing, I would suggest that you feed with a liquid fertiliser. Bulbs in containers generally require feeding once the food supply in the compost has been exhausted, ie, more frequently than bulbs growing in the open ground. Summer flowering bulbs require watering during drought spells. Water thoroughly rather than just sprinkling lightly daily. Keep the compost moist but not wet. No swimming lessons for the plants, please. It is important to stake weak stemmed, tall, and large headed bulbs.

As there are bulb types for both full sun and shade, I would suggest that you plant some this year. Why not ‘Tip Toe Through The Tulips’?

Happy gardening!

Anne McKeon.

Garden checklist

• Plant trees and shrubs. Erect a windbreaker in exposed locations.

• Pull away dead leaves and debris from around rockery plants.

• Check all garden tools. Wipe tools dry before putting them away for the winter. Sharpen shears and secateurs.

• Service lawn mowers, strimmers, etc.

• Create a compost bin and consider installing a wormery.

• Prune later summer flowering shrubs.

• Prepare sites for new fruit trees and bushes.

• Prune currants and gooseberries from now onwards.

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