Preparing your garden for winter bulbs
Bulbs are easy to love and even easier to grow, as they’re an all-in-one underground powerhouse with storerooms for nutrients and water. Fortunately, it’s super simple to make your soil hospitable for bulbs. All you need are a couple of good tips, the right food for them (so they can store nutrients for the next season) and most importantly water.
To start, look at your garden to make sure the areas you plan to tuck your little treasures get enough sun - especially in winter-rainfall areas. You should make sure that your soil is the right texture and that it will provide the bulbs with the best foundation. To do this, grab a handful of the soil from your garden and look at the different textures. What you are looking for is sandy loam, which is a balanced mixture of clay, sand, silt and a generous dose of organic matter. Sandy loam usually is around neutral pH and grants good water drainage.
Where and how to plant my winter bulbs?
Our easy-to-grow winter bulbs can be planted almost anywhere in well-drained soil. They will grow happily in semi-shade (morning sun and afternoon shade). When placed in full sun, make sure they are generously mulched and watered more regularly. Consider how tall they grow, to help with planning where you’re going to put them. (Shorties in the front, tallies at the back.) Don’t skimp on planting – groups of flowers look better than one or two here and there. Create whimsical swathes of 15 - 25 plants that will provide the most appealing display from late winter right through to spring.
When to plant my winter bulbs?
Then, once you’ve ordered, start getting the soil ready for when they arrive home and you need to put them to bed, as ideally, they’ll need to be planted almost as soon as you get them in autumn, around the second week of May. Tulips can be planted later, in June, as they prefer the winter cold.
Make sure a week ahead of planting time that your soil is nicely loosened to the proper depth and you’ve added some fertiliser which will have time to dissolve. Drainage is vital. Bulbs need well-draining, porous, loose soil, so if your soil is on the dense side, ensure you prepare it well ahead of time with organic material such as compost, which has been worked down to at least 30cm. This will ensure that new root systems from your bulbs have a chance to thrive and that your bulbs won’t be at risk of rotting.
What can I plant my winter bulbs in?
If you’re planting in containers, they should be wide, and deep enough to accommodate your bulbs. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes at the bottom of your container. Use fresh potting soil, not soil from the garden, and add water-retaining mulch on top of the soil to slow down water loss when the months are dry. Protect your container from too much sun by placing other pots of hardy plants around it. If you live in a particularly cold or frosty region, remember that bulbs planted in containers can freeze more easily than those out in the ground, so put them in a sunny, yet sheltered spot, or cover them when frost or low temperatures are forecast. Do plant the bulbs a little closer together in a container than you would in the ground for maximum impact. One benefit to growing in pots is that you can bring them inside to admire when the bulbs are blooming, and then move them out of the way once the flowers have died down, the foliage is wilting, and the plant is going dormant.
I’ve got my winter bulbs, now what?
Once you have the bulbs in hand, dig out the prepared soil to the proper planting depth as specified on the pack (if you threw the pack instructions away by accident the rule of thumb is to plant the bulb two times as deep as the actual height of the bulb, so if the bulb is 2cm, it will need to be covered with 2cm of soil). Next, loosen the soil below and add the bulbs. Cover the bulbs with the soil you’ve dug up, being careful to not press the bulbs into the soil. Then you must put a layer of mulch on top. We’d suggest you also count the mulch layer as part of your overall planting depth. Feed immediately with Hadeco Bulb Food. Last but most certainly not least, it’s time to water! Unfortunately, it cannot only be for a few minutes as you need the water to seep deep into the soil to get to where the roots of the bulbs are. So, it’s best to water bulbs for ten minutes every four days to get the best results. When it comes to bulbs in containers, make sure to water them every 2-3 days depending on how much sun your bulbs are receiving. If you miss even one deep watering, the bulb could abort the flower embryos and you will get no beautiful blooms in the next season.
With this as your guide, you can take delivery of your winter bulbs when they arrive and confidently set them in the ground, knowing exactly how to care for them. Expectantly, looking forward to an abundance of late winter and spring colour.
Winter bulb preorder starts 23 February.