A little bit of rain sure can get gardeners excited, it’s time to think about autumn approaching finely after the cruel heat of summer. March is time to harvest seed from the vegetable garden and prepare the soil for the next round of seasonal vegetables. The change over between the vegetable seasons is a normal routine for me and I see it as a necessary job that pays forward when I’m harvesting my own produce. March is the month that I indulge in some creativity and plant bulbs just for the pure pleasure of seeing a colourful floral display of sweet surprises.
Daffodils and Tulips are high on my list of favourites with so many variations of size and colour. Watering and fertilising existing bulbs in the ground is a good way to get them started as the cooler nights and days will trigger their movement. A good quality complete bulb food can be applied as a top dressing now and a dose of liquid fertiliser to bulbs in pots. Most bulbs will have enough nutrients stored in their various basal storage to begin growing but will appreciate the nutrients ready to go in the soil when they need a new boost to continue developing onto the flowering stage. At the end of the season when all is finished and we are tempted to cut of foliage after flowering it’s a good idea to let the plant yellow off and die down naturally as excess nutrients are taken up and left over nutrients are returned and stored in the bulb for the next year.
Some of the trouble shooting we have with Daffodils stems from planting them too deep in the ground. I use as a general rule, the bulb itself as an indicator “twice the height of the bulb should be the planting depth”. They prefer well composted soil with good drainage and plenty of that winter sun to warm the ground and flower happily. If overcrowding occurs and you notice reduced flowers this is a sign it’s time to lift and separate them, then re-plant. There is huge diversity in daffodil size and colours with single and double flowers. My pick of the daffodils are Daffodil ‘ Tete a tete’, the giant King Alfred’s and I love the pink flowering varieties especially when all mixed up together growing in clumps, under deciduous trees like the Betula pendula, Silver birch.
Start purchasing your tulips now and place them in labelled bags in the crisper compartment of your refrigerator. Wait for it to get cooler before planting, the first few watering’s use some ice cold water from the fridge, it really gets them moving. I highly recommend a parrot tulip called Tulipa ‘Estella rijnveld’. This tulip is a bold red flower with a cut fringe and twisted with a streak of white. Interplant your tulips and daffodils with lower growing bulbs and plants such as Crocus and good old fashioned Forget me nots for a magnificent spring show!