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Bulb Planting in Ireland

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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
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Location: West of Ireland

PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2006 2:19 pm    Post subject: Bulb Planting in Ireland Reply with quote

Photo / pic / image of Narcissus / Daffodils.

Bulb planting facts and information.

You should be planting bulbs in late summer / early autumn for guaranteed colour in the spring. Whether your bulbs continue to flower each and every following spring depends on the soil conditions of their planting locations and the extra touches of gardeners care you can offer them.

To help understand how a flowering bulb works, it helps to think of it as a battery. You purchase a fat juicy flower bulb (your battery); all the nutrients (energy) that are required for flowering the first spring, are inside the bulb.
It's almost unheard of for a healthy bulb not to flower the first season after planting.

Ok, flowering over, what is going to replace the nutrients in your bulb (recharge your battery)? The best recharger for your bulb (battery) is to provide it with adequate light, the correct growing soil and an occasional fertilising by yourself, the gardener.

Adequate Light for the Bulb.
You probably know or have heard about the different light requirements of planting in the garden; how certain shrubs, perennials etc will thrive better under certain sunlight conditions than others. Some people mistakenly think bulbs will grow under any light condition, probably because the plant spends so much time deep in the dark garden soil. Well, bulbs are no different to our shrubs in that they have certain light requirements depending on the bulb variety.

For example Alliums (flowering garlic) prefer front of border full sun whereas crocus will thrive in either sun or the partial shade offered by trees. So, before selecting your bulbs, assess the amount of light they will receive in their new home. It helps to realise that even a few feet can make a huge difference in the levels of sunlight offered.

Correct Bulb Growing Soil.
This is the most crucial element to growing bulbs successfully. Almost all bulbs require a loose, open, porous, well-drained soil. If your soil is sticky and retains water, you must alter it to allow the successful growing of bulbs otherwise they will rot. To aid drainage, the soil should be worked over with a garden fork and coarse / sharp sand or grit added.

Do not remove any small stones from the soil as you work it, these provide extra drainage and warmth to the soil during winter. Along with sand, the addition of organic matter or peat moss worked through will aid bulb root development. Almost any soil can benefit from the addition of sand and organic materials, especially heavy clay soils. Raised beds, rockeries and containers usually drain very well; these are ideal candidates for bulb planting even if your garden soil is a sticky, slow draining bog.

Fertilising the Soil Prior to Bulb Planting.
When preparing the soil for bulb planting and forking it over, it is a good idea to add a fertiliser to encourage bulb root development. Products such as "Bulb Booster", "Super phosphate" or "Fish blood and bone" are perfect for this purpose.

Hopefully after reading the first section above you will have been able to select an ideal planting location to accommodate some spring flowering bulbs. Now let's look at bulb planting proper.

Bulb Spacing.
The correct spacing of bulbs upon planting is very important, as planting too close leads to premature overcrowding and poor flowering. After about a year in the soil, bulbs start to produce daughter bulblets, as these bulblets grow in the following years overcrowding can take place.

The bulbs and bulblets all struggle and strain for a limited supply of water, air and nutrients. This is a natural occurrence, but planting too close will only speed it up.

Bulb packaging should have optimum spacing instructions, be sure to read this to determine how far apart they should be planted. A lot of garden centres still sell loose bulbs, sort of like the sweet shop pick n mix, you grab a plastic bag and fill it with your desired mix of daffs, tulips etc. When you buy bulbs in this fashion don't forget to ask a staff member to print the bulb spacing onto the bag or onto a piece of card dropped into the bag.

Bulb Planting depth. see chart above.
Selecting the correct planting depth is another vital step in successfully growing bulbs. Planting bulbs too shallow can lead to frost damage of premature emerging shoots and occasionally frost heaving, where the bulbs are pushed up out of soil by freezing temperatures. Ground feeding birds such as jackdaws and blackbirds can also damage shallow planted bulbs by digging them out and pecking them.

Planting too deep is even worse than planting too shallow with bulbs possibly not emerging at all due too the long trip to the surface for their new shoots.
Again, like with the bulb spacing all bulb packaging should have optimum planting depth instructions.

Occasionally you will come across bulbs without planting depth instructions or you may have been given some freshly dug bulbs as a present from a fellow gardener. How deep do you plant these? I have a rough rule of thumb to help you in such situations; you can usually get away with planting at a depth that is twice the bulbs height.

This planting depth is measured from the base of the bulb, resting on the soil in the hole to the existing topsoil level. Don't forget, daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, snowdrops etc must be planted with the root plate pointing downward and the pointy top or nose of the bulb pointing upward. This gets the flower growing in the right direction from day one.

When creating the individual planting holes, loosen the soil below the depth the bulb is to be planted, adding a shake of sharp sand to aid drainage.
It will also benefit the long-term life of the bulb to add a slow release organic fertiliser to the soil at the bulbs base.

Press the upright bulb down firmly onto this mix and cover with similarly fertiliser and sand amended soil. Give the planting area a thorough watering and you're done!

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