Friday, September 16, 2011
Replanting wooden planters
Summer planters full of bulbs
Finally the weather is dry enough to start emptying out the fruit box planters and getting them ready for spring and summer again.
There's no point trying to empty out containers with bulbs if the compost is soaking wet, apart from anything else, the risk of a trowel skidding in wet soil and slicing a bulb in half is high and the risk of the bulbs rotting if they are lifted wet is even higher. Bulbs need to be plump and relatively dry if you want to store them over the winter: although they can continue to dry once they are lifted, they can't take up any more nutrients to help them flower the following year, so it's a bit of a balancing act to try and get bulb lifting just right every year.
Each box contains a mixture of bulbs, in a high-nutrient compost with extremely good drainage, as bulbs rot very easily. Wooden planters look great, but they can harbour fungi and bacteria that attack bulbs, so good hygiene is important as well as good drainage. I scoop the soil out between the bulbs and then lift each bulb on the trowel with its soil surround and pop it into a mesh basket.
When I’ve got all the bulbs (ha ha) out of the soil, I lift out the rest a trowelful at a time and pour it into a box – this allows me to find at least three or four bulbs I’d missed.
Emptying the first planter
Each mature bulb usually has a great skirt of babies, if the growing conditions have been right, and this year is no exception. I expect shop-bought bulbs to grow well for three to five years, if they are lifted in the winter, and that by the time they are starting to look less than great, their offspring are ready to take over. To begin with, I use my gloved hand to gently brush the bulblets away from their parent, back into the basket.
The ‘adult’ bulbs go into another mesh basket, in the shed, to overwinter and will be planted out in February. For the babies, I take a shallow tray and fill it with the soil that’s come out of the planter – this usually reveals another couple of bulbs I’ve missed! Then I just sprinkle the infant bulbs over the surface and top them up with about half an inch more compost.
The trays go into the unheated greenhouse over the winter. They are watered once a month and get a comfrey and seaweed feed in March and again in June. They spend from April to September outdoors.
Bulbs with babies
When I empty the big planters in September I also tip out the ‘baby trays’ and replant the now reasonably-sized bulbs. Half go into pots to fatten for another year, the other half get randomly planted out in borders in the garden and on the allotment. The ones that go into pots are back into the greenhouse for another winter and then get used to plant up the big planters in the following February or March.
I suppose about a third of the babies, or maybe only a quarter, mature to flower well, but it hardly matters, as this gives us many, many, many flowers, and we usually end up giving away flower pots of ‘randoms’ which are just bulbs we can’t identify with any certainty but will definitely be less then a metre tall and will flower in the following summer!
These are great bulbs for naturalising, maybe around trees or even (dare I say it?) on roundabouts, which is what I've done with many a fattened bulb before now - there's a roundabout in Worthing that has a display of freesias every year that makes me feel like a fairy godmother!
Baby bulbs in their nursery tray
The All Seasons Gardener at 4:59 AM
- Late summer flowers
- Changing seasons in the garden
- Garden photo September
- Rabbit-proof gardening – myth or management system...
- Designing a new border – mood boards!
- Garden pond in August
- ‘Stone’ planters and their contents
- Growing a garden from seed
- At last … romneya coulteri
- The deliciousness of dahlias