Plant daffs, crocuses and tulips now

Plan your spring bulbs now, as we head into the deths of winter, says Olive Ryan
Plant daffs, crocuses and tulips now

Tulip’Dolls Minuet’ - see Plant of the Week

THINGS are starting to slow down nicely in the outdoors as the colder day and night time temperatures start to check growth of grass and plants in the garden.

The grass has been growing over the last few weeks with few windows to get out and cut it with all of the wet weather over the last month.

It’s always best not to cut the grass down too tight at this time of the year, however tempting it may be to give a close last cut of the season. It will enable moss to get established and weaken the grass ultimately, so keep that lawnmower on a high setting for the final cut on one of these dry days coming soon!

As the growth is slowing, there are plenty of jobs to complete before the end of the year to make the new year and springtime more manageable.

Applying seaweed over cardboard to vegetable beds now will allow plenty of time for the organic material to be incorporated into the soil before the growing season, and including the cardboard layer will eliminate a lot of weed seedlings, resulting in a much cleaner bed next spring, which will be much easier to create a seed bed on and plant transplants out into when the temperatures are right.

Phacelia tanacetifolia planted on a field scale as a green manure crop cover to help protect the soil for the winter
Phacelia tanacetifolia planted on a field scale as a green manure crop cover to help protect the soil for the winter

If seaweed is not an option, then farmyard manure, home-made compost, leaf mould or mushroom compost can all be used. Green manures are also a good option, but it is a little late now for sowing these outdoors.

Applying a mulch now leaves plenty of time for soil invertebrates and microbes to do their work and break down the organic layer and help to incorporate it into the upper layer of topsoil which we use for cultivation.

The addition of a mulch of organic matter can also help to alleviate and prevent a hard pan developing over time.

When we cultivate the soil to the same depth each year, a pan or crust can develop (depending on the soil type and if the soil is worked during wet weather) at the depth which we dig or rotavate to each year.

This will mean that the top layer of soil will dry out more rapidly, making for a more stressful environment for growing plants, and this is not desirable for vegetable growing.

The regular inclusion of organic matter of some description will help nature to help in keeping the soil healthy and oxygenated, which is of course of huge benefit to the crops being grown in the soil as well as for soil microbes and invertebrates.

There is plenty of material to add to the compost heap with the final clearing of summer vegetable plots, in addition to a supply of fallen leaves and herbaceous material that may need to be cleared to make way for some spring bulb planting.

The long-awaited colder weather over the last week or two has seen a lot of plant material melt into the ground, making it less bulky and easier to remove and add to the compost heap.

Maintaining standing seed heads of mullein, teasel, echinacea, rudbeckia and any other possible food for small birds to feed on is a good idea to attract wildlife into the garden over the winter months.

There is still time to plant garlic and onions this autumn. iStock photo
There is still time to plant garlic and onions this autumn. iStock photo

These seed heads also look very attractive on a frosty morning and can be used for dried flower arrangements if dried indoors for a few weeks.

Planting spring bulbs is another job that ideally will be completed before the year ends. Daffodils, crocus and tulips will all do best if planted now, allowing time for the bulbs to absorb water from the soil preparing for growth next spring.

It is always so rewarding to observe new additions appear in the spring, when the effort of planting them may even have been forgotten.

It is not too late to purchase spring flowering bulbs, the selection may be limited this late in the season but there are bargains to be had as shops make way for the festive stock on shelves.

There is still time to plant onions and garlic, which will be ready for use in late spring and early summer - the garlic is best grown outdoors as it requires a period of about six weeks of cold weather with soil temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius to break the dormancy of the bulb.

Garlic planted now will be ready for harvesting about June/July of next year.

Autumn onions can be planted now indoors or outdoors. If planted indoors, they will be ready for use earlier than outdoors, with harvesting beginning about May.

They do not store as well as summer-grown onions but are a great burst of fresh flavour early in the growing season.

Happy Autumn Gardening in between the showers!

Plant of the Week

Viridiflora tulips have been bred to include a streak of green on the petals of the flowers and they are sometimes known as ‘green tulips’.

This year I purchased Tulip ‘Dolls Minuet’, which is described as a magenta pink tulip with streaks of purple and green on the outer petals also.

A later flowering tulip appearing in April/May, it is getting to about 45cm in height and producing the most attractive lily- shaped tulip flowers.

Tulips are best grown in full sun and this one is quite tall, so towards the middle of the border in moist but well-drained soil will produce the best results.

It is quite an unusual flower with an attractive colour pattern on the petals and I love the appearance of these more unusual varieties as surprises in the springtime to bring me out into the garden!

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