Thursday, 14 November 2013

T is for Tulips

Ever keen to get ahead, now is the time that you need to think whether you want tulips on your table in Spring!  Unlike most spring bulbs, tulips should be planted now (after a few frosts) as the cold kills off any tulip blight in the soil.

I buy loads and so tend to buy them from J Parkers Wholesale, but if the bulb numbers freak you out then you can just buy from their regular site. There are also some extremely pretty and unusual varieties from Sarah Raven, but they are relatively expensive.

My soil is mostly claggy clay, so I dig a trench about 10"/25cm deep, and cover the base with a couple of inches of rinsed sharp sand.  If you have sandy / well draining soil then you can skip this step and dig to 8"/20cm deep.

This is relatively deep, but by doing so you (a) can plant summer annuals over them when they finish flowering (b) the flowers don't flop over and (c) they flower year-after-year as they don't develop 'daughters' i.e. side bulbs that will stop the bulb flowing that year.

I then place the tulip bulbs pointy-end up, about 3"/8cm apart and backfill with soil. Once you've covered up the bulbs with a layer of soil, you can always add in a second layer of bulbs. This works well if you've got both early and late flowering varieties as once the first lot fade, the others start to bloom. Note that the later flowering ones will be the ones that you plant first and deepest.

Tulips work well in pots and here to get the displays you see around in garden centers, at stately homes or on the telly, layer lots to create a bulb lasagna, where the pasta is a 2"/5cm blanket of soil and grit. Again the latest flowering bulbs go in deepest although you have to also make sure that the larger ones go in sooner to ensure they have enough soil, then plant the earliest and smaller ones at the top. Obviously the more multiple levels of bulbs you plant then the more space around the bottom ones is needed so they can come through.

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