Now, especially as the clocks have gone to “Summer Time” is the ideal opportunity to get planting your Summer flowering bulbs, for long lasting & cost effective colour that will last well into late Summer & early Autumn. As summer flowering bulbs are not frost hardy, at this time of the year, we plant them into pots and then plant out in early May. The good news is that planting bulbs is really easy. Some of the most popular Summer flowering bulbs are Dahlias, Lilies, Gladioli, Begonias, Agapanthus and Crocosmia and these offer great vibrant colours and many are ideal for cut flowers to bring into the house - also cutting flowers for indoor and deadheading faded flowers will encourage lots more flowering - “The generous gardener has more blooms” - reminds us to cut lots of flowers to promote even more blooms. Lots of Dahlias and Lilies will be available as plants later on in the Summer but these can be twice or three times the cost of bulbs - so getting organised and planting up bulbs now is certainly worthwhile in more ways than one
So what’s needed to get going? All you need is some pots, potting compost, some feed and your own choice of bulbs - I like to mix up some farmyard manure (available in bags in most garden centres) and compost to create a nice rich planting mix. Fill your pots or containers with your planting mix about an inch or two from the top - this makes watering easier as if the compost is right up to the top you’ll have water running off over the top.
For planting Dahlias, place them just below the surface of the compost in the pot, not too deep, give them water and label them so you remember what's in what pot. They need to be kept in frost free conditions with light - so a polytunnel is ok or a sunroom. a conservatory or even a sunny windowsill inside is perfect - make sure to keep them moist but not too wet. Once the risk of frost has past you can acclimatise them by having them out during the day and in at night and then plant them out into the garden or you can keep them in containers - when planting Dahlias in the ground, choose a sunny spot, give them a good mulch of bark around the base to conserve moisture and keep slugs at bay and consider a plant support to protect them from strong winds as they can grow to 3 or 4 feet tall. Give them a shake of Osmo pro Bloom after planting to encourage plenty of flowers and keep them well watered. If you nip out the growing point when the Dahlia is about a foot high it takes a little longer to flower but you’ll have loads of flowers on a nice compact plant - a handy tip and well worth doing.
Lilies are a beautiful choice for scented flowers, like Dahlias, you want to plant them up now in a nice rich compost and keep them in frost free conditions for bringing out in May. Plant these bulbs nice and deep, about 3 times the height of the bulbs from the surface - again these bulbs love a sunny location - in the ground or pots - Stargazer is a lovely choice, great scent and beautiful flowers that face upwards.
Agapanthus is another Summer flowering bulb - sometimes known as Lily of the Nile, or African lily, Agapanthus make fantastic patio plants and look particularly good grown in terracotta pots. Given a sunny spot and free-draining compost, they’ll start producing spectacular flowers held up on a high stem in June, July or August, depending on the variety. They like to have the roots a little restricted so do very well in pots and feed with a high potash feed - the liquid feed Nutri One is an excellent choice - I call it “Red Bull” for plants.
Gladioli and Begonias are also excellent choices for Summer flowering which will do well in the garden or in containers - Begonias are handy as they tolerate a little shade - Begonia bulbs get planted just on or barely below the surface of the compost and planted out once the risk of frost has passed
As Autumn comes, after they’ve finished flowering and before the first frost, dig up Dahlia and Begonia tubers and store them in a tray with some dry compost away from frost for the winter and plant up as before the following Spring
A few jobs for the week ahead;
- Protect new Spring shoots from Slugs with some organic slug pellets or use Grazers slug and snail treatment to protect the plants without harming anything or use copper tape around containers to keep the slugs away
- We’ve a lovely selection of heritage tomato plants - excellent for flavour and nutrition - great in a mixed salad for variety of colour
- Consider planting some strawberries in hanging baskets - it keeps the fruit clean and avoids any slug damage
- Feed fruit trees and bushes by sprinkling sulphate of potash or Osmo Pro Bloom fertiliser around the base to encourage fruiting.
- Pick out some nice herbs to plant in containers near your back door, for handy pickings
- Sow onion sets and shallots for tasty home grown produce in Summer