Gardening Tips - September
Autumn Bulb Planting by Sheila Johnson
(Technical Assistant, Parks & Countryside Services, Manor Road Nurseries)
September is the perfect time for thinking about spring! The nights are beginning to draw in a little and the prospect of a long winter is lurking somewhere at the back of every gardener's mind. So what better tonic than to begin to plan for the next few months so you can have a succession of flowers to keep you going.
Quickest and easiest to grow are the Paperwhite narcissus. Pot up a few each week from now to December. Keep reasonably dry, but not thirsty, on a light windowsill or greenhouse bench and in 6 to 8 weeks you will have sweet smelling blooms to savour each time you walk into the room.
Hyacinths are nearly as easy to cultivate but just need a little more time. Make sure that you buy "prepared" bulbs if you want them to flower indoors by Christmas. This just means that the bulbs have been specially treated by the grower to bring them on earlier than outdoor hyacinths. Plant in pots of bulb fibre or compost with the nose of the bulb just sticking up above the surface of the compost. Label the pots with name, date and colour (you'll never remember in December!) and give a light, settling drink.
Put the pots into a cool, dark place, remembering to check watering occaionallyover the next 12 weeks. When the flower spike is about an inch above the foliage bring the pot into the light and introduce gentle heat gradually. As with all plants grown indoors avoid putting pots near radiators as this will dry them out not only at the root but also in the atmosphere and it will considerably shorten the length of time you will keep your bulbs.Growth will be quite quick now and on Christmas Eve Santa will be able to admire your gardening skills as he pops in to leave seasonal gifts around the tree!
Pot up outdoor daffodils this month into large containers. As a general rule of thumb the planting depth is usually twice the height of the bulb. So if your bulb measures 3 inches from tip to toe it will need to be planted 6inches deep in the container. Once again, give a settling drink of water and stand outside in a sheltered spot. Recommended varieties including "St Patricks Day", "February Gold" and "Ice Follies" will all flower early in the spring when you can sink the pot into a space in the flower border to give instant colour or you can bring the pot into the conservatory and enjoy the flowers indoors should the weather be a little wintery.