Plant your bulbs in autumn to attract spring wildlife

Plant your bulbs in autumn to attract spring wildlife

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As soon as the clocks go back, it becomes suddenly apparent just how short the hours of daylight we enjoy are getting. Evenings are now a time for settling down in front of a warm fire, rather than sitting out in the garden as we would have done just a few weeks ago.

This is also an interesting time to watch nature winding down ahead of winter. Many trees are already bare and blooms on plants are being replaced by berries, the final part in the circle of the seasons.

Our gardens won't be that much fun to look at over the coming months, particularly once the first frosts and perhaps even snow arrive. However, you can do some preparation now in order to ensure that your green space is a riot of colour and a haven for wildlife as soon as the first tentative signs of spring arrive.

A great task to get on with now is planting bulbs, which can then lie dormant in the ground for a few months before 'springing' to life. There's still time - most of our bulbs are suitable for planting between September and December, with tulips in particular ideal for November. If you'd like to do this, here are some top tips on how to go about it.

How to choose a site for bulbs

You can plant bulbs in a flower bed, in pots for your patio or right in the middle of the lawn to create a random, natural effect. Whichever way, ensure they have plenty of drainage to prevent water-logging and root rot.

If you're putting them in a pot, add plenty of horticultural grit and some broken crockery at the bottom to allow water to seep through the compost. Woodland bulbs don't mind shade, but others tend to prefer sunny sites, so check the packaging to see which is best.

Prepare for planting

You should dig out any weeds that could choke your bulbs or smother them, then add organic matter to the planting site. When you dig your hole, ensure it is three to four times as deep as your bulbs - use a special bulb-planting tool, if you prefer, which brings out a clod of earth intact and creates a perfect hole.

It may sound obvious, but put the bulb the correct way up - opting for sideways is a good choice if you're really not sure!

Replace the soil and firm it down gently - don't be tempted to stand on the site, as you could crush the bulb beneath.

What's the correct spacing for bulbs?

As a general rule, put your bulbs twice their own width apart so they're not too crowded. Apart from that, it's up to you how many you put in one area and where. As many as 50 will create a dazzling display if you have the space, while you could just opt for small clumps if not.

Something many people like to do is take a handful of bulbs and gently toss them down in order to plant them where they fell and create a random effect, something that's especially nice to do on grass.

Which bulbs should I plant in autumn?

There are lots of great bulbs to choose from and many - including crocuses - will flower as early as February, making for a beautiful symbol that colder weather is almost over. They also act as a vital source of food for insects and bees as they emerge into the weak sunshine.

You could go for striking tulips like sentinels at either side of your front door, or cheerful daffodils to nod along the edges of a path to the gate. For dappled gardens, the Wood Anemone will attract bees and other insects and create a traditional, English country garden feel.

Meanwhile, allium family members like the Round-Headed Leek will flower a little later and are also favoured by bees as they start to go about their business in the summer.

Planting bulbs isn't a big or difficult job, but it will really pay off in the long run - both for you and your garden wildlife.