Dig Deep

There is nothing like a spot of digging to get a bit of frustration out of your system.  Heavy, rhythmic work is excellent at regulating your emotional state.  Work like digging or pushing a wheelbarrow help us to feel where we are in space,  ground ourselves, and feel calm and alert.

For more on sensory regulation, see these posts: Read this post if you want to WAKE UP!!! and Will this post calm me down?

I cleared my cutting patch, which gave me space to plant spring bulbs.

Planting spring bulbs is one of the best ways to prepare for winter.  There is something very therapeutic and nurturing about looking ahead to spring.  You know that in the darkest days of winter there are some tender little shoots slowly making their way up to the surface.  There will be a happy day in February when you walk from your front door and you spot a few little nubs, poking their noses out of the frozen ground.  You have brought them into being.  Then you know that you have made it, and spring is just around the corner.

Now.  I try to have a calm, organised approach to buying spring bulbs.

Then it all goes to pot when the catalogues start landing on my doormat.

I held my nerve with the Sarah Raven catalogue.  This is the horticultural equivalent of the Boden catalogue.  You know it is over-priced and you can’t afford it, but it’s just so beautiful.  But I did well, only ordering the ‘Dutch Yard Tulip Collection’.

With JParkers Wholesale, I sensibly selected five tulip varieties to share with my mum.

I should have stopped there.

But I had a little clicking accident with Gee Tee Bulbs. I don’t want to say how many bulbs I bought for my cutting patch.

This is how I SHOULD buy bulbs.

  • Find my scribbled notes I made in May when the bulbs were out.
  • Refer back to A Perfect Day at Great Dixter and A Profusion of Pots at Perch Hill in order to remember my favourites.
  • Think about the areas in my garden and plan colour schemes accordingly.
  • Scale that back when I see how many bulbs I have in my basket.
  • Make a board on Pinterest to remind myself of the plan for when the order arrives!

I managed the last item on the list.

Now I have a bewildering mix of bulbs in boxes from various companies.  And a slightly guilty conscience.

Where am I going to put them all???

I have indecipherable notes on my phone and a list in a notebook I can’t find any more.  But Pinterest saves the day!

Clearing the beds was surprisingly easy.  The oldest bed needed a good dig to loosen the soil.  I mixed in some fresh compost and some grit to improve the drainage.  The other two beds had a good load of well-rotted manure last year.  This was just placed on top of upside-down turves of grass removed from the meadow.  The turves have now rotted down to make light, crumbly soil.


Then it was time for the fun bit!


For tulips and daffodils, I dig a trench or hole of about a spade’s depth.  If the soil is heavy clay, it’s good to lighten it with a bit of added compost, or with horticultural grit, which improves drainage.  If I’m planting in pots, I tend to go about half-and-half with multipurpose compost and grit.

For smaller bulbs you don’t need to plant so deeply.  Twice the depth of the bulb is a good rule-of-thumb.

In a pot, you can plant layers of big bulbs at the bottom and middle of the pot, and smaller bulbs near the top.  That way you have a longer display, with crocuses appearing in February or March, and Narcissi or tulips following on.

Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole, and add compost or grit if you are using it, then plant your bulbs pointy end up.  In pots you can plant quite densely, leaving only a space the size of the bulb between bulbs.  In a bigger bed like this, I probably leave twice that amount of space between the bulbs.


If you plant nice and deeply, you will be able to plant annuals or perennials on top and the bulbs can just stay in place from one year to the next.  I don’t lift my bulbs after flowering.  Life’s too short, and I will get the varieties all jumbled.

Snowdrops, crocuses and narcissi (daffodils) come back every year, with clumps getting bigger and bigger.

Tulips tend to be fab the first year, so-so the second, and a bit few-and-far-between the third year.  This is just the way of the tulip.  I forgive it because it is just soooo beautiful.

You can plant single varieties together, or you can combine them (I do a bit of both).

For maximum fun, you can try giving your planting scheme a name.  Like ‘Vampire Weekend’: darkest ‘Black Parrot’, crimson silk ‘Antraciet’, and the white and scarlet-veined ‘Carnaval de Nice’.  Or ‘Plunge Pool’: shivery ‘Blue Diamond’ and ‘Jacuzzi’ with the rosy blush of ‘Hotpants’ and ‘Ollioulles’.

If you are really organised, you can interplant your tulips with the wallflowers you grew from seed in May and are now ready to plant out! [dum-de-dum, chewing fingernails, thinking about packets of seed in kitchen drawer not sown in May].

Snuggle your little babies up in their compost blanket; tuck them in; sing them a little lullaby.  Make a cup of tea.  Wait for spring!

If you want a sneak preview, this is what my Pinterest pages look like…

Have you been planting bulbs, or are you tempted to try for the first time?

If you would like to join me in cosying up for the winter and looking ahead to spring, then click on the big ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of the page.  I aim to deliver a little pop of natural wonder to your inbox three times a week.

33 Comments Add yours

  1. I feel as you do…deeply frustrated, angered and saddened by the political climate. It’s so nice that you have your garden. I like to play with paper and ribbon. I’ve already located a card shop down the street from my new home where I’ll be starting classes only a few days after we move on November 7…the day after I go to the polls!!!!

    1. bcparkison says:

      I play with paper too. Different kind of dirt…ink not compost.lol

      1. Ali says:

        A lovely way to relax.

    2. Ali says:

      Card-making is very therapeutic isn’t it? I have a colleague who runs workshops and I introduced my daughter to these. Every now and again we all sit around the table making cards, and it is such a lovely way to spend a morning.

      1. Yes! Classes at my new neighborhood store will be a great way to make friends too!

  2. photosociology says:

    What a wonderful way to prepare for winter, and I say don’t feel bad about the amount of bulbs you have. There are many unhealthy addictions out there that kill people. Your obsession with flowers, plants and gardens is wonderful.

    I have an indoor growing tent. It has a 300watt daylight UV lamp and a usb fan, and my plants are growing wonderfully. I need to replant my fig tree today. I’m excited about that.

    1. Ali says:

      That is fabulous. Growing things brings such a lovely sense of excitement and anticipation and satisfaction. Plants demand so few of our resources that it never feels like a burden.

  3. Claudette says:

    Some lovely colour and form there Ali.

  4. Valonia says:

    I completed a history degree a couple of years ago and seeing certain reflections of the past in the present world has added to the fear I feel as to where we’re all headed. The allotment is where we go to calm ourselves too. I’m not actually sure what we’d do without it. We may have been too eager and planted our tulip bulbs way too early though!
    Thanks for the lovely post, and bringing calm into our morning.

    1. Ali says:

      You are most welcome, Valonia! I am with you there; there is nothing like the garden to bring a sense of calm in an uncertain world. Am sure your tulips will be fine. At least they are planted! I still have a cardboard box full in the garage. I can’t get a spade in the soil in some of my beds because it is so dry.

  5. Heyjude says:

    I got all my bulbs planted last week on a gorgeous sunny day, just before storm Callum hit us! I had a lot to plant as I wanted some for the front of the house (normally that has two containers with tulips), plus more dwarf daffs for the back. Hoping that they will come back year after year, though as they are in pots I guess I shall have to remove/replace at some point. Looking at your cutting beds I am wondering whether I should completely clear both of my raised beds as they are very untidy now with nasturtiums, strawberries and marjoram running riot!

    1. Ali says:

      There comes a point for me when I decide they aren’t giving me pleasure any more, and that’s when I clear them to make way for the next generation!

  6. bcparkison says:

    Ket word here is organised….I’m not. Maybe once I finish digging out all of the mess of several neglected years I will see what can happen.You are such an inspiration.

    1. Ali says:

      Bulb-planting is one of my favourite garden jobs, so I do make sure I get those orders in!

  7. Those little brown bulbs in your basket look so enticing, almost good enough to cook, like shallots, but I promise to leave them be. This time, I’m planting new bulbs in a pair of urns flanking my patio/courtyard since I have plenty in the garden beds. I’ll try your suggestion of layering them for maximum bloom time. Thanks!

    1. Ali says:

      That sounds lovely! I look forward to some pics!

  8. I’ve decided since the summer heat lingered so long and then turned unseasonably cold, to forgo bulb planting this year. I’ve transplanted a lot of things and am just tired. But then I had the brilliant idea of planting daffodils in my echinacea garden so that I will get two seasons of blooms out of it. The bulbs were bought yesterday, but are still in their bags waiting for a warmer day to dig.

    1. Ali says:

      That sounds like a great plan. Yes, definitely choose your day. Only once have I ever attempted to plant bulbs in the rain and it was truly miserable! I know now that tulips can wait til the end of December if necessary, so I can choose the perfect day!

  9. I love it that I get to see how your garden changes throughout the seasons. This is my first winter with The Mindful Gardener!

    1. Ali says:

      Aw, it is so nice to share it with you, Shelly!

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    It is hard to exercise restraint when there are so many delightful varieties to choose from. My resolve has improved in recent years simply because I have run out of room! Catalogs are simply eye candy for me!

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, there is pleasure to be had in just leafing through catalogues. And visiting gardens where they have the time and resources to make a big display. I have discovered that there is just not room between the plants and the underlying tree roots in my bright border to plant more bulbs, and so in future am going to concentrate my efforts in a few pots and my raised beds – much easier digging!

  11. I love this statement of yours: Work like digging or pushing a wheelbarrow help us to feel where we are in space, ground ourselves, and feel calm and alert. Add breathing fresh air, smelling soil, rain (yes, please!) and in your case, of course millions of flowers!
    Can you ever have enough bulbs? I don’t think so… that little slip of the order is going to look nice come spring.

    1. Ali says:

      It is so multisensory, along with movement, isn’t it, Martin. That is true joy. I look forward to sharing my over-ordering come the spring!

  12. There’s always room for more bulbs Ali! 🙂

    Great post!

    1. Ali says:

      That’s true! I’ve had a lovely time today squeezing the remainder into pots!

      1. Reminds me that my pots of Alliums need taking back out from the shed so they can get some water!

      2. Ali says:

        That sounds exciting! I love the yearly rhythm of tucking things in and waking them up.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s