This could be one of those 'seemed like a good idea at the time' kind of things. Looking through lovely photos on Pinterest of Bulbs Naturalising under trees and across meadows, they looked so beautiful but all we had was large expanses of dried up grass and hard dirt.
We had already started buying various tools to try and help make the job as efficient as possible. We also knew that even with a few people on our team helping, they would soon get pretty tired of digging holes by hand!
One of those tools was a dedicated bulb planter. You may have seen them around. Its a clever contraption where you use the force of your hand to screw back and forth into the ground until you have a nice round plod of soil you can pull out.
Good in theory, but if you have ever used one for digging into ordinary (uncultivated) soil, it is pretty darn hard and the planter usually starts to twist out of shape after a dozen goes.
There had to be better ways of doing this. Knowing I had 20,000 bulbs to plant including 1000 large daffodils that really needed the holes to go down 150mm, we had to work smart and not just hard.
Further research showed me ways to plant across larger areas, by lifting up the turf, placing the bulbs and then rolling the turf back down again. Definitely worth considering, but if I wanted to have more of a naturalised look with the bulbs rather than very neat mass planted beds, I really wanted to be more in control of where the holes were dug and it had to be done fast.
So for the larger areas we ended up using a rotary hoe, first a walk behind we already owned and then hiring in a Kanga stand on machine which I have to say worked brilliantly. As good as a proper Tractor Rotary Hoe.
Still lots of manual work to rake it out, although I did get a bit creative and chained a pallet to the back of the Kanga machine and drove round in circles smoothing the tilled soil out.
To make sure the bulbs had more of a naturalised feel we created some random squiggly lines in the soil using a modified hand held single blade hoe like you buy at the hardware. I grinded off the corners so that it made a nice V shape when we pulled it through the soil. You can see the squiggly lines created below.
The bulbs were then sown along the rough lines and then raked back over ready for grass seeding.
Out the front of the property we were considering the turf lifting approach but then decided against it for a few reasons.
So our next solution was where we came across the Power Planter™... and let me say, that I wish I had found this 10 years ago! The amount of work it would have saved is heartbreaking!
To simply attach the tool to a decent Drill and watch it effortlessly spiral down into the soil and then leave me a nice hole and a neat pile of dirt around the outside was getting pretty close to a miracle.
I remember the ad on TV with the guy who loved Remington Razors so much.. he bought the company!
That's what I felt like too. Here was a product that worked so well, I could drill 100 holes 15cm deep in about 10 minutes! Try and do that by hand and you'll find yourself stopping for a cup of tea every 5 holes!
Below is a picture of the front of our property at Dural where we wanted to create a winding grass path lined with 1000 daffodils. In a matter of hours the planting was done and our bodies where still able to walk around and enjoy that cuppa tea a whole lot more.
You can see how neatly the holes were made by the Power Planter™. For this job I used a 324 model so I could stand up and drill the holes. Each hole is 3inches wide and about 6 deep which is the proper way to plant Daffodils particularly in warmer areas like Sydney.
Previously, when we were planting them by hand... we'd be lucky to have planted the bulbs 10cm deep because of the effort involved. Im sure many of them only got down to about 5cm especially when we were getting tired.
To finish the job and know we had done it properly was very satisfying.
The first of the bulbs have started sprouting and we are already getting excited for the show we are going to have each Spring
When you first plant bulbs I find that flowering in the first year is a little sparse. But that's ok, because ... the best is yet to come!
I'm reminded of this when I look at these Bluebells which were planted a few years ago and have a heavy crop of flowers now each year.
As compared with the Bluebells below which were only planted this winter. So dont be disappointed with your bulbs because they put on a less than amazing show for you at first. Like all good things in the garden, they take a little time to settle in to their new home.
These Snowdrops that have been naturalised on this slope along with fescue grass and Yellow Oxalis look amazing every Spring.
And the best bit is that it is super easy to plant your bulbs using the Power Planter. Literally 5 seconds with the drill and your hole is dug! Just pop the bulb in with a little fertiliser and some soil to cover it over.