how to use bulb planting trays

Sarah shows you how to plant tulip bulbs using a bulb planting tray - a quick and easy way of getting autumn planting bulbs into the ground.

I have quite recently discovered these bulb trays and I find them to be really useful in two ways. The first is, in a herbaceous bed like this, if you want patches of tulips that you can lift so that you can plant something else (and you want to know where they are) these trays are really, really useful.

The second thing is they are brilliant for planting in pots; you can slot them into the pot with the bulbs, put another tray of bulbs on top, and then even possibly another one on top of that to get your bulb lasagne. When they have finished flowering, you can take them out with the leaves still on (so they’re still photosynthesising), pop them on the potting shed bench and store them away until the following autumn. They really are very versatile.

I'm going to use them here for planting in this quite packed, shady herbaceous bed. It's full of things like camellias, hydrangeas and lots and lots of hellebores. I don’t want tulips drifting all the way through the bed, I want them in quite intense panels at the front of the bed and that's where these trays are really useful.

I’m just going to dig a hole – in a patch that appears to be empty, I’m hoping there are no bulbs in here already – put the soil to the side and make sure it’s wide enough to fit the tray. The hole should be about five or six inches deep. In go my bulbs, spaced nice and wide so I don’t get problems with tulip blight. Try to make sure that they don’t fall over as you back fill with the soil. Then I’ll mark where it is and pop a label in all four corners so that I know which variety is in here and where exactly the tray is. I don’t need to worry about where they are next spring because of course I'll see them. I'll lift the tray out, with the foliage still growing, and pop them in the polytunnel just to photosynthesise and then I’ll store them until I want to plant them again.

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