Tulips, books about compost and the start of Summer.


It’s May Day. How did that happen? I’ll tell you how. In between all those trips to the hospital with the member of the family with the smashed elbow and the frenzy of mothering, writing, teaching and allotmenteering which is my life, the blossom unfurled, tulips blossomed and slugs munched happily on new shoots. I admit to being a little out of kilter when it comes to seasonal preparations this year as a result. My seed sowing was late; the Simnel cake got its marzipan covering on Easter Monday five minutes before tea and a flurry of family birthdays were handled with military precision at the last minute rather than in my usual, relaxed way. And now it’s the start of Summer – at least if you’re a Celt.

Beltane, May Day, Calan Haf – whatever your take on this time of year, know that my ancestors and probably yours were bedecking themselves with flowers and ribbons, dancing round the Maypole and driving their cattle out to Summer pasture through the smoke of bonfires lit to bring health and fertility to their crops and livestock in the coming year. In this house we are celebrating with a working oven which should bring health to the cook in the household as the stress of living in an episode of Butterflies was all too much.

Talking of stress, I can’t recommend enough growing tulips as a crop in trenches as opposed to spending hours placing them in groups in your border, only to see them open, flop and look messy in the blink of an eye. It took me half an hour to plant loads on the allotment. They looked a picture and I have brought bucket loads home to place in vases round the house and to give to friends. We picked up a couple of bags for next to nothing at the Sarah Raven sale and popped them in a trench bed at school (as you see above) and have sold them to parents on our Friday afternoon flower stall. I’ll never plant a tulip any other way again.

My second stress buster has been turning the compost. I’m evangelical about compost as you know and was delighted to find out recently that another Wiltshire resident is equally committed to getting the compost message out to the next generation of gardeners. Ben Raskin is Head of Horticulture for the Soil Association. He’s written a great family friendly book about making great compost. Kids will love the format and parents will find the information useful. If it doesn’t have you getting out your hammer and knocking a bin up from old pallets, nothing will. Ben was kind enough to talk to me about the background to the book and his own experience of gardening as a child and as a father of two. You can read the interview in full here.

8 thoughts on “Tulips, books about compost and the start of Summer.

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  1. I bunged a few tulips into one of my raised beds in desperation to get them planted in time, they’ve yet to flower and I plan to relocate the bulbs afterwards into the borders. Will you dig up your trench planted bulbs and will they store for next year?

    1. You can lift and store but I leave them in the ground. When I cut I leave at least one leaf and part of the stem. I planted them either side of dahlias, which I also leave in the ground with a thick mulch. They’ll deteriorate over time and I’ll need to replace but they’ll be fine for a year or two.

  2. So sorry to hear your hospital woes have continued 😦

    Re the tulips – I’d come to the same conclusion a couple of days ago and had a noodle around Peter Nyssen’s website last night via Our Flower Patch. Tulips will be lining all my raised beds up at the allotment next year. It’s just a matter now of deciding which varieties… there are so many to choose from.

    1. Ooh. You won’t regret the tulip decision. We can offer a little guidance as to varieties if you wish both in terms of colour, ease of growing and vase life.

      1. That would be great 🙂 I must have Abu Hassan – I’ve always loved it and would welcome your suggestions for others to join it. Perhaps we could cover that when I feature Our Flower Patch in September on’t blog?

  3. I would love to grow more tulips, especially for cutting. Growing them in an allotment type setting would free them up for cutting – in the borders I wouldn’t dare cut them! But as our garden “allotment” (or fruit/veg plot) is mainly my husband’s domain, he would take some convincing. It’s for veg, first and foremost, though I have managed some sweet peas!

    1. They need not take much room. I plant closely in trenches and they stay in the ground. I interplant with dahlias but you could interplant squash/pumpkins. The tulips will be over before the squash get going. The veg grower might accept that. 🙂

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