October Gardening for Wildlife



Bulb planting

The majority of spring flowering bulbs can be planted now, although one or two are better left until next month.

Bulbs are one of the easiest ways to ensure a good supply of late winter and spring flowers, providing early nectar for insects, bees and butterflies.

The bulbs chosen may be a mixture of native and exotic varieties and according to type, may be planted in lawns and grassy banks, in flower beds and containers, or under hedgerows and trees. Bulbs look best growing in natural drifts and this effect can be achieved by throwing a handful of bulbs onto the ground and planting them where they fall. If planting in grass, use a specially designed bulb planter (in earth, a trowel works better) to remove a plug of soil. The hole should be approximately twice as deep as the bulb itself. Insert the bulb in the hole, point upwards. Replace the plug of earth and firm in.

Newly planted bulbs, particularly wild varieties, may take two or three years to get established and flower freely.

Recommended bulbs

  • Bluebell (Scilla non-scripta) native, bee plant, butterfly nectar plant, hedgerows, woodland: planting depth 5 cm (2”)
  • Crocus (purple) (Crocus tomasinianus) butterfly nectar plant, lawns, borders, under deciduous trees: planting depth 8 cm (3”)
  • Crocus (yellow) (Crocus chrysanthus) butterfly nectar plant lawns, borders, under deciduous trees: planting depth 8 cm (3”)
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) native bee plant, butterfly nectar plant, lawns, borders: planting depth 8 cm (3”)
  • Ramson Garlic (Allium ursinum) native, butterfly nectar plant, hedgerows, woodland: planting depth 8 cm (3”)
  • Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) native, under deciduous trees, shady borders: planting depth 5 cm (2”)
  • Wild daffodil (Narciss pseudonarcissus) native bee plant, lawns, banks: planting depth 8 cm (3”)
  • Winter aconite (Eranthus hyemalis) native, under deciduous trees, shady borders: planting depth 5 cm (2”)

Planting depth = depth of soil above the bulb

Planting out biennials and perennials

This is a good month to put in some of next year’s flowers, particularly any that have been grown from seed in spring.

Biennial wallflower, sweet william and foxgloves are tried and trusted flowers that will make a big contribution to the reservoir of nectar, pollen and seed in the coming spring and summer. Container grown perennials such as globe thistle, sedum, Michaelmas daisies and hellebores are also good for wildlife and may be planted now. These plants can be left until spring if you prefer but an autumn planting will give the roots a good chance of establishing before the cold weather comes.

Planting steps: Choose the site according to each plant’s soil and light requirements. Ensure the soil is in a workable condition – turn over with a fork or add compost to improve fertility if necessary. Tap the plants out of their pots. Make a hole with a trowel or spade slightly bigger than the root ball. Place the plant in the hole, making sure the bottom of the stem is level with the soil in the bed. Fill around the roots with loose soil and firm in.

Note: Bear in mind that these plants may be only a fraction of their full grown size. Check the size of each species and allow enough room for plants to grow – plants put in too close together will compete for air, sunlight and nutrients and may develop poorly as a result.

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