When the days are short and the weather is dull it’s lovely to have some Spring bulbs in the house, blooming and filling the air with their sweet scent to remind us that the warmer weather is really just around the corner. If you’d like some hyacinths in your hallway or daffodils on your dining table for Christmas then now is the time to think about exactly what you’d like to have and how you will display them.
Once you have decided on what flowers you’d like, think about the containers to put them in. Baskets, of all sizes, lined with thick plastic to make them waterproof are the most obvious but any container given a similar treatment would look equally beautiful.
You will need to buy ‘prepared’ bulbs for Christmas flowering – bulbs that have been specially treated to speed up their growth. I’d recommend using commercially prepared bulb fibre for potting, especially for containers where there are no drainage holes. (If you want to use regular potting compost make sure that it is open textured and free draining).
Put some well soaked bulb fibre (or potting compost) into your pot or container, leaving enough space to allow the bulbs to be placed inside with the tips just below the rim of the container. The bulbs can be placed close together but should not be touching. Cover with bulb fibre and water well. The container should then be placed in a cool spot such as a shed, or in a shady corner of the garden. Darkness is not essential but a cool temperature is. Do not put in a black plastic sack as this only encourages mould.
After 10-12 weeks young green shoots should start to appear (these will be paler if the pot has been kept in the dark). When the shoots have reached about 5cm (2 ins) in height, bring the pot into a cool room and they should flower in time for Christmas. Spring flowering bulbs at Christmas, planted in pretty containers, make a lovely gift.
Caution: The bulbs of Daffodil, Hyacinth and Narcissus are poisonous so please practise basic care by washing your hands when you have handled them.
Yesterday I was preparing the house for an evening dinner party out on our new terrace (it was my daughter’s 21st, so not something I could postpone). This coincided with the hottest day of the year so far, which would normally be 100% wonderful on such an important date, except that with new kittens in the house the usual rushing around and coming and going became that much harder. We can at least open the living room doors into the newly constructed ‘kitten cage’ but still…it was hot is all I’m saying.
In the post party lull this morning I idly looked up on the web as to current advice on when kittens can be let out of the house. It’s not that I’m going to do it now – they definitely need more time to get used to us and their surroundings (and need further vaccinations) – it’s just that with yesterday’s events, it was clearly on my mind. I was quite surprised at some of the views expressed on a forum after some poor woman had been wondering exactly the same as me. Responses included the suggestions that anyone who lets their cat out is cruel (clearly aimed at the enquirer), that the cat will die within a year (!) but that, conversely, indoor cats could live up to age 20. Curiously enough, so can indoor-outdoor cats because here’s the deal folks: It depends where you live.
Now …I had typed up a whole blurb below about all the unwritten rules there are to pet ownership where I live but it’s frankly too ferkin boring to relay here. The bottom line is – we’re an overwhelmingly responsible lot in this island and we in this house are minor experts on our feline friends because we’re cat fans and have shared our lives with a fair few over many years. I can tell you that if keeping cats inside is necessary where you live because of traffic, dangerous predators or any other safety considerations, then of course you must. However if you have the ability to safely let your cat come and go as it pleases then I personally have no doubt at all that they will have a better quality of life. They are, after all, little predators, and it is in their nature to be curious, rummage, hunt and explore. They do need to be neutered and vaccinated up to the nines of course (ask your vet for advice) but then for the sake of safety so should indoor cats. They also need a cat flap that allows them to come and go as they please – I’ve never permanently locked our cats outside at night. (You’ll have gathered from today’s entry that I’m quite miffed at the suggestion that I am a bad cat owner – trust me, ask our vets and they will tell you that we are anything but).
Our new kitties have been going bonkers, in and on everything, exploring and endlessly running at high speed like a couple of furry, spotty little tornadoes . They’re intelligent cats and clearly already bored with the mere 2,000 square feet that is our humble (currently virtually sealed) home ….compared to the one room they were in before. Seeing them at the weekend, when they finally had access to a little bit of outside, with all those exciting sights and smells was just wonderful and it dramatically altered their behaviour. Yes they still career around, yes they’re still kitten playful/naughty but they’re calmer, more confident and more content.
Advice on vaccinations and general kitten care and health can be found here (RSPCA), here (Pet Planet) and here (Animal Rescue and Care).
Clay pots, I think, look prettier, weather down nicely and are easier to keep well watered because of their porous nature.
‘Crocks’ tend to be bits of old, broken pots. A single layer of crocks placed in the bottom of a pot before planting aids drainage, an important part of maintaining healthy plants.
Potting compost – a sterile mix of peat, vermiculite, perlite and soil conditioners that provide plants with nutrients, adequate drainage and aeration. (Local natural soil could be used but ideally should be heat sterilised at 200F for at least 30 minutes in order to stop the spread of any harmful bacteria).
Plant food / fertiliser – plants in the closed environment of a pot occasionally need extra nutrients to aid growth. How regularly they are used and the strength of solution depends upon the plant and time of year. Plants follow a cycle of growth and rest so feeding them all year long is unnecessary.
The crown of the plant – The crown of the plant is where the stem meets the roots. Most plants are planted so that the crown is at soil level. Burying the crown below soil level can lead to the stem rotting and the plant dying.
HOW TO RE-POT
Get a pot that is one size larger than the container your plant is currently in (sizes are measured as the diameter of the pot’s upper rim).
Put a layer of crocks in the bottom of your new pot, then a layer of potting compost – remember, the aim is to keep the crown of your re-potted plant at soil level.
Take the plant you want to re-pot. Slot your fingers, palm side down around the stem of your plant and turn it upside down, so that it is now sitting on the palm of your hand. Gently tap the bottom of the up-turned pot and the plant should now easily slide out.
Put it in its new container and fill in the empty sides with potting compost. Press down gently and continue to fill until the soil level is at the same level as the plant’s crown.
How can you tell when a plant has out-grown its container and is ‘pot bound’?
The tell-tale signs:
That you’re having to water it much more often
If you have a look under the pot and can see roots, chances are it needs a bigger pot.