Journey North International Tulip Study
Drainage: Bulbs need good drainage because they will rot if they sit in moisture. Therefore, plant them in well-drained soil and/or on slightly sloped ground. As a rule of thumb, avoid planting bulbs where water stands after a rain. A good loam soil is best. If the soil is heavy clay, add organic matter such as compost or peat moss to loosen it.
How to Plant Your Bulbs
For simplicity, tulip bulbs can be planted in a bed rather than individually. The entire bed should be planted at the proper depth, as specified below. It is a good idea to fertilize bulbs by adding bone meal and mixing it well with the soil. If you choose to plant bulbs individually, either a garden trowel or a bulb-plating tool can be used.
Depth & Spacing: Bulbs in all Journey North gardens should buried so that the base of each bulb is exactly 7 inches underground. (Blooming time can vary by a week or two if bulbs are not planted at the same depth. In fact, gardeners who want to prolong blooming time will intentionally plant their bulbs at varying depths.) Bulbs should be spaced 4 inches apart.
Placement of Bulb: Set bulbs firmly in place with the POINTED END UP. The hole should be flat on the bottom so that the FLAT BASE of the bulb is in contact with the ground. Cover with soil and water thoroughly. Moisture is necessary for the bulbs to take root before winter. If dry weather persists after planting, water thoroughly and deeply. However, do not keep the soil soggy or the bulbs could rot. After the ground freezes, apply about a six inch mulch of clean straw or leaves. Do not cover the bulbs before the ground freezes. The wet mulch could cause the bulbs to rot, and the mulch could also delay the freezing of the ground
Predator Control: Squirrels are the most common tulip bulb predators in urban and suburban areas. They are attracted to the smell of fresh bulbs and are most likely to destroy gardens within the first weeks after planting. For inexpensive and effective protection, cover your newly planted bulbs immediately with chicken wire. Secure the edges with wire hangers that have been cut, formed into a U shape, and driven into the ground. Alternatively, bulbs can be covered with a board or with the saucer of a flower pot.
Spring and Summer Care
Remove the winter mulch as soon as the shoots are 1-2 inches high. Otherwise, the stems and leaves may be weak. Remove blooms as soon as they are faded in order to conserve energy for next year's flowers. Do not cut the leaves until they turn yellow and wither. These leaves are needed to produce the nutrition for next year's tulips. Bulbs may be fertilized after the blooms fade. This is the critical time in which they make the most use of the fertilizer. Liquid applications of a 10-10-10 fertilizer can be applied as long as the leaves appear green and vigorous.
May We Use This Year's Bulbs Again Next Year?
Unfortunately, no! New bulbs must be planted each year for the Journey North study. This is because too many variables affect tulip growth in the second year for the experiment to be dependable.
However, you can save your bulbs for experimental purposes! Students can compare the growth of the experimental bulbs from year to year and vary such things as the amount of sun, heat, water, and fertilizer received, the affect of cutting the leaves, etc. Next fall, purchase at least a dozen or more new bulbs for your "official" Journey North garden. Then dig up this year's bulbs prior to planting your new bulbs. Have students weigh & inspect them before replanting. Remember, however, for the Journey North experiment you may only report on the growth and blooming of the new, "official" bulbs.
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