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Journey North International Tulip Study
Frequently Asked Questions

Q. We planted Journey North bulbs last year and they're still in the ground. Do we need to plant a garden again this year?

A. Yes! New bulbs must be planted each year for the Journey North study. This is because many variables affect tulip growth in the bulb's second year. If people were to reuse bulbs, these variables could not be controlled so the experiment would not be reliable. Therefore, you must plant at least a dozen or more new bulbs each fall for your "official" Journey North garden.

However, you can still use last year's bulbs for experimental purposes! Students can dig them up, and weigh & inspect them before replanting. They can plant the old bulbs beside this year's new bulbs and compare how each grows. Or, they can vary such things as the amount of sun, heat, water, etc. the old bulbs receive.

Remember: Next spring, you may only report on the growth and blooming of the new, "official" bulbs as part of the Journey North experiment!

Q. What if it's too expensive to buy new bulbs every year?

A. Only buy a few new bulbs. (As mentioned above, a dozen is enough.) You can re-use old bulbs so that each student has his or her own.

Q. Exactly how close to a building may we plant our garden? Is it OK to plant inside our school courtyard, for example?

A. Please be VERY careful not to plant near a building or other shelter. (Remember, your goal is to find a place that accurately represents the general climate of your region. Otherwise your tulips will not be a true indicator of spring's arrival.) As described in the Microclimate Lesson, you and your students can investigate by measuring local temperature conditions at various places around your school. This will show you whether nearby buildings or other structures might alter the temperature of your garden and interfere with your experiment.

However, although this is extremely important, we do recognize that you may have very few options available for a planting site. Therefore, if you are simply unable to plant your garden in a open area, plant it in the best place you can find. In the spring, however, please be sure to mention the drawbacks of your site when you report from your garden. In your spring report, describe the microclimate of your garden and explain why you think this has affected your results.

Q. In the spring, what do we do if it freezes after our tulips emerge?
"We're very concerned about the tulips because if we get a freeze, there is nothing to protect them. If a freeze is predicted, do you want us to cover them? " asked Mrs. Min of Crystal Lake, IL (

A. Because this is a scientific experiment in which we're attempting to measure spring's pace, it's important to let nature takes its course. After all, the experiment wouldn't be accurate if the tulips were protected from natural conditions. However, we understand that everyone has become quite attached to their tulips by now. Therefore, we recommend that you designate some tulips your "official Journey North tulips" and leave them exposed. You're welcome to cover the others. Report to Journey North ONLY on the progress of your official tulips.

Q. In the spring, should we water the garden if there isn't much rain?

A. Again, because this is a scientific experiment in which we're attempting to measure spring's pace in your climate, it's important to let nature takes its course.

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