Jim Gilbert

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 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 (amin@mc.net)

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. 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

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

A. Only you can answer this question! 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. (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.)

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

To review the Microclimate Lesson