to the Journey North Tulip Project
These instructions must be followed carefully so that
all Journey North gardens are planted in the same way. Remember,
when your tulips bloom you will proclaim the arrival of spring in
your community. Therefore, your garden must be planted in a place
that best represents the general climate of your region.
New Bulbs Each Year
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 new bulbs each fall for your "official"
Journey North garden.
Red Emperor Tulip Bulbs
All Journey North gardens must be planted with the same variety
of tulips, the Red Emperor variety.
Red Emperor tulips are an "early" blooming variety. They
were selected because they are easy to find in most areas and are
easy to grow. Since Journey North classrooms will announce the first
tulips to bloom in the spring, an "early" blooming
variety was needed. (Ordering Information for Red Emperor Bulbs)
to Plant Your Tulips
Planting must take place before deep frost hardens the ground.
As a rule of thumb, tulips should be planted when the soil 6 inches
down is 60 degrees F or lower. This is usually during September
and October in the North, and October and November in the South.
(See map.) Gardens planted in warm climates should all be planted
the first week in January.
Zones 2 and 3 (Canada and far north): Plant in September
Zones 4 and 5: Plant in October
Zones 6 and 7: Plant in November
Zone 8, 9 and 10: Plant in early January
To Plant Your Garden
Use this checklist and rubric: Deciding
Where to Plant the Garden
For consistency, Journey North tulip gardens must NOT be planted
near the foundation of a building, in heavy shade, or on steeply
sloped ground. This is because areas near buildings or on south-facing
slopes warm up more quickly than do the surrounding areas. This
would cause your bulbs to bloom earlier than they should
in your region. Similarly, north-facing or heavily shaded areas
would cause a delay in booming. Tulip bulbs can be planted
in full sun or partial shade, but should not be planted in heavily-shaded
Bulbs need good drainage because they will rot if they sit in
moisture. 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.
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, use a garden trowel or bulb-plating tool to
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.) 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. If dry weather persists after
planting, water thoroughly and deeply before winter. 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
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. (Remove it before bulbs
emerge too far in the spring.)
We Use This Year's Bulbs Again Next Year?
Unfortunately, no! As mentioned
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 fair.
you can save your older 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 effect 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.