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Tulip Experiments
Ashley River School

Experimental Plantings
In addition to student’s planting of their 2012-2013 Journey North Test garden (following JN’s scientific protocol), students planted experimental bulbs and chose to affect many variables in order to see what would happen. This report shares what they observed, concluded, and are still wondering about.
How would you answer their questions? Visit Ask the Expert to view our Expert, Mary Meyer's answers.

Ms. O’Neills class, 3A

one came up 3A dug up 3A dug up
Only one survived Bulbs: dug out 3A group

Is too much rainfall an issue only when tulips have already emerged as it seemed the late bloomers fared better (as they were under the ground still when the heavy rainfall occurred)?
Is it necessary to change the planter soil every year?
Could a rotten bulb contaminate the soil so as to negatively affect the other tulips?

Bulb 5
Planted too deep, upside down, too much bone meal – fared the best, the only one to emerge, second biggest root structure
Bulb 4
Peeled, hole dug out of the bulb, filled with bone meal – fared the next best but did not emerge, biggest root structure, bulb still firm, had bulblets
Bulb 3
Peeled, upside down, lots of bone meal – very small root structure, skin and form still evident, bulb firm
Bulb 2
Planted sideways, peeled, no bone meal – fared the second worst, no roots, no skin, slightly mushy
Bulb 1
Cut the bottom off (root area), peeled – fared the worst, rotten, moldy and no form left (bulb)

Students concluded that those bulbs that received the most bone meal fared the best. The only bulb to emerge was the one that was planted upside down and too deep. Students felt that despite this challenge the bulb was protected from the excessive rain and warmer temps of the Winter and the cooler Spring temps. They figured by blooming later it wasn’t exposed the unusual amount of rainfall that seemed to have damaged the other tulips once they had emerged. The extra bone meal gave it the extra nutrients it needed for its longer journey to emerge.  The bulb that fared the worst did so because it never stood a chance with its root structure being removed.


Ms. Wiggins’ class, 3B

good results damage 3b group
Best Worst 3B Group

Students are wondering if bone meal is always beneficial. When is it not?
Is bone meal like vitamins for a plant?
Can it be a substitute for a poorer plant diet like it is for us?
Would it account for the success differences in our experiment? Students want to know if bulb pruning is helpful or was the one that thrived (the only one cut) just a fluke?

Bulb treatments listed in order of how they fared from best to worst:
Bulb 1
Last year’s bulb, too much bone meal, bulb half cut – tallest and greenest
Bulb 2
too much bone meal, ½ peeled (skin) – smaller and mostly dried up with some moisture evident in the stem, leaves
Bulb 3
planted sideways, ½ peeled – sprouted but dried up
Bulb 4
planted upside down, ½ peeled – smallest sprout and dried up

The two most successful bulbs had too much bone meal and that gave them an advantage despite the other challenging variables. The best tulip was the only one that was not peeled. The two worst tulips had to work harder as they were planted upside down or sideways and had to right themselves. The most successful bulb was also cut (had small piece of it removed). talked how pruning plants (at the right time) is much like trimming our hair. It keeps it healthy etc.


Ms. Sires’ class, 3C
(No experiment, just questions and comments about their official Journey North Test Garden.)
How much is too much rain for tulip bulbs?
Is there a difference at what stage the rain falls, before the tulip emerges vs. after the tulip emerges?
Are some insects good for tulips? Which ones?
Which insects are harmful to tulips and how can we better protect them?
Should the soil be replaced every year especially after a ‘bad tulip year’ like this one?

Students observed that it was an unseasonably wet and rainy late winter. When the tulips first emerged they looked healthy and strong, despite some having shorter stems and others with malformed and small blooms. After the heavy days of excessive rain, students noticed that leaves turned brown and pinkish, lost moisture and withered. They all died shortly thereafter. Only 2 tulips out of close to 100 bloomed, and they weren’t even fully formed blooms.
Students compared our school with surrounding Charleston, SC schools and noticed that other schools in the area also did not report any blooming but they did report emerging. Students concluded that this was most likely due to the excessive rain. The last two years almost all tulips emerged and almost all tulips bloomed.  This season was very disappointing but is making students think harder as scientists as to why!


Ms. McComas' class, 3D

one up class bulbs
Good bulblets Best (L) to worst (R) Class 3D

Is bone meal always good for bulbs?
Are there other substances that could be a substitute for bone meal? Did the bone meal cause the bulbs to have the bulblets?

Team 1
Peeled, planted too deep, too little bone meal, too much water, cut a piece off of bulb– bulb rotted, no form, no roots, mushy
Team 2
Cut a piece off the bulb off so that it was in two, peeled it, planted the pieces one on top of the other, peeled off the roots, only a little bit of bone meal – bulb was still formed, slightly soft
Team 3
Cut it horizontal, planted it too shallow, too much bone meal, peeled – no growth, bulb still had skin on it, smallest root structure (of the 3 that had roots)
Team 4
Planted with too much bone meal, peeled, right side up – fared the second best, slightly smaller root structure, shorter growth, had bulblets
Team 5
Cut top off, too much bone meal, peeled, planted upside down – fared the best, longest stem and leaves had most moisture, biggest root structure, had bulblets too.

The digging enabled us to make more observations/conclusions as there was more to see. Student based conclusions on the ‘evidence.’ Two out of 5 experimental bulbs emerged.
The bulbs that received too much bone meal fared the best. Interestingly, both had bulblets.  Those bulbs that had their roots (fully or partially) removed fared the worst.