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Cultivating Tulips

Planting Tulip-Bulbs
Planting tulip bulbs

Scholars now believe that the Turks had been cultivating tulips as early as AD 1000. Nowhere did the tulip find a permanent home as it did in the Netherlands, where the soils and stable climate are ideal for cultivating tulips.

As winter approaches and shadows lengthen into the fall months the tulip bulbs should be lightly watered in dry spells of a week or more. Then in spring after the bulbs have flowered the stalks should be cut but the leaves allowed to fade in a natural way. If the garden bed becomes unsightly other annuals may be added to improve appearance. It is not necessary to replant tulips yearly. In fact, the smaller types will multiply and spread after a cover of compost is applied. Large tulip varieties may need replanting but this is purely dependent on the particular variety.

Tending the plants is often a matter of vigilance and during times of drought as now seem to prevail across the U.S. tulips become a target for many four-footed bandits.

As a substitute for the stressed oak and limited quantities of acorns tulip bulbs become an appealing snack. Consequently rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks became a problem for many gardeners. Many turned to protective screening of areas planted in tulip bulbs while others experimented with pepper sprays on the plants in spring as they emerge into the sunlight.

Tulips, of course, require a period of cold for rest or dormancy and this means planting before freezing weather sets into the garden area. It’s the time for decisions as to location of the beds. Then a selection can be made as to blooming times and that information must be known if blooming is to be spaced over the season. Where also does the gardener want the major displays? The soil there must be moist when tulips are planted but not too moisture or roots will rot. Watering the bulbs then becomes a matter for personal observation.

CurlySueBlooming times are generally indicated on bulb packages or in gardening catalogs. E for early, M for mid-season and L for late. Selection is based on illustrations and personal choice of colors and types. The larger bulbs produce the largest flowers and then personal preferences come into play.

For specific recommendations it is wise to contact local garden clubs or if the United States Agriculture Department offers services for your region a telephone call can determine the “hardiness zone” involved. One of their zone maps will disclose average ground temperatures in winter and help determine times for planting. These times can range from September through to January and it’s all based on freezing of soil. If winters are remarkably warm it is possible to refrigerate tulip bulbs for several months to approximate natural conditions.

Removal of weeds is recommended before plants exceed an inch in height. The extra mulch you have added to the garden at planting time will provide protection during winter and help prevent weeds. Fertilizers can be used for the winter resting period and should contain both nitrogen and potassium. Fertilizers should not be used once the plants have started to bloom. If a fungus is detected in early growth those specific tulip bulbs should be removed immediately.

Tips for successful cultivation

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