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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tulip Planting Concerns

I have realized that all my tulip bulb planting efforts MIGHT be a waste of time.  Spring-Flowering bulbs like tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils (et al) need "chill time".  In other words, they have to get cold enough for long enough to flower properly. 

Tulips require temperatures below 50F to begin to chill.  The colder they are, the less time they need.   This has been an unusually warm December here.  We have set a couple of record high temps, but that wouldn't be too much of a problem if it also got cold sometimes.

We have only had 3 nights below 32F here this month and are not forecast to have another until JANUARY.  This is almost beyond bizarre!  The average frist hard freeze here is usually in late October and the ground usually freezes a foot down for the Winter by early December.

I sure appreciate the warmish weather for the ability to keep working outside, but what is likely to happen next Spring is that I will have tulip plants, but no flowers.  After all this work, that would be a hard blow.  At least (as I read on most sites), that won't harm the plants permanently, just prevent blooms next year.

At minimum, tulips need 8-10 weeks of freezing ground.  And since that isn't likely to happen until early January, I am going to need a late Winter keeping the ground really cold into mid-March.  And THAT isn't the usual pattern here.

And I still have 8 cages of tulips and 8 cages of hyacinths to plant!  And 150 daffodils, but they don't need cages (being toxic to voles and squirrels) so I can just use my drill auger to plant them individually.  And from past experience, I know I CAN plant 150 daffodils that way in 2 days easily.

I think I will take the hyacinths and plant them in some large plastic tubs I have.  The voles can't get into the tubs and I'll cover the tops with wire mesh to keep the squirrels out.  I can harvest the bulbs in May to plant them properly

These are probably the last tulips and hyacinths I will plant.  The Winters are getting too short for them to survive.  I shouldn't have planted these, but I got all excited when I had an excavator remove the 6' high ridge in the backyard and thought of things I could plant there instead of grass to mow.  I love to see almost anything more than grass...

And I still have 200 crocus bulbs to plant!  I kind of got in over my head this year.  But better to try to much and stay busy, then to try too little and look back with regret at wasted time now, next year.

But I also have to say...  I've lived in this spot for 30 years.  I've seen the changes in the seasons as only a gardener/landscaper can.  The ground used to be frozen solid by the start of December.  Now it happens at the start of January (this isn't the first year of warmish weather at Solstice around here).

Anyone who thinks the climate isn't generally warming isn't a gardener! 


Megan said...

Any merit in putting the bulbs in the freezer for a few days? We need to store ours in the fridge for some time before planting them given our warm winters.

Sydney, Australia

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

Megan, you are quite correct that storing the bulbs in the refrigerator would help. I should have done that when they first arrived. Of course, at the time, I didn't realize how long it would take to plant them, nor how warm the soil would be even now.

But there is a problem with storing bulbs in the refrigerator.. Two actually. First, I have 2 refrigerators (One is in the basement) and they are both filled so there isn't much room. The bulbs arrived in a 3'x2'x18"tub. But there is also a sad matter of chemistry. Apples and potatoes (if I recall correctly) emit an ethelyne gas that inhibits sprouting of bulbs like tulips (I have no idea why) and I have a lot of apples and potatoes.

I probably could have arranged the 2 refrigerators to have bulbs in one and apples and potatoes in the other. It seemed unneccessary at the time, but I wish I had, now. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Next year, I will try to remember this... :)