Tulip talk

Rachel Lauren Gill fills you in on everything you need to know about tulips. 

Strolling between the beds of New York University’s Urban Farm Lab, there is plenty to see. Cover crops are peeking through the freshly prepped beds, winter vegetable seeds are starting to sprout, and soon, tulips will be added to the mix.

Thanks to the NYU Urban Farm Lab team led by Laurel Greyson, tulip bulbs are slated for planting this week to give the vegetable crop garden some flair. Here, we share some simple how-to planting tips so you can add these pretty-petaled flowers to your urban garden.

Tulip bulbs.

When to plant

Bulbs should be planted when overnight temperatures reach between 40 to 50 degrees, or six weeks before the ground freezes.

Where to plant

Bulbs are versatile, so it is safe to plant in most locations in your garden. However, a location with good drainage is key. Bulbs may be at risk if planted where water tends to collect, such as at the bottom of a slope or hill. Bulbs also thrive on sun, so the more sun exposure the better.

Bed prepping 

Be sure to loosen the soil to eliminate clumps. It is also beneficial to incorporate compost into the soil to add extra nutrients.

Other planting tips

Plant bulbs five to eight inches deep; shallower for smaller bulbs and deeper for larger bulbs. Plant the bulbs in clusters to create a dramatic splash of color. When placing the bulbs in the hole, put the pointed end up. If you intend to have your tulips be perennials, put compost on top of some of the soil covering the bulb to provide the nutrients needed to return year after year.  Water immediately after planting to help stimulate growth.

Tulip Care

Although tulip bulbs require watering right after planting, they only need water during dry spells, as the natural rain patterns usually offer just the right amount of moisture.

 Pest Control

To ward off tulip eating pests, adding thorny leaves or gravel to the soil can help.  Keeping the soil well drained is another effective prevention technique of diseases tulips can contract, such as root, stem and crown rot.

And now, for a little tulip trivia! 

  1. Tulips prefer shade or sun?
  2. Tulips require daily watering. True or False?
  3. Tulip bulbs in Holland during the 17th century were known as a pricey commodity. How much as a bunch of bulbs worth?

ANSWERS: 1. Sun 2. False 3. A bunch of bulbs could cost as much as $44,000

For more information on tulips, check out American Meadows, Old Farmers’ Almanac, and the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program

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