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Bulb planting problems?

TOH staffer Sal Vaglica wants to know:

What problems to you run into when planting bulbs? Do they...

...not grow?
...get dug up by squirrels?
...wilt after the first flush of color?

Tell us your problems with bulbs in the garden, and you could be featured in a future issue of This Old House

Re: Bulb planting problems?

Howdy, Sal:

I've generally had good success with planting bulbs, but do run into occassional problems.

The most prevalent problem seems to be "failure to thrive". In other words, the plants come up spindly and weak, then either die off or never reach their full glory even after several growing seasons.

I attribute this to poor bulb stock that was either damaged in shipping or possibly too weak when harvested. This occurs in the same area of the bulb bed where other similar bulbs thrive, so I'm pretty confident it's not location or soil structure.

Good luck with your article. Hope this helps!


Re: Bulb planting problems?

[QUOTE=Moderator]TOH staffer Sal Vaglica wants to know:

What problems to you run into when planting bulbs? Do they...

...get dug up by squirrels?

...Squirrels HATE cayenne pepper!:D

I spent hours off my crutches and on my knees planting last fall, only to see the lil buggers :eek:(squirrels, that is) digging up my daffodils the next moment! I had some paprika on hand, but that was only temporary -- restaurant sized shakers of cayenne pepper was my response!

The two bulbs (half eaten, left out on the lawn when I came snarling down the stoop) I "greased" with jalapeno juices, then liberally dosed all 7 gardens with cayenne (repeating once a week). :D

What a joy -- seeing that one squirrel take a bite out of the bulb he'd left (ya know it was a male squirrel, doncha ladies?), only to see his little beady eyes FLY open, and run to the empty waterbowl (he'd dumped it earlier in the afternoon). :D
For the remainder of the fall, I saw squirrels leap over the boulevard gardens so as to not touch their tails on the well-seasoned soil, and the neighborhood dogs stop urinating anywhere near the yard -- guess that splash back is killer.

This fall I'll do the chicken wire but this was too funny to not share -- over and over again! Chicken wire is a LOT of work for established gardens...wish someone had mentioned it to me, lo those many years ago! :cool:

Rose Tovey
Re: Bulb planting problems?

[QUOTE=Moderator]TOH staffer Sal Vaglica wants to know:

In the late fall after we moved to this house, I planted daffodil and narcissus and tulip bulbs on the outside of the cement steps that run from the driveway up to the front porch. The deer seem to leave the daffodil and narcissus alone, but I will see nice tulip buds ready to bloom, and the next day there will only be stems, as deer ate the buds.
I have a few tulips planted on the other side of the cement steps (toward the house) and they seem to be left alone. I am thinking of digging up the bulbs on the outside of the steps, and moving them to the inside. I guess the deer don't like the feel of walking on the cement. At least, it is worth a try.
I have read that bobcat urine granules, or some strong peppery spices, could be shaken along the plants, to discourage deer. Perhaps one drop of Ivory dishsoap on a bud would work?
I think one neighbor folds chicken wire in half, making a tent shape, which she puts over plants.

Re: Bulb planting problems?

My problem is with a bulb that is naturalized in my lawn. It is Star of Bethlehem. It is the first to green up so in the early spring I have splotches of bright green which we call "grease grass", 'cause if you step on it on a slope your feet go right out from underneath you (lawn mowers too)!:eek: By late spring it is all yellow and died out; not to bother us until spring again. We have found nothing to kill it. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Re: Bulb planting problems?

most of the time my tulip bulbs don't come back at all. I had one bulb leaf out but no stem emerge and one bulb that actually bloomed out of the 20-35 we have in there.

I don't know if it could be poor quality bulbs
improper care of the bulbs. (we don't dig them up each year and it seems like they should be. We're on the cusp of zones 6/7)
over planting
other plants effecting them

I have a bed which my husband divided into sections. my iris come up just fine but the sections where the tulips should come up don't seem to be as productive. Then he spreads seeds or annuals reseed themselves over the tulips every year.

Re: Bulb planting problems?

We have no lawn, just a lovely carpet of moss under two Japanese red maples in the front of the house and the back yard is a network of paths around perennial beds and shrubbery. Everything is mature and once you go down a path you disappear. My grandchildren love this and the neighborhood children love to run around the paths calling out to each other. I don't mind as long as they stay on the paths. They like to look around and see what is coming up in the spring and they ask questions all the time about the plants.

When we first moved into this house in 1975 I planted bulbs all around the back garden. We have a large cement 'patio' there and I carefully used a hose to mark out a lovely curving flower bed. This bed was excavated, double dug, the soil was ammended and I planted it with at least 6 dozen tulip bubles. Not one came up! I had purchased the bulbs from a very reputable grower in Holland. I dug up the bed and found nothing. There was one lonely bulb at the end and it had turned into something that looked like vanilla custard. !!! I was a beginning gardener then and it was a real set-back for me, and very discouraging. Our soil is acid because of the overstory of oaks and pine trees. I guess the tulips didn't like their new bed at all.

All the narcissi and other bulbs did come up. I got a refund from the company. Other tulips grew well the first season, didn't do so well the next and then would just come up leaves with no flowers. I forgot about them being there. A few years later we had tulips there again! Now we are down to two or three tulips that return each year.

My attitude toward plants is plant them and let them fight it out with whatever disease tries to kill them or whatever varmint tries to eat them. I became a Master Gardener in 1998 and I don't use chemicals. The property is also a certified wildlife habitat so we have a great variety of wildlife. The squirrels dig around the yard everywhere. We have huge old oak trees and the squirrels bury the acorns, making a mess. I planted a mulberry tree to lure them and the birds away from our vegetable garden and blackberries. They all prefer the blackberries.

I have found that the only way to get tulips to come up in our squirrel infested property is to plant them in chicken wire boxes. The lids are tied down with some wire and so far this has worked. A neighbor suggested I sprinkle blood meal over the areas where bulbs are planted. I don't know whether it was raccoons or woodchucks or what, but something dug up everywhere the blood meal was. That was a terrible idea. Cayenne pepper sprinkled around works better. You can also put a couple of really hot peppers (your choice) in the blender with a drop or two of dish soap and water. This mixture is wonderful to spray on anything that wildlife considers as nature's buffet. I just add extra spice to their entrées. When we still had grass we had a large population of voles that would also contribute to the problem. I caught snakes at my daughter's house and released them in our yard. I haven't seen a vole in ages. You can see I prefer natural methods of control. Deer walk down our street but they don't stop here.

I like to plant something and forget about it until the next year when it comes up and blooms like crazy. I think that tulips need to be treated as annuals if you want a drop-dead gorgeous display every year and I am not willing to go to all that expense and trouble. I love perennials and the more native plants the better, in my opinion. They are faithful and pretty much fail-safe. I do much better with the smaller bulb varieties. I have a huge bed of snowdrops that was started with only 5 little bulbs. The hyacinths have never died out and come back every year, also the crocus and grape hyacinths. Virginia bluebells along with the hellebores are trying to take over everything

Tulips are over-rated in my opinion. I love them but I am not willing to put in all the work of planting and paying for what is a one time display. Other bulbs are easier.

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