You Bet Your Garden

Did your tulips fail to show this year?

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May 5, 2012 — When tulips don’t return, it’s the gardener who’s often guilty of the one-time crime! Mike McGrath reveals how to get even the most finicky spring bulbs to return year after year. Plus: we speak with Mark Birdsall who is making sure fresh food is available for all this summer. And of course your fabulous phone calls!

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Question of the Week

My wife Polly and I disagree about a garden issue and need you to referee…

{Editorial note from Mike McG: “We can stop right here. Five’ll get you Twenty the wife is right, no matter the details.”}

…Every year, we plant tulip bulbs in a five foot oval, 18-24 inch deep patch of earth on our flagstone patio. Having been to Holland and seen how the Dutch do it, we jam about 200 bulbs into this patch to get that ‘wow’ factor. (We also spread stone shards around the buried bulbs as a squirrel deterrent—advice you gave us about 10 years ago when squirrels stole the 500 bulbs we brought back from Holland!) The spring display is magnificent. But around mid to late May we of course lose the flowers, and then put in impatiens or other colorful plantings. The tulips never return the following year, and so we buy new bulbs every Fall. I’m wondering if there is an alternative to this costly process. My wife insists we can’t leave the bulbs in the ground over summer and plant anything else above them, as it will ruin the bulbs. So first, is she correct? And second, if she is, can we somehow store the tulip bulbs (in a cool dry place or buried elsewhere?) so we don’t need to buy new ones each year? Get the answer »

Photo by Flickr user The Glass Beehive

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