Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tulip bulbs - flowers or a tasty snack?

I know summer is officially over when my spring bulbs arrive in the mail. They are always sent at the "optimal time for planting". Usually when they arrive, our furnace has already been running for a few days. Not the case this year, we had our central air on for a couple days this week, and it looks like we won't need the furnace next week either.

Regardless, I went out to plant my bulbs today.

Last Fall, I was very ambitious with my bulb plantings. I ordered more than 300 bulbs - including a hundred and fifty tulip bulbs. There is nothing prettier in spring than a large group of elegant red tulips. I ordered some early bloomers, mid spring varieties, and the tall May flowering tulips. I wanted to have a non stop tulip display from April to May.

When I started seeing green in my garden last March, I waited anxiously for those green stems to sprout up. The daffodils were blooming and I had a few crocuses, but no sign of my tulips.

I thought, maybe they are just a little late this year.

As we got into April, there was no sign of tulip growth. May came, and still no tulips.

Unlike daffodils, tulips have to be replanted every year. Only a few are perennial varieties. So, it wasn't like I was out a lot of money if the bulbs didn't bloom. I think of tulips as "throw away plants", like inpatients and petunias. You have to buy them every year. What upset me was the lack of color in my spring garden, and all that time I wasted planting them in the Fall.

Why didn't they bloom?

I dug into the ground where I knew I had planted some bulbs, and there were none to be found. I began to face the fact that my endless battle with our resident mole continues.

All my tulips bulbs were the mole's dinner throughout the winter. The mole must think very highly of me for leaving him tasty morsels, so he didn't starve over the winter.

Hmm, I wonder if I don't plant any bulbs this fall, would the mole finally die from starvation? Am I his sole source of food? As much as I want the mole to drop dead, I'm not ready to give up on having a tulip display.

I did some research on keeping your bulbs free from rodent damage. Some suggest adding moth balls to the top of your soil. Others say that is bad for your bulbs. I could just see Oreo carrying moth balls around in his mouth, so that wasn't going to work.

One of my gardening catalogs sells crushed oyster shells. You put some in the hole with the bulb, and that is supposed to deter the moles from eating the bulbs. Although I am very skeptical this will work, I figured it is worth a shot. I also decided to try soaking all my bulbs in "tree guard". Tree guard is something I spray on my plants to keep the deer away. It is supposed to taste really bad (it does, I got some on my finger and had a taste), lasts a long time, and is water resistant.

Good thing I only ordered 50 tulips this year. Soaking the bulbs, adding the shells, and trying to keep Oreo away from all this, made planting my bulbs take twice as long as usual. Who knows if it will work. It wasn't deterring Oreo's curiosity. If I have no tulips next Spring, I will be setting a trap for that mole. I'll know what to lure him in with - tulip bulbs.

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