When you see the tulips pushing through the ground, you know the long awaited spring has finally arrived. Tulips are probably the most popular of the spring bulb flowers. Their many types and varieties will leave you almost unable to make the choice of what bulbs to buy for your garden. Tulips come in early, mid and late season bulbs, so you can have the beautiful flowers around all spring and into early summer. With a little imagination, tulip beds can be one of the most interesting of all flower beds and they are easy to grow.
Prepare the soil for your tulip bulbs by cultivating it down to about 10 inches. Work in some bulb fertilizer to the soil, and add compost and peat moss if your soil is very wet or heavy. Mounding the soil will also help with drainage. Spring bulbs like rich, well-drained soil, so even if your soil is sandy and drains well adding compost will be an advantage. For zones 3 to 7, choose a full sun to partially shaded area. In colder zones, choose a full sun area.
Plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches down with the pointed ends of the bulb pointing up in the late fall. Keep bulbs at least 6 inches apart. Read the bulb instructions on the depth as some varieties are planted deeper than others. Fill in the soil around the bulb.
Moisten the soil when planting, and then not again for a couple of weeks while the bulb puts out its roots. Water when the top of the ground feels dry for 2 weeks.
Mulch the area with about 4 inches of straw in very cold zones after the ground freezes. This will keep the soil moist and a little warmer during the winter months.
Remove the mulch and fertilize the area when you start to see the flowers breaking through the soil. Use a 5-10-10 fertilizer and top dress the soil lightly. Repeat when the foliage begins to grow.
Pinch the flowers as they start to dry, but leave the foliage until it is yellow and dead. The bulb will be getting its nutrition for the next year through the foliage, so you don't want to cut it off too soon.
Dig the bulbs up when the foliage is dead. Be careful not to damage the bulb with your spade while digging. Clean the bulbs off, tear or cut the dead foliage, and store the bulbs in a dark, dry, well- ventilated area until next fall.