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Bulb planting made easy

Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program made short work of planting more than 30,000 bulbs into sod in demonstration strips totaling more than 2,000 feet at The Cornell Botanic Gardens and the NYSIP Foundation Seed Barn.  The entire job was completed in less than 3 hours on November 3.

How’d they do it? They used a tractor-drawn bulb planter imported from The Netherlands that slices open the sod, drops in the bulbs and then replaces the sod over them.  In these “naturalized” plantings, the bulbs will push up through the turf before the grass begins to grow in spring. The bulb mixes included daffodils, crocus, camassia, chionodoxa, allium and muscari.

“This machine greatly reduces the labor required to establishing naturalized bulb plantings,” says Bill Miller, the program’s director and a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. Miller was assisted by Dutch intern Jos Kroon and Bluegrass Lane field assistant Jonathan Mosher.

“Some people might be concerned about the lack of precise placement of the bulbs,” notes Miller. “But our research has shown that most bulbs are forgiving about how deep they are planted, despite what you might see on the labels. They also do fine if not planted right side up.”

Miller hopes that planters like this might catch on with commercial landscapers and municipalities and result in more naturalized bulb plantings.  A benefit of this approach can be less mowing of turf areas due to the need to let the bulb foliage die back naturally.  In such areas, landscapers could substantially reduce carbon emissions from maintenance activity leading to a more sustainable landscape, Miller says.


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