Growing Concerns 535: Tulip bulb care, tomato care

Early Fall!

Tulip bulbs don't need sun, music or other amenities while on hold

Hi Janet,

I dug out all of my tulip bulbs last Saturday (at least those that I could find), but won't be able to replant them until this Friday or Saturday. I put them on a screen in my little greenhouse. Will they be OK there until next week? It gets up to 95 degrees in there on sunny days and it's dry. I wanted to move the tulips around for a better effect.


Dear Roberta,

You can hold tulip bulbs for a couple of weeks. They are not much different than other perennials, in this respect. I sometimes hold perennial divisions, clumps and bulbs for weeks and even months until I get around to putting them back in.

Why put the bulbs on a screen, and in the sun? Why not keep them cool, dark and insulated like they had been in the soil? When I keep perennials on hold I cover the exposed roots so they aren't so likely to dry out, and keep the plants in the shade and cool.



My tomato plants have done very well, early blooming and early fruit and lots of continuing fruit. I watered well early on and used a starting fertilizer on planting. No fungus, no insects or worms. I feel great.

My plants continue to provide flowers or buds to give new fruit. At what time will these buds not have time to provide fruit? Should I consider nipping the buds off to permit existing fruit to gather all the energy? If so, when?


Dear R.,

It's not really true that flowering steals energy from fruit. In fact, fruit probably takes precedence when it comes to getting a share of the plant's available energy.

As for when the flowers won't have time to become fruit, that may be now. We could have frost any time, and the nights are now too cool for reliable fruit set on a tomato. So if you wanted to remove the flowers I doubt you would lose anything. But I also doubt it would make much difference, if any, in the size or quality of the fruit already forming.

Short reports

Can L.B. move that clematis?

She wrote,  "I have a beautiful 3-year old Fall flowering clematis that I planted in the wrong place, directly behind a weeping cherry tree. I would like to move it but am worried that I'll kill it. "

D.G.  responded with this on-the-mark advice:

Regarding moving Sweet autumn clematis - I moved one two years ago as it was too big for its place. The transplant has taken a couple of years to get going well, but has been fairly neglected and is not in the best soil. I do expect it to climb halfway up the mulberry tree next year though. It has also regrown in the original spot, so now I have two autumn clematis! I guess I wouldn't worry too much about killing it.

About dividing those big, tough clumps of perennials and grasses.

From D. -- "Janet, I had read your advice about dividing hostas before doing it the wrong way. This senior gardener bent a shovel and broke a bone in the right foot trying to dig out a large hosta. Thanks for so many interesting and informative articles."

D.D. writes, "About dividing grasses. I have had success by digging around the portion of the plant that I want to remove, about 6 to 8 inches. I then use a reciprocating saw to cut under the plant and down from the top. It is then easy to remove the part you want to transplant. I have been very successful with this technique."


Green thumbs up

to garden walk hosts and hostesses who care so much that they take the time to answer even the most beginning gardener's questions. You know who you are, who so patiently explained groundcover and showed one of the people on the tour various plants from that category, with a word about each plant's high and low points.


Green thumbs down

to assigning white hats and black hats to insects in a garden. There is no absolute "good" and "bad" out there, it's all just life. So for instance, the wasps that seem bad to you who were once stung, do act as scavengers, devouring the carcasses of other insects. Given all that insect life and death going on, someone has to do the clean up!


Originally published 9/27/03