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US (NY): 8,000 bulbs planted in 11 minutes

Students in Bill Miller’s Annual and Perennial Plant Identification and Use class (PLHRT 3000) got a lesson in efficient bulb planting on October 30. Using 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, they planted more than 8,000 bulbs in less than 11 minutes.

That’s a strip more than 200 feet long and 3 feet wide along the edge of Caldwell Field near the McConville Barn. The “naturalized” planting of daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocuses, scilla, muscari and chionodoxa bulbs will push up through the turf before the grass begins to grow in spring.

Based on the class’s experiences planting bulbs by hand earlier this semester, Miller estimates that it would have taken the students more than a week to accomplish this task using hand tools. He tested out the planter last fall planting 30,000 bulbs into sod strips totaling more than 2,000 feet at the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the NYSIP Foundation Seed Barn.

“This machine greatly reduces the labor required to establish naturalized bulb plantings,” says Miller, a professor in the Horticulture Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science and director of Cornell’s Flower Bulb Research Program, who was aided by CUAES field assistant Jonathan Mosher.

“Some people might be concerned about the lack of precise placement of the bulbs,” notes Miller. “But actually 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.

Source: Cornell University


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