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Direct Sowing Among Dense Tulip Foliage? Help!

(Becky) Bloomington, IL(Zone 5b)

I have a bed in which I'd like to direct sow Zowie Yellow Flame zinnias (around the inside perimeter) and Purple Majesty Millet (in the center). But I have dense tulip bulb foliage to contend with, in addition to a layer of wood chip mulch from last year. Is this possible? What would you recommend? I already bought seed and was hoping the bulb foliage wouldn't still be so dense (wishful thinking maybe?).

I've been racking my brains and putting off planting the seeds. But I think I really need to do something before it gets any later. I already feel behind in sowing these (Central Illinois, Zone 5b). I'm about ready to try tying the bulb foliage loosely into clumps/groups to allow some sun through, raking back the mulch in those spots and maybe adding some compost/top soil/peat moss mixture in those spaces and planting the the seeds. Is there an easier way, or would this even be advised to try? Zephyr (kitty) is not forthcoming with any helpful ideas. :(

Thumbnail by Katnapper Thumbnail by Katnapper Thumbnail by Katnapper
(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Sure is a nice vignette you've got there Kat. I would guess the thing to do was to start your Millet indoors about a month ago. Because the Millet is an annual in your area, it would have to be at least the size of the Tulip leaves in order to compete for light. I'm also guessing your Tulips around the inside perimeter are too dense (pic #2) to plant Marigolds.

Your plan sounds like the next best thing to this stage. Zephyr should have been on top of things better and helping you out. He/she looks like he/she doesn't have a care in the world, other than soaking up some rays, lol.

Just my humble opinion.

(Becky) Bloomington, IL(Zone 5b)

Thanks, Mipii. Yes, I know I should have gotten on the ball sooner. But it's not that I didn't start thinking (and even stressing) about it for several weeks now.

Bedding plants cost so much when you've got lots of areas to fill, and I had this grand idea/plan to try seeds instead this year. Those beautiful seed packets and catalogue pictures were just screaming, "Buy me, try me! Save money! You can do it!" And I picked the zinna and millet for the (supposed) ease of direct sowing, not mandatory to start indoors early, and their ability to grow relatively quickly. Starting seed indoors is impractical for me (lack of room and equipment, indoor kitties that maraude any plant matter they can get their paws and jaws on, and inclination on my part).

I bought the seeds with the blind faith and hope things would work out when it got time to sow. Just bad planning on my part and too much wishful thinking. I guess I'm just going to try my last resort plan, and if things don't work out I can kick myself for buying this seed and go the bedding plants route as usual. It's just disappointing if it goes that way... as then I will have spent even more money (including the seeds) and probably won't be able to get the same plants/scheme when I do. And to top it off... I should be planting bedding plants (if I'm going to) now anyway!

You're right... Zephyr hasn't a care in the world as long as he gets to go outside in the yard (supervised) from time to time. It's true cats are bosses - he always inspects and supervises, but never helps! In fact, here he is, well satisfied, after rolling in and trampling down half of the catmint.

Thumbnail by Katnapper
(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

That is cat heaven right there, lol. He seems to have quite a personality though (based on your avatar).

The next best plan could be almost as good, I'd definitely try it if I were you. Plant some elsewhere too and collect the seeds when they're ripe, that way you'll be ahead of the game and ready for next year. Best of luck!

(Becky) Bloomington, IL(Zone 5b)

Great idea.... thanks!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

You can always start the seeds now, outdoors, in insert trays or plug trays or Solo Cups or flats or wintersowing jugs. Anywhere you have room and sun.

That way they won't have to compete for sun and root zone with established plants.

Probably the easiest way would be wide, shallow flats like the bottom of a gallon milk jug or plastic trays from supermarket products. Plant extra seeds, transplant them in chunks with several seedlings each, and let them fight it out with the tulips.

You can "start seeds indoors" even easier outdoors, since you don't need to worry about lighting or warmth. Like wintersowing but in mid-spring.

You'll probably need to water them gently or cover them with plastic until they emerge. I would keep watering them and protecting from heavy rain until they are pretty hefty.

If any rain falls where you live, make sure they don't sit in a 1020 tray without holes. If they do get waterlogged, set them on a towel or denim or Tee shirt to pull the excess water out of the small pots before the roots drown.

Where I live, I need to make some kind of moat to keep slugs away from outdoor seedlings. But that's not as bad as having marauding cats!

My cat has not bothered a plant or seedling ever since I tried to get him interested in cat grass one winter. He could tell that I wanted him to like the cat grass, so of course he turned up his nose and turned his back and goes nowhere near any indoor plant.

I guess that showed ME!

(Becky) Bloomington, IL(Zone 5b)

LOL, RickCorey!! I like how your kitty "showed" you! I wonder if mine would "show me" in similar fashion if I tried that with the cat grass.

Thank you so much for the idea about starting the seedlings outside in containers! Actually I briefly played around with a vague idea of that sort in my mind but had discarded it as I didn't know how to go about it, or even if it was a viable option to try. And I very much appreciate all of the associated tips, from the container ideas to watching out for slugs.

I think I'm going to divide up the seeds and try all of the ideas. That way, if one method doesn't work, another might... and I may still be able to have some success with these seeds yet.

Thanks again to both of you for the suggestions and information. I feel a renewed sense of hope!

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Quote from Katnapper :

I think I'm going to divide up the seeds and try all of the ideas. That way, if one method doesn't work, another might... and I may still be able to have some success with these seeds yet.

Sounds like a true gardener, you're welcome!

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Becky, I think that experimentation is the best way to garden!

Everyone's climate and yard and habits and desires are so different that only you can say what works best for for you. If you try them all, then you'll really know.

>> I briefly played around with a vague idea of that sort in my mind ...

I think that's how all human progress comes about, from discovering fire to agriculture to Google.

That, and trying many things until one works better than anything else.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

" to agriculture to Google."... Now that is the neatest and most succinct summation if human history that I have ever heard! I like it.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Thank you! I was kind of surprised when I found out that we have only had agriculture for around 10,000 years.

That's like "last week" compared to 200,000 years as Homo so-called Sapiens.

Or like "just before lunch" compared to 2.5 million years using stone tools.

I'm going to start calling it "this new-fangled agriculture thing".

Wikipedia says that controlled use of fire is 12 to 40 times older than agriculture, depending on who you ask.

I overheard someone young trying to think of a way to express "a long time ago". That was "before we even had GOOGLE!".

Sheeze! I remember before PCs.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

And I remember slide rules and long division.

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Ah yes, the good old days...

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Before the days of pocket calculators, some MIT undergrads would strap on their slip sticks in holsters and go wander around Harvard Square, just to annoy the Harvies.

The joke in Cambridge supermarkets if you got in the Express checkout lane with too many items was "I don't know if you're from MIT and can't read, or from Harvard and can't count, but this is the EXRESS LANE!"

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

I see a few open spots, I would try a few seeds direct sown as an experiment. Do move the mulch aside, then either sow at recommended depth or rough up the soil if you are going to drop on top.
This could be a feasibility study for next year!

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