how to dig up tulip bulbs safely?

When digging up tulip bulbs, to divide them: (1) How do you avoid damaging the bulbs? I can't think of any way to prevent goung some bulbs, except to have them in soil so friable (such as Miracle Gro potting soil) that you could just lift them out and not use a spade. (2) When you have damaged a bulb, how much damage is "okay"? How much can get lopped of, and the thing will probably grow next spring anyway?
Thank you!
Ted Shoemaker
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Get underneath them with a fork first. Wiggle the fork to loosen the soil, then lift gently. Unless you're planting in cement, that should give a result that'll allow you to feel around in the soil with your bare hands and extract the bulbs without hurting them.

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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com (Ted Shoemaker) wrote:

A lot of the bulbs I plant are dwarfs & miniatures, so they go to the front of gardens, sometimes near sidewalk edges or atop stone or brick walls at the front of raised beds. For these I've found I can put a flat spade right up against the concrete or bricks, where there's no chance at all of slicing through any bulbs, then jiggle the hell out of the soil, loosening it all up. I can then literally poke my hands right into the soil & find the bulbs one by one without further shoveling, so nothing gets damaged.
-paghat the ratgirl
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I don't have tulips, but I have a lot of daffodils. When I dig them up to divide them I just use a fork and don't worry about gouging some. I always end up with far more undamaged bulbs than I started with, and usually have to give some away. I don't keep any that show a wound, although I suspect some of them would survive.
Ted Shoemaker wrote:

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Ted As long as there is part of the basal plate attached to the piece, it should grow. Of course, the larger the part of the plate, the more likely it will grow and bloom.
The basal plate is the flat part at the bottom of the bulb where the roots will emerge. I let any cut pieces dry out for a day or so and callous over before replanting.
Emilie NorCal
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I did them up all the time by accident, - also when I go to pull the dead foliage off in early June, often the entire bulb comes up with the leaf. I just stick them back in the dirt and they have expanded like crazy in my garden, where, apparently, they are not only perennial but invasive....LOL Incidentally, although I'm in a cold climate, I have found that they will grow perfectly well if planted anywhere from 1 to 5 inches deep.

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It has been my experience that most bulbs reproduce like crazy. I have had more trouble clearing my garden of unwanted flowers than of damaging any bulbs while digging them up.
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