Friday, October 28, 2011

Mulching Lily Bulbs for Winter

Whew, we are 99% caught up with fall lily bulb shipping.  Only the orders that came in this week are outstanding and those will be going in Monday's mail.  Be sure to consult your planting guide and the extra 1/2 sheet of paper regarding winter mulch.  The past two winters have been surprising for most folks and so a little tweaking might be order for your area.  In case you've misplaced the instructions, both sets (Cold Winter & Wet Winter) are reviewed below.

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Avoid these 3 Mistakes in Colder Climates 
  1. Not using a thick winter mulch over Oriental, Trumpet, and Orienpet (OT) Hybrids each winter in more severe climates (below -10 F.).
  2. Mulching before the soil is well frozen which gives rodents a winter home (with food). Wait until the soil is frozen at least several inches.
  3. Leaving a thick mulch on the garden too long, which does not allow the soil to dry quickly between rainfalls in spring.
Although more moderate climates only require enough mulch (one to two inches) to reduce winter weed germination, colder climates need a bit more attention, in the same way that roses and other "softer" perennials are protected. During a recent winter, some areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois experienced very cold temperatures, with frost levels greater than 5 feet, and without enough snow
cover for many plants. The loss of rose bushes, trees, shrubs and other "above ground" plants is a tough one to avoid, but protecting lily bulbs under such conditions is easy if the ground is mulched. You MUST place an insulating layer of mulch over all Trumpet, Oriental, OT Hybrids or species where gardens are subject to deep freezes, especially if a good snow cover is lacking or not expected.

Asiatic lilies do not generally need extra protection, but all other lily bulbs in the Midwest, or Mountain states should to be covered. SPRING: Remove the mulch in layers, as the ground thaws and warms to evaporate rainfall (or snow melt) fast enough in spring or your bulbs or sprouts will rot.  If lilies are planted at the top of a ridge or small hill, the cold will not settle around them as much, so those areas may get by on a lesser amount of mulch, but soggy, wet areas are to be avoided.

A good layer of mulch may consist of 8 to 12 inches of straw or hay, tree boughs or other fluffy material. Avoid compacted leaves or grass clippings, these have the potential to hold too much moisture in the soil and around the bulbs and can rot the sprouts in spring if you do not remove the mulch fast enough. Shredded leaves are better because they allow air movement and are easier to remove in spring.

“Wet Winter” Instructions - Rain, rain and more rain, interspersed with slush.

Be CAREFUL about mulching your newly planted bulbs if you were affected by an unusual amount of
rainfall resulting in your garden becoming saturated this past winter or spring - especially important if
your soil surface was unable to dry between storms - as many states had the past two years. Lily Bulbs by
their very nature are designed to store water for times of drought; plant on a slope or in a slightly raised bed to avoid flooding - they do not swim well and will suffocate if the soil stays constantly soggy over winter - moisture replenished on a daily basis is OK just as long as it is draining away quickly and not sitting stagnant.

During cold and wet springs a too thick mulch over lily bulbs may cause the sprouts to decompose while still underground or as they emerge. See Fungus: Stump Rot (Phytophthora) on our website under “Problem solving (Animals to Weeds)”.

In moderate/mild Southern and Coastal areas, use only enough mulch (one or two inches) to suppress winter weed germination, especially since this winter is again expected to be wetter than normal. During wet winters if the soil surface is not allowed to dry between rainfalls and the garden remains saturated, you risk losing even established bulbs. Use of porous mulch (e.g. straw or large nuggets of bark) allows soil to breathe and dry faster. Go easy on spreading compost; only an inch or two on top of the soil is recommended per year.

Your goal is not deep freeze protection as in the Midwest or Northern states, but rather a tidier garden.  Maritime areas of the Pacific Northwest should also go very easy on mulch this winter. Additional bark, shredded leaves or other decorative materials should only be added in late spring after wet snow and/or heavy rainfall has diminished and just before the new weed seeds begin to germinate, which will keep the garden looking good all next summer. It is important to allow the soil surface to dry properly between storms.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First Christmas Show of the Season – Starts Today!

Look for the pink canopy! This image before setup was finished.
For those of you in the Seattle/Tacoma area, come see us at the Holiday Food & Gift Festival at the Tacoma Dome this week. This is one of the largest holiday shows in the nation, over 28 years old with more than 600 exhibits and displays for you to peruse. You'll find plenty of exciting entertainment, decadent foods to sample and buy, and free limited daycare is provided by Child's Time, Inc. every day.

B&D Lilies' offerings include fresh-dug lily bulbs, Amarylis, fancy ladies' hats, garden hats, organic catnip, a selection of antique treasures, Original Artwork by Dianna, as well as turned-wood vessels and birdhouse ornaments by her husband Bob, fragrance-free hand lotions, and more.

Don't miss out, visit us in booths 96,97,98, &99. We are in the entrance to the dome – just look for our pink canopy right next to the lighted Merry go Round. Because we are near the entrance, we'll hold your paid purchase for pickup later in the day (subject to space limitations) so you do not need to run back and forth to your car. This is your chance to have a great time and pick up a few great stocking-stuffers along the way.

Show Dates and Times:
Oct. 19th Wed. 11am - 8:00 pm
Oct. 20th Thurs. 10am - 8:00 pm
Oct. 21st Fri. 10am - 9:00 pm
Oct. 22nd Sat. 10am - 9:00 pm
Oct. 23rd Sun. 10am - 5:00 pm

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lily Bulb Shipping - UPDATE - All Areas

We are continuing to harvest lily bulbs - hand digging lilies in between rainy days,  plus our first frost was on the pumpkins last night – so we are moving fast to have all the bulbs delivered to the coldest states first.  Despite the strange summer weather here in the Pacific Northwest, we actually started shipping only 3 days later than last year and so now 90% the Northern Tier States, Northeast and Mountain area orders on file before October 1st have been mailed.  Yesterday (Friday), we started shipping to warmer areas of the East and Midwest and will be finishing up many of those states through Tuesday – then we start the West Coast addresses and the more recently placed orders no matter what the location. 

Phone and email replies will have a bit of a delay during the next 10 days while Dianna and Anne Marie exhibit at the Tacoma Holiday Food & Gift Festival all next week and Bob oversees both the shipping line and the office.  He will return phone calls and emails as quickly as possible, so please be patient – if you are directed to voice mail during business hours –  it means that either he is answering another call or is out in the packing barn.

Please check the website before ordering, we are updating the database inventory each evening, but some cultivars have only a few bulbs available and there are no more large bulbs in the field for this year, so please make a suggestion for an alternate choice should the need arise.
Don't procrastinate should you want a few more bulbs this fall.  If you would like a Spring 2012 catalog mailed to you (Alaska and lower 48 States only – we do not export) please use this link - Request a Catalog

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Clay soil and Lily Bulbs - What to do?

A raised bed bordered by large landscape rock
A small proportion of clay in your soil is just fine, its presence helps to slow down moisture which reduces the need to constantly water trees, shrubs and other plants; plus it allows rooting stability for trees and shrubs against severe or sudden wind.  However, a yard of extensive "pottery-grade" sticky clay is not the best for a successful garden and measures need to be taken to increase the drainage by making a raised bed or adding drainage tiles so that roots do not suffocate from lack of oxygen.  Simply carving out a gallon-sized hole and filling it with sand or potting soil for planting lily bulbs only creates a "sump" - all of the water will drain immediately through the sand or potting soil into the hole and you will have simply made things worse. 
Clay soil is described in various ways as adobe, gumbo, or “heavy” and is composed of small mineral particles which are generally flat in shape and form a close bond with one another.  Water and air have difficulty passing through these tightly bonded particles.  In clay soil, oxygen is not supplied as readily to roots and your bulbs will suffocate and rot if given too much moisture.  This is especially true if your beds are newly planted and worm activity has not created channels for rainfall to soak readily in the underlying soil.  Mixing in builder's sand or Perlite, along with only a small amount of compost to lighten the soil evenly across the entire bed - above grade - helps prevent over saturation during rainy seasons but does take time. 
Berms are popular for creating adequate drainage in gardens and, if wide enough, will make large islands within the garden - creating an architectural design on their own.  Bear in mind that until the soil is well settled your mounds will continue to shrink for more than a year after creation if you only use soil with no under laying rock for drainage.  A dump truck load of natural garden soils spread one foot deep and compressed by foot traffic, garden tractor tires or whatever method you choose will still settle over time.  One season we had two loads of soil placed over top of our “close to the surface” septic tank to reduce odors after the house was newly constructed.  We garden at the bottom of a small valley with a high water table so our septic tank is shallow to allow for proper drop on our flat ground.  The next year another load was necessary because the soil level had dropped by one half because of heavy rainfall; the unmistakable scent was once more wafting into our nostrils.  After two more years and a higher proportion of clay soil added to the berm, the particles finally bonded to one another enough to keep the soil level constant and reduce odor. This same phenomenon happens to raised beds, they shrink over time on their own.  In addition, by pulling out weeds you are slowly reducing the level of the earthen embankment, so additional soil is needed from time to time.

If you are unsure as to whether you have clay soil, dig a hole in the garden one foot deep, fill it with water and wait.  If the water drains away within one hour, drainage is generally sufficient for lily bulbs (Lilium), however Eucomis (Pineapple Lilies) may still be marginal in that location.  If the water passes through the soil very sluggishly, consider a raised bed 8-10 inches above grade.

Sandy soil never “puddles,” since it has particles generally more rounded in shape which do not stick together when moistened.  Sandy soil (good for Eucomis) allows air and water to pass freely, but should be amended with additional organic materials such as compost or well-aged manure to add nutrients. Also, sandy soil needs to be fertilized more frequently than other soil types; organic mulches will disappear quickly because rainfall and irrigation easily wash away the granular components.  

Loam (a gardener’s dream) is a mixture of clay, sand, and organic materials which is fast-draining and naturally fluffy, allowing soil to stay slightly moist but not soggy between watering cycles.  Regular mulching with a variety of materials will encourage earthworm activity and improve marginal soil to become "loam" over time.  If your soil is still somewhat crumbly when wet and not overly sticky by the addition of water, then it is probably not necessary to mix in sand, Perlite or commercial potting soil.  This is especially true if rainfall has someplace else to go, such as when the bed is on a slope where moisture will constantly move away from the bulbs of its own accord – or in a raised bed or berm where the bulbs themselves are already planted above the natural soil level.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Purple Poppies - shipping seed soon

Dianna's Purple Poppies - Although we had a late start on sowing seed this spring, we did have a decent crop of these highly decorative Papaver paeoniflorum.  Poppy seeds are sown on TOP of the soil because they need light to germinate and our heavy rainfall this spring - 30+ inches in 6 weeks with only a handful of "dry" days -  caused much stress in April and May because the fine seed washed away twice before the weather cooperated.  The volunteers scattered throughout the garden under trees and overhangs from spilled pods last year came up fine however - so we'll sow seed this fall after the ground freezes and cover the spaces with netting to keep the resident quail from happily searching out the seeds before their germination in early spring.  Our wild quail take "dust baths"  under the overhangs, forming cute little depressions in the driest areas during the summer, and in Fall hide out under our rhubarb clumps during rainstorms waiting for a moment to sneak out to munch.  As I look outside this morning, both they and the next-door chickens are greedily consuming our newly planted oats on the north edge of the field.  We sow the cover crops heavy, expecting some loss from the wildlife (and fowl escapees) - but using a cover crop makes our soil so wonderful for planting the next spring that the birds are generally forgiven.

Our strain of poppies makes smaller than normal pods - so even though the flowers are 4 to 5 inches in size -  it takes a lot of ripened seed for both the catalogs and the spring flower shows.  This year we only pre-sold packets until August then removed them from sale until we could judge the harvest.   Seed production was better than expected and we've made the "add to cart" buttons active again on the website, but there are no guarantee there will be any packets left for the spring flower shows.  Poppy seeds will NOT be in the Spring 2012 catalog so it is advised that you order now.

You can add one or more packets to an existing order on file without any extra shipping costs.  For customer who only ordered poppy seed for this fall - or paid to have it shipped early - Anne Marie will mail out the "seed only" orders from the office on Tuesday and Wednesday while we are still digging lily bulbs.

To add a packets of poppy seed to an order ALREADY on file - simply use the "contact us" form on the website and we'll charge whatever card you used for the bulbs before shipping.

If you also wish to add a few lily bulbs with the seed - or place a totally new order of ONLY poppy seed - please use the website checkout. If we are combining lily bulb orders or adding poppy seeds to your order, we'll adjust the shipping charge before charging your card.