Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lily Bulb Harvest Update for 9.29.12

Nights have finally dropped below 40 degrees.

In our little valley, the vine maple leaves are beginning to turn orange and fall to earth, and our lilies are ripening their stems for safe digging and processing.  About 80% of the earlier blooming Asiatics and LA hybrids (L. longiflorum x Asiatic) have already been dug, cleaned, sized, and packaged, and have been tucked into a cooled holding area waiting for their turn to be transported to the bins in the shipping room.

Sometimes there are surprises underground.
The weather has been relatively dry this fall and most of the trumpet lilies are being harvested this weekend, following irrigating the field.  We are still checking Orientals and Orienpets (OT or Oriental-Trumpet hybrids) for digging next week, while a few early to bloom varieties on the ends of rows have already been processed.  (All bulbs will be out of the ground within the next 10 to 14 days, and on the 9th, Dianna will be celebrating her birthday while grading bulbs! - Bob)

Normal size bulblets on stem.

Look at the HUGE bulblets formed on this Asiatic!  Granted, these are larger than normal and the "mama" bulb was smaller than the others in the row, but that was because all of her energy went into producing bulblets (like raising kids).  These extra-large offsets will most likely bloom next summer, instead of needing another summer of growth before making a single flower like the smaller bulblets in the photo on the right.  As a size reference, the large bulbs on the end of the stems were all 14cm in circumference.

What can you do to encourage such large offsets?  

Some gardeners like to plant their lilies on their sides, but the bulbs generally "right" themselves anyway; some give their lilies too much nitrogen fertilizer, which actually weakens the bulbs and causes rot; still other gardeners plant in pure compost hoping for outstanding results, but during a wet year they risk losing the bulbs to rot over winter.  Rather than trying to manipulate nature simply feed your lilies a balanced fertilizer (5-10-10 or similar; we use Rose food) in spring and midsummer, water when the soil is beginning to dry two inches below the surface, and keep weeds and aggressive plants from stealing nutrients and water from your lily garden.

Not everybody is ready to dig.  See the green leaves?
How do we know when to harvest? 

As we "test dig" bulbs, we are looking for them to be a large enough size, as well as checking that the new "nose" (future stem) is being formed before harvesting that variety.  Lily bulbs mature at differing rates depending on breeding background, the specific cultivar within a type, and outside influences such as when fertilizer was applied, the amount of water received as well as air and soil temperatures during the growing season.

Shipping begins Mid October for the coldest regions.

In early October our database computer begins printing the orders that can be filled with varieties that are ready in the bins, even while the remaining bulbs are being harvested and packaged.   We look to be right on schedule to start shipping to the coldest areas of the USA the second week of October, with the warmer regions following soon after. 

Getting ready for shipping.
Delivery by region is best for lily bulbs.

Here's a link for information on preparing your garden early if you are concerned about freezing temperatures before your order arrives.  Lilies are shipped to the Midwest and East (and mountain regions) from Washington State Monday-Wednesday, and we generally fill West Coast orders Thursday-Saturday.  Shipping is dependent on cross-country weather, if the temperatures begin to drop more quickly than expected, we put the west coast orders aside for a time and we concentrate on the colder areas.

Southern areas are shipped the third or fourth week of October, or in early November.  Soil in mild winter areas needs to cool before fall planting, as lily bulbs do not have a hard shell like a tulip or daffodil and can be damaged by heat.

Priority Mail boxes and stacks of packaged bulbs waiting to go into the bins are stacked just outside the shipping room.   We use our coolers during summer to store our flower show equipment, and when fall shipping is completed and we start the winter harvest, we move the show equipment out of the coolers to the shipping room floor to make room for the lily bulbs.  Bulbs dug over winter are the ones we offer in our spring catalog.

Other blog posts you might have missed:

Green Stems on lily bulbs mean don't dig yet!

Winter care of potted lily bulbs.

Garden Cleanup, its never too early to begin.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Plant Poppy Seeds - Easy Instructions.

Lemon-Poppy Seed muffins are good to eat!
Poppy seeds are very small in size and add a quite delicious "crunch" to breads, cake and muffins, but did you know these beautiful flowers are easily grown in either full sun or bright shade?  Regular garden soils, not too rich with compost and other amendments is perfect.  Fast draining soils are a must however, and in gardens that are mostly clay -  a raised bed with native soil, sand and a light proportion of compost - will work just fine to provide enough drainage from heavy rainfall or accidental over watering.

Annual Poppy seeds (flowers in one season) can be planted anytime between fall and spring and you can collect the mature seeds to plant in another garden site for next year, use them in cooking or simply let the pods mature and fall in place - called "self sowing". 

Poppies need light to germinate, so if you cover these tiny seeds with soil, peat, vermiculite, or sifted compost they will not grow.  Fallen leaves from trees and shrubs can interfere with germination (cutting off the light), but snow is not a problem - as it melts, your poppies will begin to germinate whether they were fall planted by you or growing from mature pods dropped on the ground in fall.
'Lankon' lilies with poppies growing in the row.

However, seed that has been buried and then
brought to the surface during garden cleanup, roto-tilling or planting of other flowers may even germinate several years later.

In spring of 2010, Dianna scattered surplus seeds of her 'Purple Poppies' in a bare section of field. 
Husband, Bob, not knowing what she had done, only saw Groundsel, Thistles and other weeds starting to grow in the "unused ground".  He tilled the soil, effectively cutting the seed off from light and so none germinated, especially with subsequent cultivation and planting of oats to build up the soil in preparation for a future lily crop.

When oats are used for a cover crop, they are thickly sown and tilled into the ground when they've grown about a foot tall in order to add nutrients and of bio-mass to the soil - vastly improving the soil texture.  Any poppy seed brought to the surface by the roto-tilling would not have had enough light to grow with the quick-to-sprout oats, or wouldn't had time to grow more than a few inches before those oats were dug into the soil. That fall a second round of oats were planted, tilled into the soil in late winter, and the lilies planted in March.  (See our blog post Semi-automated Planting of Lily Bulbs - where you can see an example of lush green oats growing in between lily rows.)

To everyone's surprise, after we finally left the soil alone for several weeks, a nice scattering of poppies began growing in between the lily sprouts - and were left to grow together over summer.  After all, who could weed them out with all they had been through?

"Plant poppy seed in a specially prepared bed".  

Dianna's Purple Poppies - flowers are 3 to 5 inches in size.
 1.  Plant poppy seed in a specially prepared bed, cleaning out perennial weeds from an area about 18 inches across for one or two packets of seed.  Deeply dig to loosen the soil and fluff it to lighten and find any missed roots.  Do not use commercial potting soil, the texture is much too coarse for successful poppy germination by itself. (More about that later.)

2.  Water the planting site and let it sit overnight to firm the soil and provide ground moisture if the weather has been quite dry.  This step is not necessary in fall through winter months, especially if the weather has been wet.

3.  Using a small leaf rake, your fingers, a household fork or hand-held cultivator tool, scratch the surface to make a very shallow "texture" -  not too deep -  you only want the top 1/4 inch loosened without depressions for the seed to become lost.

4.  Scatter seed evenly across the entire surface.  You can mix the seed with fine sand and sprinkle from a pepper shaker or whatever method you like.

5.  Gently pat down the planting area with your hands to firm the soil and ensure the seeds make contact and do not dry out.  (This is the reason why simply scattering seed throughout your garden does not work.  Seeds will cling to leaves, sit on top of a rock or accidentally be buried while you weed.)

6.  Water with a fine mist from your hose, so as to not form "puddles".  During dry spring weather, keep the soil lightly moist until germination, after which you can let nature water the plants.

Mature poppy seed roots 12" long

Transplanting small seedlings can be done carefully.

This is only possible if the newly germinated seedlings are less than 1/4 inch tall - much bigger and you risk disturbing the newly formed taproot and the developing feeder roots.  (The photograph on the left  is of a 4 foot tall plant at the end of the season, that was pulled out of dry sandy soil, with nearly all the roots intact.  See how there are not a lot of roots radiating out from the taproot, the reason you cannot move mature stems without damage.) 

To transplant, you simply lift out sections of soil with a trowel about 2 to 3 inches across - do not try to separate the seedlings - and simply move the entire mini clump of 10 - 15 seedlings to a new section of prepared fluffy soil.  The strongest seedlings in each clump will continue to grow.

Sowing poppy seeds in containers.

Commercial potting soil is generally more heavily textured than your native garden soil.  When poppy seeds are sown on the surface, they will generally fall between the soil componets and not be accessible to light.  When watered they may become buried even further.  A solution would be to simply sow a 1/4 inch layer of very fine freshwater beach sand (not from salt water) on the surface of the potting soil and then scatter the seed on top of that.  Poppy seeds do a fine job of self sowing on the finely crushed rock of our paths, so you can skip the "patting down" (step #5) but be certain to keep the pot slightly moist.  The soil underneath the sand should stay moist, even if the sand on top appears drier.  If you wish to grow the seed in 4" pots to transplant later, simply sow a few seeds in each container and transplant the entire root ball when the plants roots have begun to fill out the pot.  Do not thin the plants, let the dominant seedlings grow.  Do not try to separate the seedlings either - we tried that - and both halves died, probably because the fragile tap roots were damaged.

Ripening seed pods in the garden.

Gathering seed in fall.

The brown colored pods in the photo are ready for harvest.  We simply cut them close to the pod as the color changes and leave everything in a clean bucket to finish drying.  We then pour the seed pods into a household strainer and the tiny seeds fall through into a new bucket.  It is hard to retrieve all the seed in one or two passes, so the mostly empty pods are then scattered over a cleaned and prepared garden to break down over winter and release the remaining seed.  Of course, you still need to be careful to not accidentally pull out the tiny plants during spring cleaning or bury the not yet germinated seed with mulch.

'Dianna's Purple Poppy' seeds are available from B&D Lilies.   Here is the link to order seed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Differences between Oriental and Asiatic lilies

A question that comes up from time to time is how to tell the difference between different lilies when tags have been lost, a gift plant was received, or bulbs were already there when you moved.  The photos show stems without flowers, so you can more easily judge their differences without being distracted by a flower shapes or colors.  In a commercial field, except for the couple dozen plants at the end of the row, all the flowers are removed before the buds open.  We sacrifice the flowers to make larger bulbs at harvest.  Although there can be clonal differences, especially with Interspecific hybrids (hybrids between different classes), the following is a general guide.

Asiatic leaves vary from short to long in length.
Asiatics perform wonderfully in full sun or light shade in all areas, even in very cold climates of USDA Zone 3.  They also do well in most areas of the South, but prefer more winter chilling to reset the blooms. Soil pH is usually not a factor, they grow equally well in both strongly acid and alkaline soil and will bloom several weeks before Oriental lilies.  

Bloom time usually begins in late May through late June and there is either no fragrance or a very light one on windless days.  Asiatics generally have shiny, 4-inch to 5-inch leaves clustered close to one another on the stem.  Leaves may be wide and short or long and skinny like the picture.

Oriental leaves are spaced further apart..

Oriental lilies like cooler summer temperatures and so need to be planted in afternoon shade or all day dappled light in hotter climates.  In mild climate summers, where the average temperature doesn't usually exceed 90 degrees during July and August, Oriental lilies do equally well in full sun or light shade. No winter mulch is required if your climate is warmer than Zone 6, and they are very happy all the way up through Zone 9.

Oriental flowering time is July to early August and the fragrance is spicy and strong on most clones. Leaf shape is typically wider in the middle of the flower (almost heart-shaped) and the leaves are usually spaced further apart on the stem, especially on taller varieties.  Leaf color is typically duller green.

The Oriental lilies shown on the right have a layer of copper-based fungicide applied to the leaves, because a few brown spots of Botrytis began to show during a cool, wet spring - so this foliage has a slight blue cast, which is not the usual color.

OT, Orienpet and Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids (all the same, just different descriptive names) are lilies that  have some Lilium henryi and/or Trumpet lilies in the breeding line.  They are more heat resistant than purebred (or regular) Oriental lilies and tolerate alkaline soils better.  They can take full sun in most areas and are not affected by the occasional 105 degree heat blast, but the flowers will last longer on the stem with afternoon shade if it is over 100 degrees most of the summer.  Fragrance is less spicy than purebred Oriental lilies - more closely related to Easter Lily plants in the stores in spring.

Leaf shape will more resemble Oriental lilies and can be difficult to determine without a flower to match, but in general, they will have a thicker substance to the leaves.  The flowers also tend to be more substantial in thickness as well, giving them their long-lasting qualities in warm weather.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

FREE packet of Purple Poppies - September Special

Just a head's up...

The September special for our newsletter readers will have a special "click on" link for a free packet of Dianna's Purple Poppy Seeds with any new lily bulb order - or by making a $25 or more "add-on" to your existing order - through the month of September.  This freebie is not automatically added, you will need to order the seeds through our website, from our newsletter link after next Tuesday.

If you have never received our free Newsletters and would like to take advantage of this offer, here is our sign up link.  

(Please note that AOL email addresses in the past have not always been properly received from our system, so we suggest using another free email service from Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail.   Just click on one of the services to create a new email address.)


Thursday, September 6, 2012

New chicken coop

New pullets
After weeks of rain the weather finally cooperated in August and since then we've worked 12-hour days outdoors, fixing the roof on our barn, partitioning a section for chickens off the lean-to, putting up 200+ feet of new board and wire fence and pulling out weeds that more than thrived in the cool weather.
Fence in progress behind shipping building

New coop inside barn.

The perimeter of the new backyard fence was laid with landscape fabric under a 2 foot section of 1/2 inch hardware cloth stapled to the bottom rail.  This will be covered with crushed rock for a reasonably weed free area that will discourage digging predators and give us a "clean" fence line for walking without resorting to spraying herbicide.  The small flock of chickens will help keep the slugs and snails from munching the veggie garden, plus keep the grass down around the stored irrigation pipe behind the building.  Mice tend to stuff seeds and dried grass in the pipes over winter, blocking the water flow to the sprinklers, even when "flushed out" before use.

Outdoor run off barn

It probably would have been much easier to "start from scratch" and build a free-standing coop outside without all the angles, but the lily bulb processing barn has electricity and we are in and out everyday.

Lily Bulb Harvest is just around the corner and the test bulbs dug the past week have been a surprise - because of the cool weather, many of the projected Exhibition-size bulbs uploaded in early summer have divided and we cut off sales on those right away, so as to not disappoint customers.  We'll fill the earliest received orders on the over sized bulbs electronically to see if there are any left after harvest, then any that might still be available will be uploaded on the website.

The most recent cover crop was dug into the ground in August for next spring's planting.  Literally, tons of biomass was added to this section of field over the last two years making the soil wonderfully soft and crumbly.