Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Test Lilies in South Field

Many of our lilies are test-grown in the small field south of our home. We take photos, evaluate growth and compare one variety to another during a short window of time in summer. When photographs are finished, all remaining flowers and buds are immediately removed, which triggers the bulbs to become larger before summer's end and the lily bulb harvest. Most test lilies are grown in small numbers, only 100 bulbs or so. Extra space is planted with bulbs to be saved for propagation, such as the row of taller pink and white lilies in the background the photo above. (Because of bio-security concerns for our 100+ free-range Chickens, Turkeys, Geese, and Ducks, our farm is not open to visitors.)

Occasionally, our flock of about 15 Tufted Roman Geese will sneak into the fields and nibble flowers, which usually results in their pristine white feathers becoming streaked with yellow pollen. While it seems the flock of "guard geese" could be useful in helping to dis-bud the lilies, that would only work if they could be trusted to leave enough unmolested flowers for the camera - or not break stems during a Gander (male bird) disagreement.  In my vegetable garden, pumpkin, squash and cucumber vines are securely fenced off, because within a few minutes, there would be nothing left. Notice the neatly trimmed cucumber vines?

Ancona ducks keep their heads to the ground looking for worms, beetles and slugs, and do very little damage after lily stems are at least 2 feet tall. They are invited into the small flower garden for about a half hour every week or so, to scoop up any newly hatched slugs. We keep them out of the strawberry patch, because ducks are very fond of ripened red berries - we prefer to have our fresh homemade jam!

Waterfowl tend to the lily field just before harvest: Geese eat fresh chickweed which tends to tangle up in the bulbs coming over the harvesting belt, and ducks go over the ground looking for tasty slugs, which are not terribly fun to pick up unexpectedly along with a lily stem.

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