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Dry Bulbs from “Box Stores”

Well, I was in a national “box store” a few days ago getting supplies for our venue site and checked out the lily bulbs. Nice display and the bulbs were certainly affordable. I wish I would have had my camera.

Here’s the problem…most of them were dried out, half grown (even the few orientals they had) with stems and leaves, and small (the size of a golf ball and smaller)! When you buy lily bulbs or any other bulbs, there can be some growth but not that much! Here is what happens: The bulbs are shipped in plastic bags with sawdust or wood chips (that’s perfectly ok), displayed under florescent lights, and the store is usually kept at or above 65 degrees to keep everyone warm, especially customers . This creates a greenhouse effect and they begin to grow, not stopping until they bloom! You might say “is that so bad, at least you know they are alive.” Yes it is. 1.) When you purchase a bulb from the environment I just described, the bulbs are usually dry and will die soon after planting. There is not enough sugar in the plant to sustain itself. 2.) The stem will not grow and perform normally. After growing inside, they need to be “hardened off” before planting outside. After receiving some rain or irrigation, the stem will become weak, droop to the ground, and die. You might say to yourself, “Ok, I’ll give them some water and place them in the fridge for awhile”. That sometimes works but not normally. When the bulbs receive water in a dried out state (especially with saw dust in the bag), the scales take up too much water at once and they will rot. The rotting may not show immediately, but it will happen.

Typically Asiatic lilies, tulips, and daffodils are the earliest to grow and bloom indoor or outdoor. Asiatic and most Tiger lilies are the most hardiest and easier to grow than all other lilies, should be “hardened off” before planting, planted in the fall or winter (September to February), and be the same size or larger than a golf ball (12 to 14 centimeters or larger).

Day lilies (not a true lily) are extremely hardy and can be planted any time during the year before or after bloom as long as the ground is not frozen.

Orientals, Orienpets, Trumpets, and some Tiger lilies are normally the latest to bloom and can be planted Fall in to Spring (September to May). They also should be “hardened off” before planting outdoors with plenty of water and sugar within the bulb. With the exception of Tiger and Oriental Lilies, this group is somewhat temperamental. Therefore, purchasing these bulbs that are healthy and one & a half times larger than a golf ball (14 to 16 centimeters or larger) is best and will provide the plant with plenty of water and sugar in the scales to produce and stay healthy for many years to come.

Oriental, Trumpet, and Orienpets:

Ever wonder what happens to the “mother” bulb each year after the first real strong blooming season? Well, here it is…as a commercial grower, we will not sell a bulb in this class smaller than 14 centimeters (about one and a half to two times the size of a golf ball) and in healthy condition. Here’s why: the outer scales serve as support to the inner scales in the form of providing water and nutrients for the stem, leaves, and blooms. They are also the scales that become infected with diseases first. Although the inner scales also provide nutrients for the whole plant too, they are the main producer of the plant’s growth and blooms. After a few seasons (sometimes the first year), the outer scales become used up and will stop or slow down their production of nutrients. If the bulb is too small or the outer scales are diseased, no support. However, you might see the lily bulb develop stems, leaves, and blooms the first year and nothing the following season. This happens because the outer scales are either infected with a disease and die (which in one season eventually spread to the rest of the lily bulb), or they are too small to give support to the inner scales. The lily bulb cannot sustain itself and passes into the great flowering land.

However, if all the “mother” bulb scales are healthy and there are enough nutrients remaining, it may develop new bulblits over the next few years from the outer and inner scales and start producing again. This happens frequently so don’t give up on them.

Bottom line? Purchase bulbs that are healthy and large. If the bulb is not large enough, containing the proper amount of nutrients when you plant it, you may not see it produce after the first year or it could be a few more years if any new bulblits develop in size to sustain themselves into a new flowering lily bulb.

Asiatics and Tigers

The lily bulbs in these classes are typically the most hardiest and bloom early, usually from May to the first of July which means they will start to grow and emerge from the ground sometime in late February to the middle of March. They are, in most cases, resistant to diseases. If purchased and planted with too much growth (showing leaves and stems) without properly being “hardened off”, the stem breaks or will fall to the ground (appearing to wilt) and will not bloom again until the following season. The bulb’s scales will also fall apart when slightly touched. In most cases the bulb will survive, unless it was too dry when planted causing it to absorb too much water, then rot develops and the bulb dies.

However, if the “mother” bulb is healthy, it may develop new bulblits over the next few years from the outer and inner scales (if they are healthy and there is the smallest amount of nutrients remaining) and start producing again. This happens frequently so don’t give up on them.

Bottom line? Purchase bulbs that are healthy and large. If the bulb is not large enough, containing the proper amount of nutrients when you plant it, you may not see it produce after the first year or it could be a few more years if any new bulblits develop in size to sustain themselves into a new flowering lily bulb.

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

Plants: the Inexpensive and Environmental Friendly Way

Growing Plants From Seeds in an Egg Carton


Using pressed paper egg cartons are an inexpensive, easy, and environmentally friendly way to start seeds. Instead of buying costly starter kits, consider making a round of omelets and saving the empty egg cartons. Not only do egg cartons provide perfect cells for seedlings to grow, they also make it easy to transport the plants into your garden and are bio-degradable! Egg cartons are a wonderful tool for starting herbs, annuals and vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, and peppers. You will want to place the egg carton inside a solid container (such as a roasting pan). This will prevent the carton from falling apart as the paper pulp becomes wet. You can pull the plants out of the egg cells before planting or let the egg carton dry out slightly, then cut the plant sections with a pair of scissors or sharp knife, and plant outside! The egg carton is made of paper pulp and will degrade in a few months. Perfect.

Instructions & What You Need
  • Empty egg carton
  • Needle
  • Seed
  • Plastic wrap
  • Spray bottle
  • Potting soil or composting mixture
  • Solid container (such as a roasting pan) to hold the planted egg carton
  1. Place the empty egg carton inside the solid container. Cut the lid off of an empty egg carton. Use scissors or knife to trim along the sides. With a needle, poke three or four holes along the bottom of each egg cell. This will help to drain the cells.
  2. Spray the egg carton with water from a spray bottle until it is moist.
  3. Fill each cell with potting soil or a composting mix until it is about a quarter of an inch to the brim. Drop seed into each cell. Then cover again with a fine layer of the soil mixture.
  4. Place the planted egg carton inside the solid container in a warm, sunny place. You can also place them in a plastic bag or cover them with plastic wrap to preserve heat and moisture. This creates a hothouse for the seeds.
  5. Spray the seedlings with water when soil becomes dry. Sprouts usually appear after seven to ten days. Once sprouts appear, remove the plastic covering and place the egg carton in a sunny spot.
  6. Observe the sprouts for growth. When the first true leaves appear, it is time for the sprouts to be transplanted. The true leaves grow above the leaves that first push out of the dirt. This usually takes about three to four weeks. Seedlings should be around 1 to 2 inches tall.

Meanwhile, back at the farm

Receiving and Care for Lily Bulbs Before Planting Outside

What to do Once you Receive your Lily Bulbs:

Perhaps you want to order a particular bulb that gets sold out early in the season, the ground is not ready for planting…when you receive your lily bulbs. Depending upon the variety, once you receive your lilium bulbs, you can store them in a cool, dark place for up to 3 weeks (such as a refrigerator) in potting soil in a plastic or paper bag. I prefer a plastic bag because it will naturally sweat and provide some moisture while storing. Just keep the potting mix damp, not wet. This keeps the bulb cool and prevents too much early growth, especially if you are currently experiencing cold weather (below freezing), you maybe out of town for awhile and can’t get to planting right away, the lily is delivered and you just plain forgot about it, or there is snow on the ground and you can’t plant outside yet. We always ship our lily bulbs in potting mix for these reasons and more.

You can view several articles on this subject and more about lily care on our web site page.

Feed Birds Year ‘Round…Everybody Wins!

Feed Birds all Year? Of Course. Here’s why:

In winter, you’re providing much needed calories for cold birds by setting out food (no secret here). In return, you’ll get a great deal of enjoyment from watching them and all the different varieties of birds that come to your feeders, adding color and life to a drab winter landscape, and helping those seemingly endless months pass a bit more quickly.

Spring may be the most important time to feed our fine feathered friends. Many people put their feeders away, or simply stop filling them with much needed nourishment, as the weather gets warmer and the grass turns green. However, the insects many birds rely upon as a primary source of food in warm weather take awhile to populate and emerge to sustain them. Meanwhile, birds are establishing their territories, building nests, courting, and preparing to raise their young…all activities that require a lot of nutrition! Keeping your feeders active in the spring ensures that you will have a vibrant, diverse population of birds in your yard and that you’re doing your part for the next generation of “tweeties“.

Summer feeding will benefit you more than your backyard birds! Here’s why: With summer’s dense foliage and more than plentiful insects, birds will feast in hiding where you can’t see them. And if you continually bring out food, you’ll bring birds and keep them there (it’s kind of like a smorgas-board effect) in their glorious summer plumage…up close where you can see and enjoy them. Summers’ a great time to supplement your flowers with nectar, fruit, and jelly feeders to lure in orioles (Eastern U.S.) and hummingbirds. Fruits like apple halves and chunks of cantaloupe will also bring in jays, cardinals, tanagers, and a host of other feathered visitors.

As flowers, fruit, insects, and weed (that’s right…weeds) seeds begin to become scarce with the onset of colder weather, it’s important to supplement your back yard birds’ diet with seeds, suet, and other favorites. You’ll find more birds arriving and staying at your feeders as the fall migrations bring more birds down from the North. Feeders that are already buzzing with activity will act like a beacon or billboard signaling the new arrivals that dinner is on…and it’s free!

The biggest benefits of feeding birds year ’round is that you’ll always have plenty of birds to enjoy, and you’ll never have that agonizing wait every winter for them to “discover” your feeders. You’ll also have the personal satisfaction of knowing that you’re not only helping bird populations, but the environment, too!

When you feed birds, it’s like a continuous circle. More baby birds survive, more birds eat more bugs so you’ll need less chemicals to control them. We all know that using fewer chemicals makes sense. Enjoy!

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

Common Issues With Lilies

Red Alert Asian LilyOne of the most common questions or comments I get is “My Stargazer oriental lily has been not producing flowers like it used to and did not even emerge this year.What happened?”

Normally, most lily bulbs are very easy to grow and take very little care.However, there are on occasion, some instances that need investigation to figure out what if anything, went wrong.It’s difficult to say just what happened without seeing the bulb before planting and afterwards.There can be many factors involved that created the bulb to die or not produce; planted too shallow, a virus or disease, too wet of soil…So, let’s start at the beginning and look at the more common issues.

Oriental and Orienpet lilies are probably the most temperamentalto grow.(The Orienpet is cross bred between Orientals and Trumpets…hence the name Orienpet).These two outstanding lily varieties take a little extra care and thought before you plant them.However, they are well worth the extra effort.They are extremely fragrant and produce large, showy flowers and if not cared for and planted properly, they succumb to many environmental and disease problems, especially rot.I am not going to bore you with scientific explanations of each disease but will give you a summary explanation of each disease or virus and focus on control or preventative things you can do to help your bulbs thrive for years to come.Please keep in mind that like all living things, your lily bulbs will eventually succumb to age and eventually expire.Just when this happens is anyone’s guess.

ENVIRONMENT

Where to plant is more important than when to plant. Things like drainage, soil texture, air circulation, light, water, food, soil and plant ph all influence the health of your plants. Gardeners who strive to understand the requirements of each particular plant they are growing eliminate those factors which affect the plants in a negative way and increase positive actions for healthier plants.

Take a little extra time in choosing your location and get to know your soil.Orienpets and Orientals do much better when placed in an area where there is morning sun and afternoon shade.Even in the shade, temperatures can reach well over 90 degrees as long as they are not exposed to direct sunlight.If they are, the leaves will scorch or burn and the flower will wilt and spend its’ beautiful appearance too soon.

The soil should be healthy and well drained.I always place a handful or so of rich potting soil or well aged compost in the hole during planting.This will revitalize the micro organisms.I will also place about a tablespoon of 10-20-20 commercial fertilizer or even rhododendron fertilizer with no more than 7% iron in the blend.Be sure not to place the Oriental or Orienpet bulb in an area you will be watering often.They only need watering when the stem has emerged and is growing to form its’ flower buds.After covering the hole, I will sprinkle a 14-14-14-7 80 % slow release fertilizer at ground level and mark each bulb placement.This is important for all bulbs because once the stem has been spent or dies, you will need to fertilize again and without knowing where the bulb is, you may be wasting the food.You should replant and repeat this process every year or so assuring the “mother bulb” stays healthy, is not placed in water saturated soil, and well nourished therefore producing its’ full bloom color and healthy stem.

Above ground feeding:Each Fall and Spring, feed your bulbs with the above mentioned fertilizers and even place a couple of handfuls of rich potting soil around the stems.

VIRUSES AND DISEASES

Probably the most important fact with regards to disease resistance is the overall health of your plants.Like all living things, a healthy vigorous plant is much more resistant to sickness and an organism under stress is extremely susceptible to diseases and insects (I’ll address insects in another article soon.

The most common diseases are Botrytis, powdery mildew, and stem and bulb rot.All diseases either occur as a direct result from environmental conditions or the bulbs were infected at the nursery you purchased them from.However, in most cases it’s an environmental issue.Let’s take a closer look at the causes and some corrective action…

VIRUSES

Viruses are very simple organisms and are nothing more than RNA contained within a protein shell. They are so small and can only be see seen with the aid of an electron microscope. They invade a cell by injecting its own RNA into the cell, hijack the cells’ DNA and replace it with the Virus RNA several times. The new viruses grow in the plant cells and mature. Once mature they burst open from the infected cell and move to infect other cells, starting the process all over again. When this happens the normal plant cell functions are disrupted with symptoms showing up on the exterior of the plant surfaces in the form of streaking or molting, twisted growth, reduced plant size and or rings on the bulbs. Many species and some cultivars are more susceptible to viruses, others can tolerate them quite well with little or no symptoms.

These three most common viruses found in lilies are often transmitted by aphids that have bitten into the infected plant and ingest the virus.When they have landed on a non infected plant, they pass the virus to it after biting into it.They are:Lily Symptomless Virus or LVS (the most common), Tulip Breaking Virus or TBV, and Cucumber Mosaic Virus or CMV.

Control:Viruses are extremely (if not impossible) to control with commercial spray treatments.However, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent further infections.1.)Dig out and destroy the entire plant preferably by burning.2.)Disinfect your tools immediately, soaking in 100% bleach.3.)The most important method of controlling viruses is to have good gardening practices and observe your lilies regularly.Be aware that some nutrient deficiencies can cause streaking (resembling a virus infection) in leaves and flowers.The continuing hybridization of viral resistant cultivars will also greatly help to control future problems.Check with whomever you are purchasing from for susceptibility of any lily cultivar.

DISEASES

Fungi are organisms that live in or on plant tissues and thrive on a host plant or in the soil on decaying leaves or wood.They are closely related to mushrooms but do not necessarily grow the fruiting bodies that are known as mush-rooms.The fungi take their nutrients from the plant and destroy the host material.The two most common and recognizable diseases that cause the most problems in lilies are Basal Rot and Botrytis blight.Basal Rot is more destructive to the entire plant because it attacks not only the stem but the bulb also.Botrytis attacks the leaves, stem, and flowers as it weakens the entire plant over time and can kill the lily.

Most fungal diseases can be corrected with commercial sprays, however there are some that cannot.If after several treatments the disease comes back, it is best to destroy the plant and start again with a new, healthy one.

BASAL ROT

Basal rot is caused by two different fungi.Fusarium oxysporum va lilii and Cylindrocarpon.Fusarium has a tendency to attack Asiatics while Cylindrocarpon attacks Orientals and Orienpets.Of the two, Fusarium is the most serious and can exist in the soil for years without a host.It is easily recognized by a dark brown rot that extends into the bulb scales from the basal plate.The scales might fall apart as they become unattached from the mother bulb.The pathogen enters the plant from the roots, moves into the basal plate, and then into the scales.It reproduces by spores which can be carried in the soil by decaying wood or previously infected plant tissue, garden or agricultural tools, packing material, bulbs, and even potting soil.

Basal Rot usually shows symptoms of premature yellowing of foliage, stunting and premature drying of the stalk.Scale bulblets that form from the mother bulb are usually infected.Basal rot will usually destroy the mother bulb and any bulblets that have formed from the basal plate are infected.However, in efforts to survive, the plant may grow large numbers of stem bulblets (located just below ground level and on the main stem)which normally are not infected.So, these can be dug up and planted in another location to continue the cultivar.Do not replant anything, if possible, in the same spot as the infected lily for four years until the spores die.Clean your garden tools and equipment before you plant the new bulblets.

Fusarium is most active in places where soil temperature and moisture level is high.Usually in the North regions (Zone 3, 4, and parts of 5) where soil temps are lower, it’s not a problem.Unless you are growing your lily bulbs in a container outside then moving them indoors during the colder periods.

Control: Some final thoughts on basal rot: Once this disease infects a plant, it cannot be corrected or controlled and is useless to try and save it. ALL of the infected plant must be removed and destroyed. However, there are some preventative sprays that can be applied before it becomes infected. Consult with your local extension office or garden center. Plant only healthy, non-infected bulbs and completely get rid of ANY bulbs, scales, and bulblets that show signs of the disease. Stem bublets can be saved.

The best defense is a good offense and is true in controlling infections from occurring.THE BEST OFFENCE IS PRVENTION!Here’s some tips:

1.)Avoid fertilizers high in Nitrogen.High Nitrates will cause rapid soft growth of the bulb.Organic fertilizers such as manures and composts must be aged (two to three years) and used ONLY as a top dressing or placed no more than an inch below the surface.Well rotted manures and compost will keep the soil cool and help control Fusarium, which needs warm moist soils to propagate.

2.)Control soil moisture.This is especially true when planting your bulbs in commercial potting mix in containers.In most cases, commercial potting mix contains a wetting agent which keeps the mix moist, even in dry conditions.

Lilies do not require a lot of moisture to thrive.Avoid overwatering during the months of hot temperatures.When planting in a landscape area, make sure the soil is well drained and light in texture.Light, well drained soils are better than heavy soils thus reducing the moisture that Fusarium needs to survive.This will not affect the bulbs too much because they store moisture in the scales.

3.)Fusarium likes acidic soils and adding some lime at the time of planting and each year along with fertilizing, will increase the pH to a more neutral or alkaline level is advisable in some soils.

4.)Avoid damaging the bulbs during planting, transplanting, and weeding.Any lesions (this includes scales that have been removed) will be an entrance for the fungi.

5.)If possible, try to purchase resistant varieties as chemical control is becoming limited for various reasons.

BOTRYTIS

Botrytis is caused by two species of fungi (B.elliptica and B.cinerea)which attack the above ground plant parts.B.elliptica is the more destructive of the two and both fungi can be found on the same plant at the same time.B.cinerea attacks the leaves, open flowers, and seed pods in cool summer weather and late fall.The warm, moist coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest or western coast regions of Britain are often called “Botrytis Climates”.Dry, cooler climates are rarely affected.

The fungus will over winter on the leaves of the previous year and produce spores in the summermonths that are spread by windor splashing water.The first sign of Botrytis are white spots on the leaves then becoming teardrop shaped on the upper surface.They are lighter in color on the margins and darker in the center.As the attack continues, the leaf collapses and decays and the fungus produces more spores on the decaying leaf.

CONTROL:Botrytis only attacks the surface of the plant and will spread to other surfaces or neighboring plants as more spores develop.Moisture is essential to the spread of this fungi, therefore careful watering practices should be followed.It is better to use soaker hoses or drip line method rather than over the head or top sprinkler type watering.Good air circulation is also important for this disease as well as others in order to dry the leaves as soon as possible after watering or rain occurs.Try not get the leaves or the flowers wet.Look for infected leaves and remove them asap while they are still wet.This will stop or prohibit the spread of the fungi.Warm, dry sunny weather aids in controlling the fungi.

There are commercial fungicides that can prevent and control this disease. Be careful when using these products, either commercial or non-commercial.

ROOT ROT

Root rot is not a disease but is directly associatedwith poor drainage.If a bulb or any other plant is placed where there is little or no drainage for water, then it continuously sits in water and the roots along with the bulb eventually rots.Lack of good soil aeration, planting in thick heavy fine textured soils like clay, is detrimental to lily bulbs.To prevent this from occurring, plant in light airy soils that drain water quickly so the roots and bulb do not sit in water for long periods of time.Roots need oxygen and being in water provides little or no oxygen.

Recycle the Tree

A Christmas Tree from Parrys UcutWell, Christmas season is over and a New Year will be beginning shortly. Remember to recycle your real tree (fake trees I guess go back into the box and stored in the garage or attack). Many non-profit organizations will do this for a small fee. The material is then used as garden mulch or landscape ground cover.

I did see a lot of new people (as well as some old friends) this year at the farm that have never cut their own tree or have never had a real tree before for the holiday season. Maybe this “Green” thing is taking off and people are now aware of fake tree’s carbon foot print. You can learn more of that on my tree farm web site.

A lot of winter crocus have started blooming (great to see some flowers in the yard during the winter months). It won’t too long for the tulips and daffodils start showing off. If you haven’t planted any yet, there is still plenty of time. The bulbs will start showing up in all the stores (if they haven’t already). Next bulbs in line will be the Lilies. What a great, long lasting show they put on, starting as early as May and all the way into September. Nice to have fresh cut flowers from the yard in the house.

Well, anyway, until next time and meanwhile, back at the farm…

Web Site Developers & Shopping Carts

Wow! Time is really flying.

A lot has happened since my last post…web site failed, fishing time, trying to stay afloat in this economy, tree farm sales. Well, here it is almost the New Year and I hope you all have a safe and pleasant new year.

Just a few thoughts on web site development and “so called” web masters.

My experience with these people has not been a good one. I’ll not get into details, but the last one cost me a lot of money in lost revenue. I was OK with the fees but not the actual web site work he did. It has been a living nightmare for me.

First of all, be wary of who you hire, where you hire them from, and get plenty of referrals. Contact who they have worked for in the past and if you have any bad feelings move on to someone else. Always have a contract or written agreement and make sure you have time limits set in your agreement.

The shopping cart is one of the most important parts of any web site. Stay away from the “open source” free carts. They will cause more problems than you bargain for. Remember, nothing is free and you get what you pay for! There is absolutely no support with this type of shopping cart and you better know code and how to “tweek” it or you are lost in space. Spend the extra money and purchase the cart, either on a monthly basis or flat out own it. You’ll at least have help and support from the developer. You may have to spend a little more on the cart and have it customized to your particular business, but the extra money spent is well worth it in the long run. One final thought, here. Spend a lot of time researching the shopping cart and make sure it will satisfy your needs, now and in the future.

Well, I hope this year has been good to all and next year is even better.

Meanwhile, back at the farm…

Lilies in Downtown Portland

Here’s a sight you don’t see very often. Kenn walking in downtown Portland streets pulling a wagon full of his lilies.

Anka Gallery invited us to bring in some more of our lilies for the showing they had last week.

We had to park around the corner and wheel them into the gallery.

Mean While Back @ The Farm