Saturday, August 03, 2013

Daylily Deadheading

 Saturday, August 3, 2013

A not-so-nice morning here on the mountain. Rain has resumed and as it pounds on the roof, Karl the Wonder Dog trot-trot-trots from room to room, whimpering with an uncomfortable feeling, perhaps fearing that thunder is soon to come as it did last night. This is a strange storm as it was raining at 3 this morning but by 4 when we went for our first walk, the sky was clearing and stars were visible. I hope it all heads for the coast and we have a good day of sales at the flower farm.

The daylilies have been beautiful this year because of all the rain we received in May and June.Yesterday and Thursday as I dug large daylilies from the field, it was surprising to notice how dry the roots were in the middle of big plants. The field daylilies were planted in 2007 and 2008 so some of those are big plants and they represent what you might see in your own gardens after seevral years--daylilies that need to be split when scape production in the center of the plants begins to decline.Tight center root systems prevent water and nutrients from entering the center portion.

Three weeks back a rep from the Dept of Agriculture came by for an inspection of our place. This is required annually by law and is tied to a nursery license. The Department has always had inspections but just this year changed the licensing format and the fee schedule. I always try to speak with the inspector even though Gail has already done the same thing. This year was no different except that I was busy when he came and said I'd catch up at the end of his tour.

Two insects that are being seen in all sorts of garden situations, vegetable and flower gardens as well this year,  are tarnished plant bugs and rose chafers. Among our fields, we have seen both but the inspector says the numbers are typical. Here are some thoughts first on the TPB.

We raise thousands of daylilies and depend on high bud counts and plenty of bloom to help us sell flowers. People drive by along Route 2 and see our fields and stop to walk and make purchases.To keep things looking as good as possible, we walk the fields every couple days and try to deadhead as many daylilies as possible. Mature plants might have well over 400 blooms during the course of their flower period so it's a challenge to keep up with the work. But I have a more important reason for deadheading and it's related to the Tarnished Plant Bug TPB.
Take a look at the daylily picture up top. It's a beauty named Ruby Spider. At maturity the blooms meet 10" diameters and there are hundreds of blooms on a clump. We have a couple big rows in the lower growing garden if you want to see what mature clumps look like. Take a  close look and you'll notice spots within the red, especially the top left and lower left petals.Those spots are the work of the Tarnished Plant Bugs as they eat away at the petals. Although they like any daylily, they especially like the darker colors so the reds, purples, and dark variations.

TPBs are speedy little characters and they see you when you are coming and they will fly, drop off, or run for cover. If there are old blooms withered and wet, they may try to get inside those. By deadheading. you eliminate a place they lay their eggs and make a bigger problem next year. Some gardeners see deadheading as a real messy task while others find it difficult to enter a garden, even one that is not theirs, and start deadheading. One time a lady started deadheading daylilies Alex had begun crossing and he was one unhappy camper with her "helpful" behavior as hybridizing does not work without certain plant parts. Anyway, my point about tarnished plant bugs is they are a nuisance, do discolor nice daylilies and will not go away by themselves. Deadheading is one approach to minimizing bug populations.

Rose Chafers have grown in numbers as winters have warmed. In my mind I wonder if the increase in grape vines in Vermont both in home gardens and in commercial vineyards and as wild vines has had any impact on numbers because many, many people stopping at the flower farm ask about control. Although literature often mentions grape vines as a favorite food source, they prevail on all sorts of vegetation and currently seem to be more prevalent along the sandier soils along the Champlain Valley and the mid to lower Connecticut River valleys. I'm saying this based on the complaints we receive from  visitors asking for guidance on control measures.

Since TPBs and rose chafers both fly, control becomes somewhat of a challenge. Internet resources are bountiful but I am still looking for an inexpensive organic resource that works. Yesterday I bought a bag of milky spore that will cover 7000 square feet to help with Japanese beetles and I wish there was something that would dispose of these other two. What we really need is a winter with some deep cold cycles.....but then we'd worry about the heating bill. If you have any good solutions, drop me a line.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the sun is trying to push through grey clouds. Temperature is 60.6° and the morning is windless. Come visit us at the flower farm today, count bugs or tour the gardens. The daylilies are wonderful!!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

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