Wednesday, August 31, 2016



62.1°, dark sky and pouring rain this morning. I just returned from riding the perimeter in the cart to check fences and make sure the critters of the forest didn't stop by for a meal last night. The various plants can't possibly be as tasty as they were a couple weeks ago but the well-mowed grass in between all the gardens grows quickly and might be enticing.

During the past week, I have received three phone calls asking if it is too early to trim back daylilies. It's been so dry this season that no daylilies look the way we wish they would. Now is the time that the late bloomers typically provide nice color when other flowers bloomed extra early or stopped blooming because of the heat. Yes, the late bloomers are blooming but their foliage shows the stress caused by those multiple 90° days.

Here at the flower farm, we begin trimming back the daylilies now for a couple reasons. We try to get through as many rows as possible to trim back the foliage and spent flower scapes, and pull out the debris at the base of the clumps. This reduces the possible carry-over of fungal issues or insects from this year to the next. We trim to 3"-4" above the ground and after the clean up I try to spray everything with horticultural oil. That oil is the one used by orchardists in the spring to suffocate insects and insect eggs that might be hiding on the bark of the fruit trees such as apples, pears, plums and cherries. It's commonly used and is easy to apply. I use about a third of what is recommended mixed with water with a squirt of dish detergent added to serve as a sticker. That helps the oil hold onto the plant better. As I spray I try to be sure to direct the spray to the spent scapes which once cut are hollow inside and can become hiding places for insects. Hort oil is available at agricultural or hardware type stores, is not toxic and is worth the effort.

Trimming back the foliage makes digging and dividing the daylilies that much easier. They weigh less and you are less likely to get a scape in the eye when you bend over to pick up a clump. The absence of leaves makes it easier to see how the plant has been growing and where to make your divisions based upon how you will use the plant once it is divided. We pot up several fans in gallon and six quart pots for the following year and line the rest out in rows to keep our stock going. Depending upon popularity, Gail plants multiple plants in 3 and also 5 gallon pots for gardeners who want a better deal on a special plant or who want bigger garden impact with a large clump. The big pots also provide a dramatic presentation at the front of our parking area and their visibility from Route 2 draws people in.

So to answer the question "Is it too early to trim back my daylilies now?", it's not too early. If you have some time, get trimming!

Writing from the flower farm where the rain is falling heavily and although I have plenty of outside chores I'm not in the mood to get wet. Stop by!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dividing Daylilies

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

44.5°,  windless, sky full of stars, waning gibbous moon at 69%, quiet. Just back in with Karl the Wonder Dog. It's too early to be awake but I heard something at the back door and have been up ever since. The bears are arriving too often to eat the ripening black berries outside my office window and one of them has a bad habit of coming to the door. My guess is that he has been successful at some other house on his tour. We have taken to locking the storm door at night but this added challenge apparently is irritating the visitor a bit.

Daylilies--we love 'em-- but there comes a time when they need dividing. Here at the flower farm our motivation is to constantly have the right number for sales and that means dividing some both spring and fall. As visitor numbers decrease now compared to when the daylilies are peaking, it gives us time to begin to dig and divide. Some folks are hesitant to do this but if your clumps  are overgrowing your original garden design or if you notice a decrease in the number of scapes per plant or if there are almost no scapes in the middle of your clumps,  then it's time to thinking about dividing them.

The whole digging and dividing thing is real work so consider some stretching first to limber up before the digging, bending and lifting begin. We use shovels or spade forks and often add a 6 foot pry bar to the tool mix. I hear there is a new daylily separator tool on the market that works quite well. Here at the flower farm we have clay soil in many places and I have been reluctant to spend the money to try the tool knowing how difficult the clay is to dig. 

 I like to divide daylilies after a good rain when the soil is looser and the process goes quicker. I dig 8"-10" away from the base of the plant, circling the entire plant before using the shovel or fork to pry the plant out. If it is a large clump, I resort to a pry bar as the opportunity for more leverage makes the task easier.

Once the clump is out of the ground, I use a garden hose and high pressure to wash it clean of dirt. Then I move it to a cutting table. We do hundreds and hundreds of divisions so we consider ergonomics and have purchased a cutting table that has a sink and is at our standing height. Friend Gail T found an old metal wash sink from a farm milk house and aside from a need for a little more leg height and a cutting board on one end, that works great and can handle more daylilies in the sink sections. I stress ergonomics because I have never known a gardener who didn't get older. 

Last week I replaced all my cutting knives as our dig and divide season is starting. I go to Wally World and buy a bunch of their large, serrated meat knives at 88 cents each. Yes, it is a disposable world, but these work well for a season, rust over time, but hold the edge, unlike the regular cutting knives which dull in minutes.

The size of the divisions depends upon what you're looking for. A large clump that measures 30" in diameter can be split in half with one piece returned to its orginal location and the other half moved to a different garden, shared with a friend or divided into pieces. I try to make each division three fans whether it's going back into the garden to grow again or if the divisions are going into pots for sale. If I happen to have a daylily that is in short supply and difficult to find on the market, I might divide down to single fans and line them out in the garden in a trench well amended with compost and fertilizers to bring the production up as quickly as possible. Daylilies are like people--they grow up differently--and until you learn their nature, you don't know how long it will take for your new divisions to reach saleable size if you start with single fans. 

Here is a picture of three large divisions I made from a three year old clump of Alabama Jubilee. Any one of these will probably produce 4-6 scapes next season and in three-four years will be bushel basket size. Give it a try yourself!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where daybreak is still some time away as the days of me being in the garden by 4:30 have passed until next May. Happy gardening!!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook writing as George Africa and on a Like Page Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens. 
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Writing on many social media garden sites too

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!