January - February - March - April - May - June - July - August - September - October - November - December - Odds and Ends


Reviewing the cross selections.

After I have completed the crosses for the upcoming season, I like to go back over what I have selected. I don't usually make many changes but occasionally I'll see a possibility part way through the process that I didn't think of early on. It's these 'after thoughts' that I like to go back and consider. Sometimes I may add another alternative to the list and sometimes I'll remove one from the list because I've had second thoughts about it.

Now's the time to review hybridizing supplies and equipment.

There's nothing worse than having bloom season start and not having everything needed. February is a good time to review as it will give you chance to purchase anything needed at your leisure. Here's a short list of 'must haves' I check to make sure I am prepared:
  • Flags to mark the selected new seedlings (I purchase 30" wire with 5"x4" white flags from A.M. Leonard)
  • Pre-number these flags numerically in sets of 10 (so I don't have to do it when the plants are blooming)
  • Large paper clips (I fold the flags over and clip with the seedling number on the inside to keep the sun from bleaching it out). Number is on outside also.
  • 4-color cross marking wires (I use the same wires every season but they need to be sorted and straightened so they're ready to go)
  • Make sure digital camera is in good working order
  • Fresh Sharpies - when not fresh they are more prone to bleaching out by the sun
  • Computer paper and spare ink cartridges

Make sure garden markers are complete and accurate.

I suppose there are some who can point at any plant in their garden and tell you exactly what it is from memory. For me... not so much. I need help so I put markers in front of every plant. I usually make sure my markers are up to date in February but it can be done at any time during the year.

Being a working garden, the markers I use are nothing elaborate and you probably won't see any like them in an AHS display garden. They are functional however and are very durable. They are made of galvanized metal and last a long time. The tips do eventually rust and over the years quite a few have become shorter than the original 15 inches. They hold an aluminum insert for the daylily name (or seedling number). The only down side is that the corners can be sharp and care must be taken when I weed.

I use a Brother P-Touch label maker for the names. The tape is a little on the expensive side but it lasts almost indefinitely even here in the Houston heat. I don't think I've ever had a label peel off or fade even after many years in the sun and high humidity.

I also keep an up-to-date map of every plant in the garden in case something happens to the marker. Even here in the city I haven't had a problem with markers disappearing. I think the only one that has ever been swiped was SCAPES FROM HELL (Carr 1995). It was near the street and just a little too tempting I guess.

New Marker and insert Marker in use (in a pot)

Spring garden maintenance

Spring usually comes early here along the gulf coast and with it comes a set of tasks that are important for a great bloom season.

Once the ground has warmed enough for the plants to benefit from it, it's time to put down some fertilizer. I like to use a time release fertilizer so the plants will be fertilized moderately over time rather than a bunch all at once. I have used Multicote 8 (18-6-12) and there are others that work equally well. I belive the 8 means it's supposed to release it's nutrients over an 8-month period but it's dependant on the temperatures. Here along the gulf coast I don't believe it lasts more than 5-6 months (my own opinion). This 18-6-12 ratio is good because phosphorus (the middle number) is low and too much phosphorus can build up in the soil which is bad.

When daytime temperatures reach the upper 60's it's time to start spraying for rust. Rust seems to go dormant both when the daytime temperatures stay below the low 60's and when they reach the 90's. The rust doesn't kill daylilies but it makes the foliage ugly and in my opinion can weaken the plant reducing the number and quality of the blooms. For any northern readers, rust is usually not much of a problem in cold weather areas. The rust has no place to overwinter when all the foliage dies back.

Also with warming temperatures come the aphids. I would much prefer to let nature deal with the aphids but by the time ladybugs arrive in significant numbers to control the aphids, they will have sucked the juices of the new leaves for weeks weakening the plants. Therefore, I spray a systemic insecticide as soon as they start making their appearance.

Some years, snails will also start appearing as the temperatures rise. Snail bait does work but I only use it when the snails get out of control as we have cats roaming the neighborhood and I've heard that Metaldehyde, found in snail bait, is poisonous to cats.

Clean out the old seedling bed.

It will soon be time to transplant the new seedlings so the old bed needs to be cleaned out and prepared for the new crop. This can actually be done any time after the selected seedlings have been removed but I'm usually too busy in the fall so I wait until spring.

I'm told that it's optimum to have seedling beds in 3-year cycles - the first year they are growing to blooming size, the second year is their first year to bloom. After removing any selected seedlings the bed is allowed to grow and bloom one more year. This is supposed to produce a few more seedlings that didn't bloom well the first year. After removing those additional selections, the remainder are dug and discarded.

With limited space available, I have had to work on only a 2-year cycle and skip the 3rd year. With good care, most seedlings bloom the first year and I don't believe I've discarded too many good seedlings doing this.

For the first few years I hybridized, discarding the unselected seedlings was a difficult time for me. After all, I had invested a lot of time and effort to raise the seedlings but if I wanted to plant a new crop I had to let the remaining unselected seedlings go. After some years a lady from a nearby neighborhood happend by as I was finishing digging out a bed. When she found out I was going to throw away the plants she excitedly stuffed them in her car and drove away. That made it easier on me because someone was going to actually get some enjoyment out of them.

Over the years I have had co-workers, neighbors, and friends continue to take them so I haven't had to throw anything away. I'm even giving my yard guy some each year. He showed me pictures of them growing around his house. Imagine that - a yard guy who gardens as a hobby! I've even been told that some of my seedlings are growing as far away as Arkansas. That makes me happy!