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Starting Daylily Seeds

Hybridizing is fun….

Sometimes too fun. 

Since beginning this fun, but sometimes time consuming activity, I have come up with a lot of new daylilies, some that will hopefully be introduced before too long.

Besides those few select beauties a hybridizer also finds themself with a few problems; too many seeds and too many plants. A person can only take care of so many. 

Some hybridizers simply throw them away and others, like me, can’t bear to ditch (literally) their babies. For this reason I have begun to sell them. Since doing this I am often asked; “What’s the best way to start a daylily seed?” In this post I hope to answer that question.

That said; there are many different ways to do things and some will recommend different methods. This is what works for me.

I will cover how to make the seeds in another post, and then there will probably have to be a post about the biggest job in hybridizing. How to keep track of what is what. Today I’m just talking about what to do with the seed.

So, you have your beautiful pods that ripen in fall. Let them dry almost all the way on the plant. The pod will turn brown but in some cases will still be slightly green when it starts to crack open. When it starts to open a little and you can begin to see the seeds, that is when you want to collect them.

Next you want to dry your seeds for storage. Don’t put them in a plastic bag as soon as you collect them. They will rot. I store them in envelopes (labeled of course) and I leave the tops open so that they can dry.

It doesn’t really matter that much when you start them. I generally do it when I have time, which is in the winter. When you start out your seeds will look like little shriveled raisins.

Choose what ever type of containers you like, but you want something where you can keep each variety separate. If you are getting one of my mixed color seed packs you can mix them all together. I use jelly jars just because the glass is easier to

keep clean. You want separate containers. I tried using a muffin tin once and they were hard to rinse.

You want to soak them in water until you see a little sprout coming out the end. After soaking for a little while you will see that the seeds begin to plump up and start to get pointy on one end. 

I put a little squirt of hydrogen peroxide in each jar. I read about this in a magazine back in the 70s and have used this technique ever since. It is supposed to increase the oxygen in the water and prevent mold.

If the water becomes cloudy change it and rinse the seeds. I use a little kitchen strainer for this. Put in a little more peroxide when you refill it.

Not all seeds will sprout. You did nothing wrong.

If a seed becomes moldy feel it. Sometimes you can just wipe the mold off with your fingers, if it is firm it is still good. Give it a gentle squeeze. If it pops it is done for.

Be patient…..

Some seeds will sprout after a couple weeks and some will still sprout after months. It’s hard to stay interested in them for that long but if you do you will be rewarded with a higher percentage of germination. Your little sprouted seeds will look like this.

At this point you can take them out of the the soil and plant them. I usually plant “siblings” (seeds from the same pod) in the same 4 inch pot (labeled of course). Not all of the little plants will emerge. You didn’t do anything wrong. I use toothpicks so that I know how many seeds I put in each pot.

Some seedlings will do better than others. It’s natural selection. You should note that I hybridize both miniature/dwarf daylilies that are diploids as well as great big tetraploids. For this reason some plants will be way bigger than others. The little ones are good too. They will probably turn into a miniature daylily. You will see that some seeds are bigger than others for this reason, too.

Take care of your seedlings in the pots for a while. If they get too big you can separate them into their own pots (labeling of course). 

When you plant them in the ground depends on what kind of a gardener you are. If your garden is fairly weed free (especially grass, because they look like grass) and if you are good at remembering things then go ahead and plant them that first year. They are perfectly hardy. If you tend to have weeds and grass in your garden and have too many things to take care of, then consider wintering them over in the pots that first year. You will of course have to water them regularly for that year.

Not all seedlings will survive living in the pots. Again, you didn’t do anything wrong. The strongest, best seedlings will survive and will also do better in your garden than if you planted all the weak ones. This one was planted in my garden last year. As you can see, even nice plants can try to move in on your seedlings.

Good luck! I hope you enjoy the process as well as the beautiful one of a kind plants that you will grow.

Tomato seedling

Salsa Gardening – Getting it in the Garden

This is Part 3 of a series.

In Salsa Gardening – Before the Thaw we talked about tomato and pepper varieties and getting your seedlings started indoors.

In Salsa Gardening – Grow Your Own Fresh Ingredients we talked about other salsa ingredients and how to grow them.

Hurray, we’re full into spring and it’s time to plant your salsa garden outside! If you followed this series and started with seedlings indoors…I hope you’ve got a great crop started! If your first attempt at starting indoors was less than successful, that’s okay, stop by your local garden center and embellish your seedlings with purchased starter plants!

Then you may have read about “growing your own fresh ingredients” so you can pick up seeds and herbs while you are at the garden center if you have not already grown them.

Getting your Salsa plants planted:

  • Choose an area with at least 6 hours of full sun and a nearby water source.
  • Loosen your soil and add compost in early spring, working it in, and top dress with compost again after planting. If you want to use fertilizers, it’s best to have your soil tested first to see what it needs. Testing your soil is never a bad idea but you can’t go wrong by adding compost.
  • When planting your tomatoes, plant them deep again like you did when you moved them to the bigger pots, or lay them down in a trench to plant so that only the top sticks up (this illustration is from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension). Also, tomatoes are subject to disease. To prevent this, choose a different place from where you had them last year.
  • Wait to plant tomatoes out until danger of frost has passed in your area. (This map is from the Wisconsin State Climatology Office) There is lots of advice out there on how to get your plants out sooner and protect them, but really if you just wait a bit, the ones that you planted later will easily catch up to the ones planted earlier. Especially for the peppers and basil; just wait until it is good and warm out.
  • Give your plants space: 3-5 feet between tomatoes and 2 feet between peppers.
  • Use mulch around your plants to ward off weeds and disease by preventing soil from splashing up on the plants. Black plastic will warm the soil, but straw or other organic mulches work well, too and eventually add more organic matter and nutrients to your soil.
  • Provide support. Keeping the plants off the ground also prevents disease and makes them easier to work with while preventing the fruits from laying on the ground and getting bad spots.
  • As they grow pinch off suckers (new branches that grow in between the main stem and the leaves). This illustration is from dummies.com How to Grow Tomatoes. Be ruthless!! Some of the suckers will be small as shown in the first picture and some (especially those growing near the bottom of the plant) will be quite large as shown in the second picture. Preventing all of that green growth will force your plants to produce more fruit.
  • Weed, water and harvest weekly. This task will remind you why you were supposed to start small! Consider using a soaker hose as it conserves water and prevents disease by decreasing the amount of soil that splashes up on the plants. If you use a sprinkler, do it in the morning so plants have a chance to dry before the cool evenings.  Consider using a raised bed. This will help the soil warm up faster in spring, prevent the soil from becoming compacted and can be easier to keep weeded.

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