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Growing Things: How to plant tiger lilies, protect Swedish aspens, prevent woody carrots

Protect tiger lilies by ensuring that the roots are never allowed to dry out.
Protect tiger lilies by ensuring that the roots are never allowed to dry out.

Q: My brother has tiger lily seeds he wants to plant. When, where, and how deep would you suggest is the best way to grow them?

A: True tiger lilies are actually sterile and do not produce seeds. I am assuming you are referring to the blackish round ‘seeds’ that develop in the axils of the leaves along the main stem. These are actually bulbils. By definition, according to Encyclopedia Britannica: “bulbil, also spelled bulbel, also called bulblet, in botany, tiny secondary bulb that forms in the angle between a leaf and stem or in place of flowers on certain plants.” So ends today’s botany lesson.

You can plant the bulbils indoors during the winter months. You also can plant the bulbils outdoors once all danger of frost has passed. I would recommend planting them one to two centimetres deep in pots that have a well-drained soil mixture in them. A good mix to use would be equal parts of sand and peat. Once planted, ensure that the roots are never allowed to dry out. Moist but not wet conditions are best. Once established they can be transferred to a garden bed. It will take them two to three years to bloom.

Q: We have seven full grown Swedish aspen trees. Last summer there was an aphid and ant infestation, followed by wasps attracted to the sap. Is there some action we can take in the spring to avoid this problem?

A: Your question perfectly describes a food chain relationship in nature. The aphids feed on the leaves of the plant. They then produce honeydew. The ants ‘farm’ the aphids for their honeydew by protecting them from predators. The wasps are attracted to the leftovers of the honeydew. If you control the aphids you control the food chain.

Having said this, full-grown Swedish aspens that are anywhere near their maximum height of 30 feet become impossible to spray for aphids. I’m afraid there is no easy answer and I would be hesitant to recommend spraying, even if the trees were smaller in size, because any insecticide would impact other insects and bees. You can use wasp traps to help control the wasps.

Q: Last year my carrots had a very strong taste and they almost had a woody texture to them. Is this a result of something I did or should have done? Do you have any tips to keep this from happening again?

A: I have experienced what you are describing with my own carrots. I had always wondered why some carrots developed that strong taste you speak of but never really knew why. On the Alberta Agriculture and Food website one possible answer may lie in the explanation that during prolonged hot weather carrots can develop that strong taste and a coarseness in the roots. I have noticed that my carrots did taste worse when we had a hot summer, so this may be part of the reason.

The other possibility, according to the University of Minnesota, is that carrots can develop the taste as well as become pithy if they are allowed to remain in the ground for too long. There is a rather fine line that carrot gardeners walk here. Leaving the carrots in the ground longer increases their sweetness but leaving them in too long can affect their taste and texture.

Q: I noticed last year that some of my apple trees had leaves that curl inward. The problem has been going on for the last three or four years. Also, there are very few apples on the trees. Could you help identify the problem and give me the solution?

A: There are several possibilities as to why the curl might be happening. It could be an insect problem. Check under the leaves this spring for any sign of insect infestation. Aphids, among other insects, can cause the problem you are describing. Fireblight is another possible and more serious cause. This bacterial infection can begin with the leaves and end up affecting every part of the tree. Telltale signs to look for include wilting stems, cankers on the bark, wilting and curling leaves and dying blossoms. The other possibility is a fungal infection, but without seeing the trees it is hard to be precise. Good luck and happy gardening!

Gerald Filipski is a member of the Garden Writers of America. He is the author of Just Ask Jerry. E-mail your questions to filipskigerald@gmail.com . To read previous columns, go to edmontonjournal.com/author/geraldfilipski

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