Useful tips on daylilies, fern seeds, and the best soil for roses

Q We have a nice planting of daylilies which come up lush and green every spring, but when it comes time for them to bloom, the leaves turn brown and no blooms come out. Should I replant them?

Daylilies (hemerocallis) are extremely tolerant of neglect, growing in sun or semishade. But if the soil is heavy or the weather hot and dry, browning would likely occur.

To offset the heavy soil problem, work composted leaves into the soil after lifting the clumps and then replant them. If it is the hot, dry weather that is doing the damage, be sure to water regularly up through the bloom period - and even afterward, if possible.

Next spring, feed lightly with a 12-12-12 fertilizer - a large handful around each plant. Transplanting should be done in the spring or fall before heavy frost.

Q Is it possible to grow ferns from seeds? If so I would like to order asparagus fern, Boston fern, and maiden-hair fern. Where could I obtain these seeds?

The Park Seed Company, Greenwood, S.C. 29646, has all of these and many more houseplant seeds.

True ferns, such as bird's nest fern, Boston fern, and maiden-hair fern, have spores which you will dust on the surface of milled sphagnum moss. Then they should be watered with sterile water and covered with a pane of glass or clear plastic.

A temperature of 65 degrees F. should be maintained. Germination is quite slow, so don't be discouraged. Asparagus ferns (not true ferns) have seeds that may take five to six weeks to germinate.

Ask for instructions when you order your seeds and spores.

Q We have no success growing roses. Our soil is not too well drained and there is a layer of hard clay about 15 inches below the surface. Should we dig into the clay and replace it with some black earth which we have brought in?

The secret is to have the soil well drained for roses to survive. If you really want a rose bed, you will have to resort to drainage tile to take away the water that collects because of the clay. Then you should add about a foot of good loose soil, with some humus added, over the topsoil to make a raised bed. This will give added room for the roots.

The black soil may be fine if it is loose (friable). It would be good to have the state cooperative extension folks test the soil to see if it lacks nutrients. Black doesn't necessarily mean that the soil is rich.

Roses do best in a slightly acid soil, so you might have the pH tested as well. In addition, you could ask for directions for laying tile.

Q Sometime ago you suggested a hot pepper spray for repelling animals. I wrote to the manufacturer and, as you can see from the information I received, it is unsuitable for home gardeners. My problem is that something keeps digging up my bulbs. What would you suggest to repel the visitor?

As we mentioned several weeks ago, at the time we wrote about the particular hot-pepper spray, we were unaware that the hot-pepper solution, which we had tried and found to be a tremendous asset in repelling animals without harming them, was not available to home gardeners.

Both the manufacturer of the other spray, as well as we ourselves, recommend Tabasco sauce as a repellent. It should not be sprayed on a windy day, as the mist can be irritating if breathed in. Just the scent of the Tabasco keeps most animals at a distance.

Mix one tablespoon of Tabasco to a gallon of water. If that doesn't work, double the strength. You also could dip the bulbs before planting and spray over the area where they are planted.

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