Lilies forum: Managing lily bulbs in Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)

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Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 20, 2016 9:42 AM CST
I got all my large bulbs planted about a week ago but still had a bucket of smaller to tiny bulbs. Ground is too frozen to even think of trying to plant. Even if I were inclined to break the surface few inches to unfrozen ground, I doubt they would survive. Probably rot?? So I took the entire bucket, threw dirt over the top and placed it in the basement. Unfortunately the basement (crawl space actually) maintains a 50F temp most of the winter. I will put the bucket by the foundation to hopefully achieve a few degrees cooler. Dahlia bags just get laid out in single layer all over.

I was able to save a lot of crocus and daffy bulbs with the bucket thing a few years ago. Thought it might work for the lily bulbs. Thoughts?

PS. Although I do have a L. speciosum uchida. I grew it in a pot this summer and it bloomed. I was afraid to put it in the ground as haven't had much luck with getting them through the winter, so I just put it pot and all in the crawl space. Probably should sprinkle a little water on it once a month do you think?
[Last edited by pardalinum - Oct 20, 2016 1:33 PM (+)]
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Minnesota and Alaska (Zone 3a)
freezengirl
Oct 21, 2016 10:36 AM CST
I have been thinking about your situation with the bulbs and am concerned that it might actually be to warm for them through the long winter. One of the things that I tried in a similar situation in Homer (coastal conditions) with some out of season and very poor condition bulbs I bought (50 cents for a whole bag) was to set them in a cardboard box with about 6inches of peat/soil mix I had on hand at the bottom, then covered them deeply to the top of the box with the remaining soil. I just set it outside my door directly on the ground and kept it covered deeply with snow through the winter. In the spring I pulled the cardboard sides down leaving the rest of the soil intact just adding more around to cover the cardboard. I was quite happy to actually have the whole works survive quite well. The landlord even used pictures of that garden area I had jury rigged to advertise that apartment when we left.
My thoughts are that in your Anchorage climate it might not be cold enough for the bulbs to keep them dormant through the winter under the house though I am sure it would work for a while. Perhaps you have an unheated garage or an outbuilding somewhere you could move them to if you needed to at some point during the winter, or in some out of the way spot in the gardens, under wraps.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 21, 2016 11:32 AM CST
I really agree. I was just being 'field expedient' since I was feeling overwhelmed. Snowed today. I will get the bucket back up. I still have several pots in the garage with soil in them that needs to be dumped so I have soil to put them in. And have several cardboard boxes also. I have a shed but I think I rather like the idea of putting the box in a garbage bag, tie the top and place near the footing but far enough out so they get covered in snow. Our weather isn't so onerous that I have to fear -20 and lower. Not like Fairbanks.

Thanks. I just needed the incentive to get my butt in gear and get it done.

Homer has great growing weather. From time to time we talk about moving out on the Kenai but we are so spoiled with our proximity to stuff we like (like my daughter Hilarious! ) that we never have. Thank You!
[Last edited by Oberon46 - Oct 21, 2016 4:50 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
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Leftwood
Oct 21, 2016 3:00 PM CST
I think that's a good plan, Mary Stella. The soil you use will act as an insulator and temperature moderator. Barely moist would be optimal, and if the bulbs get slightly dehydrated, that will increase their resistance to freezing . As long as the box doesn't receive direct sun, in a plastic bag would be fine. Unless you actually know for sure what the temperature is like in an unheated shed throughout the winter, don't use it. Sometimes sheds can get amazingly warm with the sun beating down on them in the early spring.

If you keep the Uchida bulb in your ca. 50°F crawlspace, do not water the soil until you are ready for it to begin growing. This will help delay premature sprouting.

Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 21, 2016 4:53 PM CST
Yes, I was concerned about the temp in the shed. It is wood with tarpaper rolled roofing and it could get warm with our crazy weather. I was going to put the box and bag on the north side of the house snugged down between a Redtwig Dogwood and the deck.

Thanks for the information about the uchida pot. No watering til it is ready to come out. Even if it starts to grow which unfortunately happens in our too warm crawl space. I will ask D to leave the vents open in the footings which should let it be a little cooler down there.
Name: Lorn (Roosterlorn)
S.E Wisconsin (Zone 5b)
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Roosterlorn
Oct 21, 2016 7:11 PM CST
I like the recommendations that are coming out of this discussion. In the case of Uchida in the pot, even when the soil is bone dry, that bone dry soil does an excellent job of preventing dehydration. Especially at temperatures of 50'F where metabolism is very, very low. As far as breaking dormancy or starting to grow a little early, that point or date is in large part a function of the bulbs internal time clock that by now is set to your area and your culture techniques. So whatever date it started to grow last spring, it will be nearly the same next spring.

Now, one thing that I do when I store established bulbs in a cool room is to give each pot about 8 ounces of cold water per gallon size somewhere around mid term like mid January. This gives the bulb a brief hydration refreshment and the remainder of moisture is usually evaporated within a couple days. But I'm not making this recommendation to you and your Uchida, Mary, unless Rick concurs because he knows a whole lot more about Uchida and species needs than I do.

Your fortunate to have Uchida growing successfully. In my opinion, it's one of the prettiest lilies on earth. I was fortunate to get two as part of a 'get well' package a year ago and mine are growing well here. So, take good care of that one. Smiling
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
Seed Starter Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Leftwood
Oct 21, 2016 9:13 PM CST
Roosterlorn said:Now, one thing that I do when I store established bulbs in a cool room is to give each pot about 8 ounces of cold water per gallon size somewhere around mid term like mid January......... But I'm not making this recommendation to you and your Uchida, Mary, unless Rick concurs because he knows a whole lot more about Uchida and species needs than I do.


I hadn't thought about the bulb's internal clock reprogramming. If the Uchida has already had a full year or more to reprogram in your climate, Mary Stella, than watering once as Lorn suggests would be fine.

If not, then I think the bulb is apt to sprout at 50°F prematurely for Alaska's very long winters. So I think no water is best to hopefully prevent this*. If the bulb starts to grow and poke above the soil too early, then you will need to start watering it and bring it to the brightest window you have. If it were me, I'd rather have a somewhat dehydrated, unsprouted bulb in the spring, than one I would need to have to grow inside. But that's up to you. Sometimes growing something green like that when it is still winter out is fun. If you are up for that, then I would take the chance and water as Lorn says. If the bulb stays dormant, that would be optimal, and if it starts growing, you'll have greenery in the winter. Smiling

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
*Being single, I have the luxury of lots of room in my fridge. All summer, I have empty boxes that take up the extra space! But in the winter, I stratify seeds and overwinter certain questionably winter hardy plants in my refrigerator. When I do this with plants, and I think the pots have become bone dry in the fridge, I will seal them up in a ziplock freezer bag for the rest of the duration, rather than guessing how much water I should add. I even do this with cactus.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 22, 2016 10:35 AM CST
Thanks to Rick and Lorn both. This is all wonderful information. So much doesn't seem to apply to us up here, but most of the common sense stuff still applies. I find it interesting that plants will acclimate to a particular part of the country. Say a lily from down south moving to Alaska and living outdoors. I am forever worried when I get new bulbs, especially the huge ones like orienpets, about depth. I am concerned that if I plant too deep they will simply rot as many have. But I truly believe that most of those problems stem from the drive to water too soon in the spring. While the snow may be gone and the ground looks dried out, it is still very much frozen not that far down. So watering daily in the hopes of seeing growth only rots things when they are not ready to wake up and grow; not ready to make use of the moisture. I have revamped two beds out in the front where they eventually get sun almost 24/7. I have a terribly tall duplex to the south of me, within 20', and it blocks the low sun in the spring until 2-3 in the afternoon. Just hate that. But once we get a more reasonable spread, where the sun peaks around noon, not 10 am, they will have all the sun they need. So my pledge to self is to not water until I see growth. Do you think that would be too late?

Again, thank you so much for all your observations and advice. I was really flying the the blind and not too successfully. And I really want my uchida to live and thrive. Not sure I will ever plant it outdoors. Just don't know if it can handle our long winters.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
Seed Starter Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Leftwood
Oct 22, 2016 2:41 PM CST
I would never water in the early spring before lilies sprout. The lilies in the ground will sprout when they are ready, and watering won't encourage earlier growth. Exactly as you surmise, watering before active growth, when the lilies don't need it, is great way to rot bulbs.

Remembering a little more about how dark your winters are compared to most the rest of us, if your Uchida sprouts prematurely, I don't think even your sunniest window will be enough light in late winter, because your daylight hours are so little, and light intensity much less. You would probably need to supplement with artificial light.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 22, 2016 6:50 PM CST
Should it decide to sprout early, I have a good spot in a corner where I sometimes put a grow light on each wall focused on the plant below. I can have the lights as close to the plant (or far away) as needed so I will bear that in mind. Actually even my poor house plants suffer the lack of light so I have grow lights hanging from various walls, even for those sitting in windows. So you are right, our sun in winter is a pretty poor source of energy for plant growth.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 24, 2016 7:49 PM CST
Well, I got it done. Got a cardboard box and put some soil in the bottom layered sparsely lily bulbs, then more soil, then more bulbs until the box was full. I was able to put the box in a 13 gallon garbage bag just to assure that it didn't fall apart in the snow over winter, then out the garage door and by the back garage wall. It was 17F this morning (62F in the house because the battery in our computerized thermostat crapped out and wasn't sending the furnace instructions --brrrrr) and went up to about 34F with clear blue skies. But it will drop again tonight. Do you think it will be okay. I worry (although considering I was close to pitching them before I just stuck them in the crawlspace Glare ) that they will simply turn into ice cubes and croak. I could maybe throw a blanket or quilt over them??
[Last edited by Oberon46 - Oct 24, 2016 7:52 PM (+)]
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William
Oct 25, 2016 3:04 AM CST
Very important that any temperature change for bulbs (or any plant that should be stored over winter) goes slowly. This is the way we store frozen plants over winter at the tree nursery that I work. The earlier the plants are lifted, the longer the temperature change needs to take.

Some insulation over that box seems very wise to me if there is risk that the bulbs will freeze too quickly. Eventually I imagine you will need to add a lot of insulation.

Otherwise a nice place to overwinter somewhat tender plant material at home can be to use an open leaf compost. Easy to dig in even if the ground has been frozen for some time. It's moist, but there is always plenty of air and as it's above ground there can never be standing water. I often dig pots directly into the compost for overwintering if I run out of room in the greenhouse.

Obviously any bulbs outdoors in such a protected environment needs to be protected from rodents and the colder the climate, the larger the composts needs to be. Or one could dig under the compost and store the bulbs there, but then they may need some protection from too much moisture, depending on local conditions. On the other hand a compost with too much greenery added could actually be too warm. Still for anyone with a leaf compost it can be well worth trying. A leaf compost plus a thick layer of snow would provide some serious insulation!

This method is quite similar to where you dig a hole in a well drained spot and wraps vegetables and potatoes in an insulating layer of straw or similar, covering it up with a layer of soil, adding more insulation as it gets colder, but it's much easier to implement. Not as fancy as an earth cellar and not as easy to access during the winter, but this isn't a problem for bulbs.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 25, 2016 9:12 AM CST
Thanks William. I think I will wrap the box in a quilt, then cover with poly so the quilt doesn't become a sodden ice cube come spring (or even over winter where our temps seem to fluctuate a lot. They are on the north north east side of the house and the sun has already moved around to come up more southerly and less easterly but even then the sun is so weak and the temps so low (again in the 12F 11C) that it shouldn't pose a problem.

I don't have a compost pile. All garden detritus is ground up and put back on the beds for mulch to break down over winter. But you did remind me that I do have a mouse population that might view the box, even though filled with soil, a nice winter home with lots of vegies (lily bulbs) to feed on. Crying
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Hybridizer
Seed Starter Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
Leftwood
Oct 25, 2016 3:35 PM CST
Oberon46 said:I think I will wrap the box in a quilt, then cover with poly


That's basically what I do with all my potted material that stays outside. But don't *wrap* the box with the quilt. Cover it. You want the box in contact with the ground to help keep the box temp stable by using the moderating temperature of the ground.
Name: Mary Stella
Anchorage, AK (Zone 4b)
Peonies Ponds Dahlias Canning and food preservation Lilies Permaculture
Garden Ideas: Level 2
Oberon46
Oct 26, 2016 8:10 AM CST
oh. ok. I will go partially unwrap. Again, thanks.

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