Earth Day means more now than ever; daffodil failure

The land we live on is beautiful — and vulnerable. By putting it first, some people operate as if every day was Earth Day. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

“All things are interconnected

Everything goes somewhere

There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Nature bats last”

– Barry Commoner, Laws of Ecology (paraphrased)

Since Earth Day falls on Sunday, I feel entitled to a “sermon.” Our earth is the only planet we have, and it is a very nice one. Until we remember that every day is Earth Day, that our earth is the source of the true, real economy, of all our wealth, and of our entire well being, we make do with the ritual observance. Robbing earth, exploiting it, destroying its ability to provide for us, is tragic.

However, as most of us are too busy being busy to respect our planet, I shall leave such annoying details and turn towards what is also real, in our backyards and gardens.

Glyphosate weed-killers, such as Round-up, have come in for some bad press lately. A retired Purdue University plant pathologist with impressive Industrial Ag credentials has weighed in with his extreme reservations about the continued use of this widely used chemical.

About one year ago, Dr. Don Huber wrote in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, “A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings.”

The pathogen is linked to Round-up Ready corn and soy, but has implications for all applications of glyphosate weed-killers. Nothing seemed to happen, and there was corresponding media black-out on the topic of these assertions. Huber took to the airwaves, and videos of him, airing his concerns, are available on YouTube and elsewhere.

Whether for Earth Day or simply to do yourself a favor, eliminate glyphosate from your business, property, or garden.

Daffodil failure: what gives?

There are a number of reasons daffodils may not bloom. From the experts at the American Daffodil Society’s web site (

“Bulbs may have been growing in the same spot for many years and need dividing. (Daffodil bulbs normally divide every year or two. This can result in clumps of bulbs that are competing for food and space. Commonly bulbs in compacted clumps cease blooming. Dig the bulbs when the foliage has yellowed. Separate them into individual bulbs and replant them about 6″ apart and about 6” deep. You may replant immediately after lifting, or you may dry the bulbs in the shade, store them in mesh bags, and replant the bulbs in the Fall. If you replant immediately – do not water them until the Fall.)

“Bulbs have not been ‘fed’ in a couple of years (a broadcast of 5-10-10 granules at planting, when leaves emerge, and again at bloom is a reasonable feeding schedule).

“Feeding has been with a high-nitrogen fertilizer. (This encourages production of leaves, but seems to quell the plant’s need for flowers.)

“Bulbs are planted in a shady area. (Daffodils need a half-day of sun at least to produce flowers. If planted in partial sun, longer.)

“Bulbs are in competition for food with other plants. (Planting under evergreen trees or with other fast-growing plants limits the food they can get. Result: weak plants and no flowers.)

“Bulbs are planted in an area with poor drainage. (Daffodils love water but must have good drainage. They do not do well where the water puddles. There, they are weakened by “basal rot” fungus or other evils and die out. Plants infected with basal rot have green color loss on the leaves, malformed leaves, stems, and flowers – or all. Basal rot is incurable – dig and discard the bulbs.)

“Plant leaves were cut too soon or tied off the previous year. (Daffodils replenish their bulb for about six weeks after they bloom. The bulbs should be watered for about this long after blooming. The leaves should not be cut off or blocked from sun until they start to lose their green and turn yellow. This signifies the completion of the bulb rebuilding process.)

“Bulbs may be stressed from transplanting. (Some varieties seem to skip a year of blooming if dug and replanted in a different environment. Some varieties bought from a grower in one climate may have a difficult period of adjustment to a vastly different climate. They may bloom the first year off the previous year’s bulb, but then be unable to adequately build a flower for the following year.)

…. “The bulbs may be virused. (Many plant viruses attack daffodils. Over time, an infected plant loses its vigor, puts up smaller, weakened leaves and stems, stops blooming, and finally dies. The most common viruses are “yellow stripe” and “mosaic.” Yellow stripe shows as fine streaks of yellow the length of the leaves. It appears as the leaves emerge. The plant is weakened by the second year. Mosaic only appears as white blotches on the yellow flowers where the petals lose their color. Plant vigor seems unaffected. Both these diseases are contagious to other daffodils and incurable. Dig and throw away the bulbs.)

“Growing conditions the previous Spring may have been inhospitable – the reformation of the bulb was affected. (An early heat wave may have shut down bulb rebuilding before it was complete. The bulbs may have be grown in a smallish pot without adequate feeding or protection from heat and cold.)

“Bulbs may be diseased or stressed from shipping the Summer before (retail bulbs typically remain in closed crates for a lengthy period of time during shipping. These humid conditions are near-perfect for the proliferation of fungus diseases such as “basal rot” (fusarium). Some bulbs are infected at the time you receive them. Never buy or plant a “soft” bulb. Cut any observed rotting spots on a solid bulb back to clean tissue and soak the bulb in a systemic fungicide such as Clearys 3336 before planting. Look at the ADS bulb sources for reputable retailers.)”

Polly Hill Arboretum: Spring Walk, Saturday, April 21, 10 am. No admission fee.