Grow Guide: Practical Advice for Daylilies and Tomatoes

Will daylilies take over your garden and should you prune tomatoes?
Hemerocallis Buzz Bomb, a Broad Petaled Daylily

Hemerocallis Buzz Bomb, a Broad Petaled Daylily

Photo by: DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - The Complete Gardener's Guide , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

The common tawny daylily is celebrated by horticulturalists worldwide.

QUESTION:
One of my neighbors told me that the old orange daylily I got from my grandmother is going to take over all my other plants. How can I keep this from happening?
    
ANSWER:
Ah, the old “tawny” daylily - one of my all time favorite passalong plants! Though it is often looked down upon by collectors of modern hybrid daylilies (who call it “that old common, vulgar, ditch-bank lily”), it is by far the most widely-grown daylily on the planet. 

I have photographed it in botanic gardens on five continents, including the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in England, and around the entry sign of the Virginia headquarters of the American Horticulture Society. 

But to answer your question, it probably won’t “take over” anything. It doesn’t set seed, so it can’t spread that way, but it will readily shoot out underground runners, though it rarely gets so rampant that the out-of-bounds excess can’t be easily pulled up and transplanted.

Try to share the excess with new gardeners who need a strong-growing, confidence-building “starter plant."

By the way, its flower buds and open flowers alike are both edible and nutritious; any way you can eat broccoli - raw, steamed, souped, stir-fried, whatever - you can eat daylily flowers and buds.

So if they start to spread too much, and you can’t find enough folks to share them with, keep this in mind: If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!

Sweet Olive Tomatoes

Sweet Olive Tomatoes

Photo by: DK - Gardening Step by Step © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Gardening Step by Step , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

'Sweet Olive' tomatoes are an outdoor, semi-determinate variety. It produces clusters of bright red, crunchy and sweet baby plum tomatoes. Though they require staking, you won't have to prune these tomatoes much and they won't split on you.

QUESTION:
Please help me settle my mind about something! I don’t want to argue with my dad, but he keeps telling me that I need to prune my tomato plants, to make them have bigger tomatoes. Is it really necessary?

ANSWER:
Wow. I don’t want to get between family members, so let’s just stick with the facts!

Pruning tomato plants is simply the thinning out of a few stems, so what is left will get more water and nutrients. It can also improve air circulation for better fruit development, and more sunlight. Pruning too much can weaken the plant and cause “sunscald” on exposed tomatoes.

While the fairly short-lived but heavy-producing “determinate” or bush type tomato plants grow perfectly well without the need for thinning stems, longer-season “indeterminate” vine type varieties, which can quickly grow more stems than the roots can support, are better candidates for pruning, which makes them easier to tie to stakes.

Still, according to numerous side-by-side comparisons of same varieties, in the long run, it all averages out. Unpruned tomato plants usually have more, smaller fruits while pruned plants produce fewer fruits that are larger. 

But in both cases, the overall weight of the total produce is usually similar.

There are different ways to prune tomato plants, but all I do is, early on in the season, simply snip or pinch out small “sucker” stems that sprout right above leaves. I do this once or twice, leaving three or four main stems early in the season, then I let the plants go the rest of the season. Works fine for me.

So it’s a moot “six or two threes” discussion; try the experiment yourself, and see what you like the best. 

And by all means don’t rub Dad’s nose in it, but do have him over for a plate of fresh tomatoes sprinkled with chopped basil and drizzled with a little olive oil. 

Use it as a great opportunity to talk about different approaches to life with a loving older gardener.

Gardening expert and certified wit Felder Rushing answers your questions and lays down some green-wisdom. You can get more of your Felder fix at http://www.felderrushing.net/.

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