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Begonias - My Hobby
An Occasional Page by Dave Staines
PREPARATION


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A.  All staging removed ready for the BIG clean.  Note the green algae on the floor and along the eaves.

B.  The vacuum cleaner is for cleaning out the gaps at the base of the side bars.  The Armillatox will clear the algae from the floor, eaves and glass.  The sprayer is for applying the Armillatox. The rubber gloves to keep it off of my hands.  The broom for cleaning the floor. The one thing missing in this photo is my "elbow grease" which was needed in abundance!!

C.  The staging on the patio ready for cleaning.  There are five large pieces and five small, with the smaller ones designed to slot under the larger ones when not in use. When laid out on each side of the greenhouse they create "steps", although this season I intend to change the layout.

D.  The new layout of the staging for the 2008 season.  Four large pieces for the base with one on the top at the front and two small ones on the top at the rear.  The remaining three small pieces on the right. Note the centre staging is offset to the left to allow more space on the right, although it will be possible to run a row of pots along the left hand side if required.  These would be raised only slightly off the floor and extra care will be needed when moving along the aisle.  There are a few "plusses" I've noticed already and they are, it will be easier to keep the floor under the benches cleaner and I can reach the vents without having to stretch across the plants.
E.  The three different types of mineral soil I will be adding in various amounts to my peat based compost. Left to Right, Black Fen Topsoil, John Chiswell's soil and Wisbech St. Mary soil.

F.  Black Fen Topsoil.  I'm led to believe this soil was formed from trees that were under sea water for a few hundred years or more and only became available for farming after the Fens were drained.  The larger pieces are clay with the smaller particles being "woody" and easily broken down when rubbed between the hands.  Absorbs water well but dries out quickly on the surface.  The farmer who sells it informed me the ph. is 6.5 but I feel this would have been created by him to enable him to grow better crops.  I shall be keeping a close eye on the ph. of all of my growing media as the year progresses.

G.  Mendip Hill's soil.  This is the soil John Chiswell uses and he has kindly supplied me with an amount to allow me to try it for myself.  John knows the site the soil comes from although he actually buys unsold grass turf that was grown on the site from a local nurseryman.  To my eye the "soil" is a golden sand bound together by the roots of the grass.  This creates a very friable growing medium and I'm looking forward to growing a few plants in it.  John tells me the ph. is very close to 7.

H. Wisbech St. Mary Clay.  This soil came as another gift, this time from Tony Richardson, a Wisbech St. Mary grower.  I collected it as huge great clods and I had to cut it up and put it through a sieve to get it to this stage.  Tony's seedlings looked a picture growing in it last year so I've scrounged some to try a few of my plants in it this season.  You know this is clay as the cut surfaces "shine" because its so smooth.  Tony tells me the ph. is just above 7 which I confirmed with the use of my ph. meter.

I.  This is the peat I've used to make my own compost these last three years.  Kekkila Medium Grade Sphagnum Moss Peat.  I add various chemical fertilizers to a given formula and use a regular feeding programme to try and grow better plants.  I use the bushel measure for mixing as I mix by hand and any larger amount is difficult to turn effectively which may result in "strong" and "weak" spots throughout the compost.  I intend to create different mixes by adding separately the three soils mentioned in different amounts to my own peat mix to see if I can improve on my growing.  I will also add various "solids" such as Horticultural Sand, Perlite or Vermiculite to assist with drainage where I feel it is appropriate to do so.

Please note that the bulk of my plants will be grown in my usual compost with a few trial pots being grown in the various "new" types. I would strongly advise that anyone wanting to change their regular compost should try a few in their chosen "new" compost and evaluate it's benefits before changing over completely.

 BEGONIAS MY HOBBY  by  DAVE STAINES
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