One word can describe March COLD, the weather has not been ideal for
growing and this year has seen a slow start. We were lucky to escape the
worst of the snow but for a four day period the warmest it got was -6c
in the middle of the day and although no plants were frosted a yellowing
of the leaves has shown that they were not happy. Despite this I now
have around half the plants potted up. With the weather again turning
cold towards the end of the month a rethink on the heating had to be
made. Newly potted begonias and cold wet compost are a recipe for rot.
I have again used Clover potting compost having been unable to mix my
own due to the fact the soil I use was frozen solid.
Unfortunately, the oil heating system needed repair and all the
propagators were full up, so another heated bench was the order of the
day. Hopefully this will not only solve the immediate problem but also
increase the heated area I use for the cuttings later in the season.
There is not a lot to do once plants are in their pots other than be
patient and wait for them to grow, but this does give you some time for
preparation and a bit of forward planning saves time for me in April
when things start to get a bit more hectic. The ingredients for final
potting can be purchased and preparations made for when I can move the
plants onto the open bench.
I prefer to mix my own compost for the later potting and this consists
of the standard John Innes No. 2 mix with the addition of 6oz of
nutrimate per bushel (8 gallons). The nutrimate helps the plants take
up the fertiliser in the compost and reduces the need to feed the
plants. The soil is dug out the garden and broken down using a mantis
tiller, gone are the days of riddling it. The peat used is a coarse
grade sphagnum moss and this helps to provide an open compost that
begonias thrive in.
A few of the larger tubers are now
showing signs of producing shoots facing the correct way and it will
soon be time to remove the remainder for use as cutting material, these
early cuttings if treated correctly can also be flowered later in the
year if some of the varieties are in short supply. They will also
produce much better tubers than stem cuttings taken later in the season