2016 Diary Episode 6 - Things are starting to move.
It’s exactly 2 weeks since I put my tubers in and as you can see by
the picture to the left, shoots and some lovely looking roots have
broken the surface of the compost.
My old method of
starting my tubers in homemade wooden trays of compost that fitted
into my hotbox’s, used to take approx. 3 weeks before I saw signs of
My new method has them showing life in under 2 weeks.
I did something a little bit different this year, this was something
I latched onto when we visited Ian Donaldson’s home last year. When
the first shoots broke through the surface of the compost I took the
bubble wrap cover off.
I wanted the tuber to think “sod that I don’t want to grow up just
yet, let’s just make root where it’s warm instead”. This was because
I wanted to try and get the tuber to put more energy into producing
its root ball.
The compost is drying out a lot quicker now due to the following
• I have taken the makeshift bubble wrap lid off.
• My new hotbox layout where the compost is near as damn-it sat on
top of the sand and heated cables.
• Believe me you have to watch the moisture levels of your compost
As you can see from the pictures to the left and right my
begonias are starting to move now.
One problem I have is where to put my plants once they get
potted up from the hotbox into their first pot so I can keep them
sat on a little heat as not to shock them too much.
Last year I bought a 6ft x 2ft electric blanket and never used it, I
thought it was a good idea at the time but could not find anywhere to
But today I had a
I had some 3 x 4ft long by 1ft wide and 1 inch thick polystyrene
lengths in my shed that I had acquired from somewhere last year,
thinking they would come in handy at some point in the future.
• I cut them down to fit into the 2ft square by 2 inch deep
aluminium “tray tops” (see pic to the left)
• Then laid the 3 x 2ft square by 1 inch deep polystyrene sheets
that came with the electric
blanket into the top of each “tray tops”
(see pic to right).
• Then I unrolled the electric blanket across the top of the now 3 x
2ft square and 2inch thick “insulated pads” (see pic to left).
• Finally I laid the black plastic membrane that lays across the top
of the electric blanket (see pic to right).
Now I am ready to start potting up.
Today's the day I start mixing my homemade Johns Innes 2 compost (see
pic to left), as it’s not long before I will have to start the first
potting of the plant. The mixes are bagged and left to sit, this
will let the fertilizer, lime etc. dissolve with in the mix.
The “bags” are then stored under my hotboxes so they warm up a
little ready for when I use it – well I believe this will give me an
edge in a weird sort of way.
March – Scottish excursion No2
The start -
Up and out of the front door for 06:30am to pick up Vincent Potts
for 7am, and 5 minutes later further up the road we picked up Robert
Bryce (What happened at Roberts is explained in my Hybridisation
articles). Then we headed back up north to visit our Scottish
compadres as this was the Scottish Begonia Society's second meeting of
the year and the speaker was our own
I must admit I was more than a little anxious as the next trip North
the speaker would be me!!!!
The arrival -
We arrived at Robert Nelsons for around 10am, we went round the back
of his house to see if he was there. We could not see him
about, then all of a sudden he appeared at the door I think he was
surprised to see us there that early.
At this point I informed Robert Nelson that Vincent had not made us the much anticipated fruit bowls, as you can probably
understand we were not happy bunnies.
Then we were given the Royal Tour –
1. He showed us the little propagating house he had built at the
bottom of his main greenhouse, as you can see from the pictures to
the left his plants here are ready to be potted up – and the picture to the right shows plants already potted up and put back on a
little heat, to help the transition from hotbox to pot.
2. His middle greenhouse as you can see had plants that he had
already potted up. They had been potted up using Everris Levington
M2 Pot & Bedding compost. Robert told us that he was
going to start
taking cuttings the following day (see pic to left).
3. In his Propagating greenhouse his main hotbox was nearly empty as
most of his tubers that had been in were now potted up. They were a
lot potted up and just sat on a little heat in this greenhouse as
well as you can see by the pictures to the left and right.
After a long conversation on yep you have guessed it…. Begonias -
Margaret, Robert’s better half
called us in for a drink and
something to eat.
After filling our bellies we went back outside and loaded the second
and final load of wood for Vincent that Robert had saved for him, as
you can see from the picture to the left.
We left for the meeting at 12:00hrs so Robert could get to the
committee meeting in time.
The meeting –
Geoff Rhodes took the floor and gave a talk on his specialist
subject – Species. One very interesting part of his talk was when he
explained how he keep his greenhouse humidity up. He runs a water
drip system down the middle of his bench which keeps his bench damp
resulting in constant humidity level.
If I am honest whilst doing this Cultural Diary I have found a
greater understanding and affinity to this type / class of begonia I
cannot explain why only that I have.
Geoff’s talk went down well and he even took a Q&A session at the
At the end of the meeting we said our goodbyes and headed home.
The return -
Robert was dropped off at home for just before 19:30hrs and shortly
afterwards I dropped Vincent at his front door and between us we
unloaded his second load of contraband from Scotland. As I backed
onto my driveway and turned off the ignition I could swear I heard
the car a big sigh of relief that another Caledonian Tour was over.
Started to take my first plants out of the hotbox today and pot them
up into my full blown John Innes No2, using my
following 2 guidelines:–
• Gently shake the “spent” multipurpose from around the roots
• And just remember how big your tuber is in relation to your first
pot or you could be over-potting your plant without you actually
I know my Johns
Innes 2 mix is not for the faint hearted. It scared the life out of
P.Sourbutts half way through last year when I gave him a plant that he was after, as within a couple of days he had re-potted it
into his own softer medium.
When they are potted up they are given a light watering and then
stood on the electric blanket to keep them on some heat to
help them with their transition from hotbox to pot as you can see
via the picture to the left.
I also carried 3 late cuttings of Joan Bryce over winter on my
daughter’s bedroom window sill, today I took any new leaves etc. as
cuttings and placed them in a small tray of coir and put them on a
small propagator to root (see pic to the right).
1st near disaster
has occurred with my cutting tubers – as I put them in the
propagator using a well-known multipurpose compost as I had not
mixed my own at this time. The result is very poor growth so I will
not be using that brand of multipurpose again – the strange thing is
I have never had a problem with it before and they seem to have
altered the composition of it, It now holds a lot of water. So I
will not be using that stuff again I will just make sure I stock up
on some Everris
Levington M2 Pot & Bedding compost for the start of
That left me no option but to re-pot them all up into individual
pots using M2 as above with the hope they will come round and
hopefully catch up (see pic Q to the left).
I did find that every cutting tuber had at least 2 shoots each
breaking through the top of the tuber, so there is life just need
the root to catch up now.
& Sunday 27th March
Over the weekend I continued potting up plants from the hotbox into
their first pots whilst choosing the strongest looking “stem” that I
wanted to be the main stem, any other “stems” where taken as basal
As you can see by the picture to the right my Sankey propagator
had a tray full of coir placed in it and my unwanted “stems” that I
took as basal cuttings have been put in the tray of coir to root.
Carried on potting up tubers from the hotbox to their
today, that’s about 60 potted now. Just waiting for those slow
tubers to catch up now, so they can be potted up.
The picture to the left shows the state of play in my propagating
greenhouse, everything is starting to move now.
Until next time….
Michael is the Speaker at
Springfield Community Centre, Forrest Street, Clarkston – Airdrie
ML6 7FG Sunday 10th. April 2.30pm.
The NBS Yorkshire/Humberside Area Meeting Saturday 23rd.
April - See Events page for further details.