Episode 4. Mid February
Cleaning Schedule phase 2
Greenhouse / Shade house has been stripped out and the floor and
walls cleaned then drenched with
Jeyes fluid. The frame and glass was
sprayed down with Armillotox along with the staging after it’s been
washed down with soapy water and rinsed off. Then it’s finished off by
letting off a Sulphur Candle.
Now both the Propagating Greenhouse and Greenhouse / Shade house have
been cleaned and they have had the double bubble attached to the inside
of the frames to help insulate them as you can see by the picture to the
left and right.
Now I am ready to start off another year full of expectations and I very
much doubt trouble free, but we all love a challenge or we would not put
ourselves through this year after year.
Now a subject that always causes a debate between growers…… Compost
When I first started mixing my own starting compost I used Chempak
Seed Base to make my starting compost to start my tubers in. Then I
realized I was better off starting them in a Multi-Purpose compost. I got
fed up with the inconsistencies of brands from 1 year to the next – So
now I mix all my own Multi-Purpose resulting in the type of root I have
been searching for and resulting in a marked improvement in my growing,
yet I still have a fair way to go. The root I want is thick white
roots with a pink tip - not the thin weak spingly roots that you quite
The following is my Multi-Purpose Compost mix per 100 Litre of
X75 Litre Westland Sphagnum Moss Peat x 25 Litre Horticultural Sharp Sand,
to this I add 600g Vitax Q4,150g Dolomite Lime and 150g Garden Lime.
Once it’s mixed I let it stand for 3 to 4 days to “settle in”.
I have mixed x250 Litres of Multi-Purpose ready to kick off another year.
This mix may sound harsh to other growers who like to pamper there
tubers with a “softer” starting medium so to speak. But I want my tubers
to work hard and this helps make for a stronger root system that I have
been looking for.
I always buy a couple of 100 Litre bags of Westland Moss Peat
towards the end of the growing season when its new and fresh so to
speak, then store them in a shed and forget about them until late
January when I use them.
Starting my cutting tubers.
I have x2 Shankley propagators that I fill to depth of approx. 2 inch
layer of sharp sand then water them in,
then put a tray in each of the
propagators. These trays have holes drilled in the bottom then
filled with Multi-Purpose Compost and watered in then covered with a
lid. This allows moisture and warmth to transfer to the compost and keep
it at a constant temperature.
I then sort out all the small cutting tubers that I want to start up.
I tried to get pollen at the end of last year, and managed to make a
couple of crosses. However when the petals dropped off within a week the
stem on which held the flower bud to the main stem fell off – Why this
happened I have no idea but if there is one thing I will do this year is
ask a certain gentleman from Coalburn why it happened. The resulting
cuttings I took to get pollen produced little cutting tubers which need
going back in.
I have sorted my cutting tubers out and the smallest cutting tubers will
go back in.
I soak them in warm water for about 15 minutes then bury them in the
compost with the label placed at the back of the tuber.
There are x2 reasons why I soak them –
• The 1st is to help them take up a little moisture so
they don’t absorb all the moisture straight from your chosen starting
medium and it also helps them to start to “plump up” again
• The 2nd and just as important is to see if any of the
cutting tubers float, if so it’s a sure sign there is rot in your tuber.
Put please make sure with the very small tubers they are not floating
due to the label that’s still attached by a rubber band.
As you can see from the picture on the right I pack them in fairly tight
because as soon as they start to throw root I pot them up into a 4 inch
pot pretty quickly. Then leave them to root properly.
Again my thinking is different from most growers as I believe in the
Now I treat both my cutting tubers and adult tubers the same when
potting up. I like to lift the tuber and root ball out and give it a
little “shake” before they go into the 1st pot as I don’t like starting
them in pots for the following x2 reasons
• The 1st is a way I aerate my roots before they go in
the first pot. Now if you have the right root system you will find that
you don’t have issues with “losing roots” whilst “disturbing the root
ball so to speak.
• The 2nd and the main reason is that when you start the tuber in a pot
and its roots hit the edge of the pot and you pot it on then technically
the medium in the 1st pot that you started your tuber in is nearly if
not spent so most of your medium in the 2nd pot is doing nothing. Now if
you lift and shake your tuber before you pot it not only do you aerate
the roots put you put fresh medium around the roots and the rest of the
pot. This means there is a greater percentage of medium now working for
the plant and not just part of it.
Unlike John Hamilton and Bob Bryce who don’t use labels most of the time
and just seem to know the variety by looking at it. Me, I can do it with
a few varieties like – Linda Jackson, Tom Brownlee, Sweet Dreams,
Falstaff & Golden Hind – they are a few easy ones.
One New Year’s resolution I have made is when you take a cutting write a
label and put it in. I have a terrible habit of taking a cutting and
thinking I will label that tomorrow – the following day comes and I’ve
forgotten what variety it is. I bet I am not the only one out there who
The other thing I started to do last year is use a bigger plant label to
write the variety on – Why, I hear you ask…. well its simple I find that
small labels fall out the bottom of the pots at the end of the year or
can slip down the side of the pot and you think you have lost It. A big
plant label does help to stop this from happening.
my adult tubers and large cutting tubers –
Both my Hotbox’s in my Propagating Greenhouse have been filled with
Multi-Purpose compost and have been watered in and allowed to settle and
come up to temperature.
Sunday 8th February – Scotland –
Set off at 07:30 to meet Vincent Potts at Chorley then on to Scotland.
It was a new venue where we were going to so it was technically another
venture into the unknown. Where was Bob Bryce I hear you ask…. well he
read my last article and thought it was going to be hard work when I
mentioned the weather and spades so he went and booked a trip to Latvia
for 5 days.
It took us a good 3hrs to get to Roberts as the temperature never rose
above -2° and the fog never lifted until we came off the M74 and cut
across to Carluke and Roberts.
We were not the only guests at Robert Nelson as Colin Elsworth and Tony
Shepherdson where visiting. If any of you managed to get to
Show last year and saw Tony Shepherdson's blooms you will know he will be
a future force to be reckoned with. The topic of conversation round the
table was…. Yep you have guessed it begonias.
For those who have never been to Robert Nelsons home then let me tell
you, you will have to go a long way to find a greater collection of
Double Tuberous Begonias like he has. Personally I feel we need people
like Robert or varieties will just die out and will be lost forever just
because they don’t make a great pot or cut bloom for showing. We don’t
have a National Collection for Double Tuberous Begonias maybe Roberts
the man…. who knows.
Robert has kindly let me put up some pictures of his set up, see below.
eyed amongst you out there will have noticed that Robert's main
greenhouse (Picture on the left) has had the dwarf wall pebble dashed
and painted – now that’s class.
Once again we were spoilt by Robert and Margaret and were well fed and
watered, on behalf of the 4 of us thank you.
We got to the meeting early so Robert could attend the committee
meeting. Since we were there early Samuel Kennedy invited myself and
Vincent to sit in on the committee meeting.
To my great surprise John Hamilton had made the committee meeting which
was a shock to the system.
It was great to meet up and renew friendships after the Winter break.
John Hamilton was giving the talk, and explained he had combined x3
talks into x1 for this talk. His talk was well received by all present.
On the way home the fog had lifted and we made good time getting back.
Until next time.....….