The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 11.   April General update.

Tuesday 7th April -
   All my tubers have now been potted up in my John Innes No2 mix apart from a few that have been potted up using my homemade multi-purpose compost because I was not happy with the new root system, especially not to go into my John Innes No 2 mix which is harsh. If the root does not look right then I will not put them in it.
   The first wave of basal cuttings have been taken, however the second wave are coming through the surface and in another week I will have these off as well. In essence I am trying to keep everything down to just the main stem and allowing nothing to take any energy away from the one main stem.

Monday 6th to Friday 10th April -
   The night time temperature is still dropping below freezing and is taking up to dinner time to
 warm up.
   The day time temperature from dinner time on has been on average around 18°,  that means inside my bubble-wrapped Propagating Greenhouse that has pushed the temperature above 80°+ and that has really made the plants move. Luckily at the moment there are no signs of sun scorch but I will not really see the signs for another week or so, and before you ask I have had Coolglass on the roof of this Greenhouse since the end of March as you can never apply it to early.
   The way the plants are now starting to grow will mean they will need spacing out or the following will happen -
    • When you pot the tuber and root ball up, if you have limited room you may like me, stack your plants up like a pack of cards. This is alright just to help with the transition of the plant from a warm hotbox to the warm medium in the pot and not cold medium. But if you leave them to long the bottom pots of plants will grow “leggy” looking for the light. So after a week I space them out by using my 2nd Greenhouse which I just have my x2 small Sankey propagators in containing my basal cuttings.

Tuesday 14th April -
   Potted up my first wave of cuttings today, 32 out of 36 had rooted in the coir so I potted them up in 1 litre square pots using my homemade multi-purpose compost and gently watered in.

Wednesday 15th April -
   Today I started to space out my plants by starting to use my 2nd greenhouse. It’s already bubble wrapped and the roof is painted in Coolglass so all I had to do is put my Parwin Heater in the greenhouse to –
   1. Protect it from frost, as we are still at risk from frost.
   2. To keep it at an even temperature through the day and night so there is no drastic temperature fluctuations that could “check” the growth of the plant at this point.
   I can breathe a sigh of relief and just let them get on with growing. The only thing I will do now for a week or so is just watch for any type of cuttings that may come along, and then I will remove them and propagate them as previously explained.

Saturday 18th April –
   I started to take the “2nd type” of cuttings from off the plants in the 2nd greenhouse. I do this to try and stop the plant diverting energy and vigour away from my own objectives for the plant and also it provides additional propagating material.

Monday 20th April –
   I moved more plants across to the other greenhouse to free up room in my propagating greenhouse to allow space for the plants to grow, also took some more of my “2nd type” cuttings and some more basal cuttings. I am still getting basal cuttings coming up and yes they are surgically removed and put in the propagator.

April weather summary –
   We had some warm afternoon temperatures for a couple of days early in the month but nearly every night dropped below zero degrees or hovered just above freezing. The last couple of years we have had a hot 3 weeks towards the end of April and early May where everyone thought our Summer had come early in the year, but it ain’t happened yet where I live. I need the day time and night time temperatures to rise now for my plants to start growing as they are now starting to drag their feet a little.

Contentious Corner
Issue 1 –
   This year I have heard from a few growers on my travels that once a plant is potted up the strength of the “feed” in either multi-purpose compost or Johns Innes No2 after about x1 or 2 weeks is that low the plant needs additional feeding; this I cannot understand!!
    • How can this be! Until the pot is full of root and all parts of the medium in the pot has been accessed by the root.
Now I can hear some people say that every time you water the pot it can wash the “goodness” out of the pot!!
    • If you use Nutrimate then the Humid Acid in it locks up the nutrients in the medium until the plant can access it, so again until the pot is full of root then nutrients will still be available to the plant.
So I cannot see that a plant will need any additional feed until its ready for potting on.
If you are only potting up once then yes you will have to feed into the pot at some point but again it’s only when the roots have hit the sides of the pot.

Issue 2 –
   Lack of root growth when you start your tubers, how can this happen when you control all the “elements” –
    • You can control the temperature of your hotbox / propagator unit to any temperature you want to set it at.
    • You control the starting medium you use weather its bought or homemade
    • You can control the depth of the your starting medium
    • You control the moisture levels on the medium
   Now if all the points highlighted above are perfectly set – and we are all capable of doing this.
Then surely it is out of our hands and down to the “stubborn” tuber to start when it is ready and not when we think it should when we have provided the ideal conditions for them and expect them to grow to our timescales.
So I am blaming Mother Nature and the tuber!!!! And it's not my fault for a change.

Issue 3 –
   N:P:K – Why was it put like this!! as its wrong and miss-leading as far as I am concerned –
    • P – should be 1st as Phosphorus helps the roots grow – as we all know it’s the roots we want to grow 1st before any top growth starts – without a good root system you will have a poor plant.
    • N – Should be 2nd as Nitrogen is to help with the top growth of a plant. Which you don’t want before you have a good root system.
    • K – is correct at being 3rd as Potash helps with the bud formation and flower.
So it should be P:N:K…..

Issue 4 -
   Why did Miracle Gro do away with their old formula 15-30-15; and how come Chempak & Vitax have never filled the gap in the market for a 1-2-1!!! Surely they must be one, especially when you are thinking of a feed early in year for the root system.

Well I feel better now that I have got those 4 issues off my chest.

Well it had to happen, my first public Apology –
   It was pointed out to me by a colleague at work that I have got a word wrong on more than one occasion – I have called it a Shankley propagator when it should have been Sankey propagator.     

      Until next time….

1. Introduction     2. Background     3. January     4. Mid February     5. Late February     6. Early March
7. Late March     8. Early April     9. Late April     10. Early May     12. Late May     13. Early June    14. Mid June
15. Mid July     16 Late July     17 Early August     18 Mid August     19 Mid August 2     20 Late August
21 Early September     22 Late September     23 Early October     24 Mid October     25 Early November