The National Begonia Society


2014 Diary

Stephen Jones


   After winning the 7 pot National at Webbs in 2013 I was asked to complete a diary so I have photographed and recorded my growing details for the 2014 season.

A little bit of back ground about me
   I have been for years a keen gardener entering local shows with flowers and veg along with other hobbies such as Bonsai, course fishing, fish keeping, tropical and outdoor cold water. I have been trying to grow begonias for about ten years after seeing several years ago the wonderful display at the National Begonia show at Kings Heath park Birmingham. Living in Worcester where the weather is fair and my garden is sheltered made this National show within easy reach as was the Webbs National venue which took place over the last two years.
   It has been a slow process and I am learning all the time by gleaning very good information from the Bulletins produced by the National Begonia Society and the exceedingly detailed informative Tuberous Begonia book by Jack Larter.
   I thought all was well after harvesting all my mature tubers until on checking them last weekend December 14th and finding several rotted away and even more with rot in them .I dont know whats happened although I did not remove the calluses from tubers and feel this was the main reason for rot although have not suffered this problem in previous years I must have been lucky .I will make sure all calluses are removed in future years. This next year will be a test to see what tubers produce enough shoots for plants to enter competitions.

First of all a little detail
 I use an 8ft by 6ft greenhouse as a propagation house. The thermostat on the heated bench is kept at 10c during autumn /winter and 20c during spring early season. This bench is 6ft wide and 3 ft deep fitted with electric under soil heating cables and sharp sand which needs to be kept damp to allow heat transmission. I use an electric thermostatically controlled fan heater fig 1 to keep the chill out of the remaining part of the greenhouse set at 5c in the autumn and 10c in spring.
   I have a mist system over the bench to propagate in the late summer /autumn period when the sun is strong and will soon shrivel cuttings.
   The 8ft by 6ft greenhouse is lined with bubble insulation which does cause a lot of humidity in the autumn and winter. On warmish days I leave the door of the greenhouse open which seems to help reduce the amount of water drips. Note when I do leave the door open I switch the heater off for the day and switch back on when I close the greenhouse door in the afternoon.
   The main greenhouse is a 20ft x 10 ft with 5 auto roof vents fig 2 which I cover with fleece to stop insects and anything else which may get blown about.   One side vent which has an automatic control fig 3.The door is 4ft wide which I fit a magnetic screen in the hot weather which makes entry and exit simple fig 4. In this greenhouse under the bench I have two 50 gallon water tanks fed off the roof with which I water all my plants. Electric power is available in all greenhouses for lighting, heating and cooling fans.    All greenhouses run east to west
   I have just purchased a second hand 10ft x 8ft Greenhouse which my wife Jane helped dismantle and erect along with all the cleaning of glass and the aluminium frame. This greenhouse is planned to be used for my restricted pots and cut blooms as last year space was somewhat tight in the 20ft x 10 ft with large plants restricted pots and cut bloom plants.
   Thats the background and next down to cultural detail. All the large tubers which would be over three years old have finished growing and died down into their pots leaving me with large tubers which can be seen in fig 5 with labels attached with elastic bands in large flower pots in the integral garage which is frost free. These tubers are checked for any rot which found must be cut out and treated ( I use sulphur ) or the whole thing could be lost if not addressed. I check all the tubers weekly until the start of the next growing.
   Cuttings which were taken last year are still growing in their 5 pots fig 6 although some of these have died down are checked and stored as the large tubers fig 7.
   This years spring and autumn cuttings are still growing in the propagator fig 8 which is set to 10c.  I keep a check on these waiting for them to die down after which when they do I will treat as the large tubers.