CHRYSANTHEMUM GROWING: SECURING AND SWELLING THE BUD
IF all goes well, the buds should arrive in due course at the apex of each stem, and will be surrounded by other buds or leafy growths. To obtain the finest results it is necessary to remove all growths except the chosen bud, and this process is known as ‘securing the bud’. Removal must be gradual, for if all unwanted growths were taken off at once too much sap would be concentrated on a tiny bud, with unfortunate results. Let each growth come to an inch or so, and then rub out one every other day until the desired bud is secured.
Controlling the Bud
Should a bud appear to be early, a certain amount of control is possible by delaying the removal of the surplus shoots. They may be left to a length of 2 or 3 inches before removal, and the final one may be even longer. A maximum of 10 days may be gained, but care must be taken not to starve the bud by keeping the side shoots on too long.
Feeding during Bud Development
Go easy on feeding until thebud is seen to be swelling, and then start again with dilute feeds, building up gradually to full strength. While nitrogen was the main need before, there must now be an accent on potash. The vegetative growth is more or less over, and we must concentrate on producing an even, well-coloured and lasting bloom. If in doubt, a good tomato fertilizer will suit very well, while a pinch of sulphate of iron in the water every fortnight will help the firmness and colour of the flower.
Staking and Tying
Once the bud is secured the staking and tying must be reviewed, and if possible it is best to arrange a separate cane for each stem and to support right up to the bud itself. The extra canes need not be tied to the wires, but are looped up to the central cane. To avoid breakages leave sufficient room for the stems to sway a little in the wind.
Remove All Side Shoots
The arrival of the bud causes the plant to use its surplus energies in other directions, and a large number of side shoots will appear all over the plant. These should be removed, and if young growth is sent up from the stool this also should be cut off up to the end of October, after which date it may be retained as cutting material. Preventive spraying is of vital importance once the bud is secured. The smallest injuries caused by insects to the buds will be magnified as they expand and malformed flowers result.
By now the plants are pot-bound, and it is almost impossible to over-water. See that no plant ever dries right out, as injury to the bud is sure to follow.
Careful feeding, combined with the heavy dews of September, will swell the buds, and within reasonable limits the plants should be left out as long as possible.
Do not House too Soon
If the bud shows colour it must be given the protection of the greenhouse, but so long as the scales are unbroken there is little cause for worry unless an early frost threatens. Even then it may be worthwhile to give a light overhead protection for one night and so gain the advantages of further dews. If plants are taken in too soon, the blooms are smaller and often borne on long thin necks. In normal seasons in the midlands they are quite safe outside until about September 20th, while an extra week may be allowed in the south. If a spell of quiet weather promises about this time, the stock should be prepared for removal indoors. This takes time, but as so much depends upon it, no grower will try to dodge it.
Making Preparations for Housing
Begin while the plants are still on the wires. Go round and make sure all side shoots and old and diseased leaves are removed. Check up on the stakes and ties, giving each growth plenty of room, but confining the plant in the smallest space conductive to good health. Straggling growths not only take up valuable space but are easily broken. Stems should be erect, for a bloom which develops in any other position tends to be uneven. Now cut the stakes from the wires, and pull the wires through, leaving the plants clear.
Next spray against mildew and to ensure that noare taken indoors. Be very thorough and make sure the underside of the foliage receives special attention. Prepare a solution of liver of sulphur at 1/4 oz. to 1 gallon of water and add the appropriate amount of insecticide. This solution, if well applied, will save a great deal of trouble later on. The plants should be really drenched, though the bud and a few inches of stem below can be left dry. The best method is to lay the plant horizontally on a strong box so that both sides of the foliage can be reached easily. Rotate the pot once or twice to expose every leaf to the spray. If a hand syringe is used the plant can be placed over a bath to catch surplus liquid, which may be used again. The pot may be wiped over at the same time. When the foliage is dry a final top-dressing may be applied to the and firmed with the fingers.
Thoroughly Clean the House
Before bringing the plants in, every corner of the house should be cleared of the rubbish which so frequently gathers. Glass must be washed clean and every drip sealed. Scrub sash bars and footings with strong disinfectant and then wash down. Finish with a strong fumigation against both pests and fungus diseases, airing the house for a day or so before the plants are brought in. While the house is empty go over the heating’ system to make sure that everything is in working order. All this takes time and patience, but is essential to success, especially if thefollow a crop of tomatoes. Once a man has tried to dislodge a colony of aphis from a 10-inch bloom or seen an otherwise perfect flower ruined by the attentions of a caterpillar, he needs no further incentive to doing the work really well.
Moving the Plants into the House
Carry the plants by holding the pot with one hand and supporting the stakes with the other. Pot first through the door will prevent many annoying breakages. Arrange the pots so that the tallest are at the back, and give as much room as possible even if this means leaving outside a few plants which are unsatisfactory. On no account should one plant touch another, for unless light and air can reach the foliage it will fall prey to one trouble or another and, apart from the effect upon the developing bloom, such foliage serves only to pass the trouble on to neighbouring leaves.
Every pot must be within reach of the watering-can. Usually two rows of plants is the limit if they can be reached from one side only. For the first 10 days leave every door and ventilator open to accustom the plants gradually to the more confined conditions. There will be a drastic reduction in the demand for water, but this, being natural, should cause no concern. Continue individual watering and try to keep the soil nicely moist at all times. Some authorities insist that the air should be kept bone dry during this early period, while others say that a certain amount of damping-down is beneficial on bright mornings. The man with an earth floor is probably just right. Later on there is no doubt at all that dryness of the air is essential, but at this stage a moderate humidity may serve to acclimatize the growth gradually to the indoor conditions. No fire heat will be required until outside conditions deteriorate, and mid-October is an average date for most districts. The greatest danger is not from low temperatures as such but rather from the effect of stagnant air. Use ventilation freely to promote a moving atmosphere, shutting right down only during periods of frost.