DO NOT BEGRUDGE SEED COSTS
Good seed perfectly ripened and true to name is worth the price asked for it. Cheap seed is a more than doubtful bargain, and certainly useless for exhibition work.
Some growers chip the seed (especially the dark-seeded varieties), to hasten germination, but this is unnecessary. If the frames are kept rather close and very careful watering given, every seed sown will germinate. A rather large proportion of sand in thewill prevent rotting before germination, which occurs sometimes in cold, damp weather.
Time to Sow
For Shows that take place in June and July seed must be sown in late September or early October in a cold frame or greenhouse.
Soil should be a mixture of loam, leaf-mould and sand. Thefrom an old cucumber or bed is good, if available.
Seeds are sown in pots or boxes and kept in a cold frame with the lights closed day and night, until the greenappear. Then the lights may be taken off altogether, except in bad weather (ie. wet or frosty). Even when the lights are necessarily replaced air must be admitted, as if the seedlings are coddled at this stage they will never be sturdy, and the flowers will not be up to exhibition standard.
Wire netting over the frame will prevent birds damaging the plants.
On the appearance of the third pair of leaves, pinch out the tips. Leave the plants in the frame till the side growths are half an inch long, and limit the side growths to one or two according to the variety of the seed.
If sown in boxes, the seedlings must now be potted singly into small pots, with good compost, but no artificial manure.
Stand the pots in the cold frame again, giving air in the day, but closing at night, until plants are well established. After this they are quite hardy and will stand up to 8 degrees of frost, so long as the sun does not reach the foliage while it is still frosted. If they are at any time severely frosted, sprinkle the plants with cold water before the sun reaches them.
Autumn-sown plants are better plunged 2 in. in deep sand or ashes, and given a minimum of water during the winter. There are special seed-raising boxes now sold which make transplanting easy, and safe for the roots. These are used by many amateurs, particularly where space is limited, as their square shape allows of close packing.
The second week of March is the accepted date for, but delay may be necessary in some districts and the grower must be governed by the condition of the seedlings, and of the soil in the trenches. Surface soil if at all lumpy should be well broken up, and a good dressing of wood ashes or soot forked lightly into the top layer of the trench will be beneficial.
Bamboo canes are best for supporting Exhibition plants— which must from now on be robbed of their tendrils. The method adopted for the use of bamboos is as follows:—8 ft. poles are erected ft. apart, in the centre of the trench, with cross pieces of wood 1 ft. long, nailed firmly at the top, middle, and about 3 in. from the ground; three wires are strained tightly from end to end, fixing them to the ends of the wood cross pieces with small staples. Canes are tied 6 in. apart along the wires with the ends just resting on the earth. (If they merely rest in this way, they will last for years—whereas driven into the soil they rot.)
Set the plants out 6 in. apart along the centre of the trench; make the holes with a trowel or hand fork and disturb the roots as little as possible, in planting. . Hold the plants so that the top of the soil that was in the pot is now 2 in. below the level of the ground. Make the soil very firm round the plants but leave the surface loose and friable.
Keep each variety separated and labelled as it is planted.
Plants that have two stems (ie. the most vigorous varieties), are planted between two canes so that each stem can be trained up separately. A single-stemmed plant (of a weaker variety) is put as near a cane as possible.
Spring showers generally relieve the gardener of the need to water, but should dry spells occur, freshly-planted rows may need the watering-can.
Growth will be slow at first, but when the plants do begin to climb they must be carefully tied to the canes. They will also need attention two or three times a week, to remove side growths and tendrils, and to continue tying to the supports as required. Hoe the surface near the plants frequently in dry weather, but do not hoe near enough to damage the roots. After May, a mulch of spent hops, or well-rotted manure, may b3 put along the surface between the rows, and handmust then take the place of the hoe.
As soon as flower buds appear on the crowns of the plants, artificial feeding may commence. A weak solution of soot-water once a week, and then an alternate supply of liquid manure diluted to the colour of weak tea, will be enough for a few weeks. Plants should not be allowed to bloom until they are at least 3 ft. high, but can then be allowed to produce freely through the summer. Allow no seeding—cut dead flowers away at once, and give occasional does of fertilizer to keep up the supply and quality of the blooms.