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2001 Paul Barlow

Chrysanthemum growing - for the Sick, Disabled and  Handicapped.

By Frank H. Essig, Jr.
Member of New Jersey State Chrysanthemum Society

Just because we get old, sick, disabled or otherwise handicapped is no reason to stop growing our favorite flowers, Chrysanthemums. We may not grow as many as we would like to, or grow them the way we used to but with a little ingenuity and common sense we can still grow them, have a lot of fun and a large measure of accomplishment and satisfaction and possibly end up with many ribbons and trophies in the process.

How is this done? Spend time thinking; which things are the hardest for you to do and then think of ways that the hard tasks can be eliminated or broken down into easier tasks.

I have been raising prize winning Mums for five years and here are some of the things I have done to make it easier for me to enjoy my hobby. I can't stand so all of my gardening is done from a wheel chair which I can move so it is adjacent to my Mum bed.

Plants grown in pots for safety and comfort.

I find it necessary to grow my Mums in pots which I can put on a bench to be safely worked on in comfort. While on the bench I can tie up and stake the plants, extra shoots can be removed. I can disbud the plants when they are on the bench, sprayed to prevents insects and checked over all while I an in a comfortable, safe position.

The bed where the potted plants are kept is immediately adjacent to a driveway, this means it is much easier to move about in the wheelchair and tend to the plants. It would be much more difficult if the bed was adjacent to a grassed area, particularly after rain had fallen.

Formerly when I grew my Mums in a bed I used a typical large garden type sprayer and rarely mixed different chemicals. Now I use a rather small lightweight sprayer. I discovered that insecticides and fungicides manufactured by the same company were generally made of the same compounds and usually could be safely mixed together for one step application. Sometimes I mix in liquid fertilizer with the insecticide and fungicide.

Osmocote and lightweight shading

I make it a practice to use Osmocote on all my Mums and additionally feed them every ten days with a liquid fertilizer. Shading used to be a real chore utilizing heavy shade cloth, I now use black plastic. Black plastic is easier to use, it is lighter and can be pulled over my frame by my wife in the evening and pulled back in the morning.

When I remove side shoots I use a dental tool, probably familiar to all, called a "pick".  For me the pick is much easier to use than my fingers or a knife and it causes far less damage.

To make watering easier I had a water faucet installed adjacent to my Mum bed.  Carrying tools to and from the garden is difficult for me so I use a small plastic pail which I also use to place the discarded leaves, shoots and other garden debris. I use pre cut "Twist-Ems" for tying my plants.

Follow some basic rules ...

In addition to the above there are several very basic rules I must follow in order to take the optimum advantage of the limited strength I have. However, these rules should really be followed in order for any grower to show the best results for the effort expended.

  • Start with good plants! If your own carryover stock is weak or diseased, discard.

  • Make sure the pots you use have proper drain holes in the bottom.

  • Have soil tested for proper pH.

  • Add superphosphate to the pots when first placing the plants in the pots.

  • Make sure your Mums get all the sun your yard permits.

  • Feed on a regular basis, we all have a favorite fertilizer.

  • Spray on a regular basis, prevention is the best policy. When you notice a  problem the damage has already been done. When my plants show color I spray more often.

  • Stake and support your Mums.

  • Use B-9 to control height. Important for me because I grow in pots.

  • Grow the cultivars that grow well for you, but also try a few new ones.

  • At show time, spend extra time dressing those blooms you are going to enter.

  • Attention to grooming pays real dividends with the Judges. A few extra minutes may make the difference between a trophy or just a ribbon. Most important enjoy your time with your Mums. I am sure other disabled and/or infirm growers who are reading this article have other shortcuts or labor saving tricks. If you write to me I'll pull all the ideas together and submit another article to our publication "The Chrysanthemum" which will be a compilation of all of the ideas.

Footnote: Frank recently won the best bloom at the National show with Bola de Oro.  His ambition for next year  is put up a basket of 15 blooms of Bola de Oro.  If he is able to do it he will have an outstanding entry. FM.

Reprinted with kind permission from Frank Essig. Thanks also to Frank Mastromano for doing the hard work in compiling the text with which to build this page.

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Last updated on 26 December, 2001