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2001 Paul Barlow

My Chrysanthemum calendar

This page has been compiled based on my diary notes over many years and assembled into a month by month description of the jobs I do in growing of early chrysanthemums. For most chrysanthemum growers the year actually starts at flowering time in September.

Blooms are cut two days in advance of the chosen shows and stood in water in the garage where it is cool and dark. Reflexed blooms are dressed at home before going to the show. Blooms are selected for the classes that I hope to enter and spare blooms given away to neighbours or friends at work.

Plants that are healthy and have produced the best blooms, are marked with a coloured tag or twistits around the stem. These plants will provide the propagating material for the following year. After flowering is complete all stools are cut down to about 18" and any basal growth trimmed back to soil level. Any remaining leaves are also removed.

All plants that were marked in September are now dug up, roots trimmed back and all soil knocked away from the roots. Stools are then boxed up in seed trays and other containers, usually one cultivar to each container to help reduce the risk of a mix up later on when cuttings are being taken. As the stools are boxed up they are further reduced to about 9" in height.

Fresh compost is used in the boxing up process, ideally this new compost should be moist, a light watering is given if I think the compost is too dry.

Trays and containers are then stored in a cold greehouse and kept frost free.

Any remaining early stools are lifted and boxed or discarded. The stools are still kept on the cool side but a watchful eye is kept on the weather forecast and a heater set up if frost is likely.

My soil is quite light and well drained so winter digging is not required. A top dressing using mushroom compost is sometimes applied during this month and left to overwinter on the top of the beds.

The National Society literature usually arrives at the end of November of early this month. I read with interest the details of new registrations and decide whether to order anything new for the following year. If so, the orders are sent off as early as possible. Here in Aberdeen I like to have the new varieties delivered as early as the supplier can manage it in the new year - end January to early February latest. 

During the long nights there is time to work on the growing plan for next year - how many of each cultivar, where in the plot etc. Also any planned changes in stopping dates are noted at this time. 

Propagation starts this month for some of the October classified cultivars and others requiring an early rooting date. Typically Woolley Pride, Chessingtons and Lyn Johnson are started off in the first half of the month.

Soil and compost is sterilised using the steam steriliser. Over the next two months I should be able to sterilise enough to cover my needs throughout the season.

The cuttings are usually available in abundance during January so the main activity for me is propagation. The cultivars that need the earliest stop are rooted first.

Soil and compost sterilisation continues as does an eye on the weather. Severe frost and snow are regular visitors during January.

Depending on rate of growth, some of the first rooted cuttings are moved on into individual 3.5" pots or 12 plants per standard seed tray.

Propagation continues and hopefully the new cultivars ordered before Christmas will arrive early this month. On arrival they are potted up at 12 plants per standard seed tray and placed on the propagator for a few days. The raiser has almost certainly been operating his greenhouses at a higher temperature than me so the plants need some time to acclimatise.

The earlier rooted cuttings are moved on into individual 3.5" pots or 12 plants per standard seed tray. Compost is mixed to my own formula in readiness for further potting.

Soil samples are taken from each of the chrysanthemum growing areas and sent away for analysis.

Some cultivars will be stopped during March so the stopping plan is revisited and plants are pinched on the required date.

Plants continue to be moved on into individual pots and seed trays. Some of the earliest ones may also be moved into the next size pots (5" or 6") if the smaller pots have become filled with roots.

Watering is done on an as needed basis. Root growth is what I'm looking for - not top growth.

Soil analysis results come back this month and any pH correction is carried out. My pH is usually lower than I would like so this means adding ground limestone according the recommendations. More compost is mixed to meed the considerable need when moving into the next size pots.

Most cultivars are stopped during April so again the stopping plan is checked and the pinch done on the required dates.

All remaining plants will be moved into the next size pots during this month. Weather permitting I can now move some plants into the cold greenhose and cold frame. If frost threatens then a few layers of newspaper placed gently over the top of the plants is usually sufficient to prevent frost damage.

The chrysanthemum plots are dug over in the early part of this month in preparation for  planting out in early May.

All growing areas are base dressed with fertiliser according to soil analysis recommendations. This takes place about one week before planting out. Canes are inserted at the appropriate distances for the each cultivar and on the second weekend planting starts in ernest. With bearly 300 plants to go out this activity usually takes me a few days to complete.

All plants are watered a day or two before planting takes place and when planted each plant is secured to the bamboo cane to prevent wind damage. Spare laterals are removed at this time, although some cultivars will be allowed to carry a spare for a week or two longer.

The outdoor plots are protected on all sides using windbreak netting. This will stay in place throughout the season.

Feeding usually starts in the first week of June and continues every 5-7 days until end July/early August. The plot is hoed regularly to keep the weeds under control. As the laterals grow they are secured individually to bamboo canes, trying to reduce the risk of loss.

In one greenhouse the top row of glass is removed to help with air circulation and to keep the temperature down.

Both greenhouses are shaded using a proprietary greenhouse shading product. The roof, sides and ends are all shaded.

Feeding and tying in continues but the main activity is securing the buds that are now becoming visible at the end of each lateral. Sideshoots below the bud are also removed to allow the plant to channel all it's energy into the developing buds.

The earliest buds may reach calyx split during this month and will be bud bagged until there are sufficient buds at this stage to warrant putting up the overhead protection.

Additional shading is put in place in each greenhouse. This is green netting on a roll-up/roll-down system to give additional flexibility.

Plants are never allowed to dry out after the buds are visible.

Overhead protection is put in place and bud bags are replaced by larger bags as the flowers begin to grow in size. Watering continues on a regular basis and some liquid feeding is carried out with cultivars that benefit from this. Feed rates are lower than those used during the main growing period in June and July.

Any basal growth is trimmed back to soil level. Lower leaves are removed as they have made their contribution, this also allows better air movement between the plants under the covers and in the greenhouses.

Show schedules are reviewed and plans made for time off work to (hopefully) exhibit at the chosen shows.

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Last updated on 26 December, 2001