Monthly Guide

We will be adding a monthly guide on how to care for your Chrysanthemums

JANUARY

Early Chrysanthemums
by
John Peace

This is an important time of year for getting your planning right for the shows in September. After making sure that your greenhouse has been cleaned thoroughly and your propagating beds have been erected ready for bringing in your stools from the cold frame.
I take my cuttings in batches of four hoping to have a concession of flowers over a four week period. The first cultivars that I root are the ones that take the longest to develop from cutting to full bloom for example Joyce Frieda, 13b and Billy Bell, 15a. I always try to take my cuttings from the base of the stool. If you take the cutting from further up the stem they will not produce the same number of leaves as a cutting taken from the base. This is important for timing purposes.
I root my cuttings in a standard seed tray in any multipurpose, peat based compost which is available. I insert 40 cuttings in each seed tray to save space on the propagating bench. I try to keep a bottom heat of 60°it usually takes me three to four weeks at this time of year for the cuttings to root. With the light levels being very low and day lengths short it is beneficial to use a grow light if you can to help your cuttings to root a bit quicker. The grow light I use is high pressure sodium lamp 400 watt. I put this on a timer setting it to come on from 6am – 10am and 3pm – 8pm.

FEBRUARY

Early Chrysanthemums
by
John Peace

This is a busy month for me; I am still rooting my early chrysanthemum’s right up until the middle of the month. The first cuttings, which I put to root in early January have now rooted and are ready to be potted into 90 cm (3½”) pots. My first potting compost is mixed a few days before using any John Innes No 1 compost, which can be purchased at any garden centre. I then mix 50/50 with any multi-purpose compost that contains a good percentage of peat, which is hard to find these days. It’s nothing fancy but it has done a good job for me over the years.
When I have potted my plants on into 90cm pots I won’t water in, I leave them until they show signs of wilting or turning a dark green colour. This indicates to me that they require water, by doing this it encourages the roots to go searching for water and thus giving you a good root system.
I try to grade the plants I am growing by selecting plants with the same number of leaves on to gain even growth and helps with the timing of the flower. Keep your greenhouse frost free during this month with the aid of a heater, electric, gas or paraffin. If you do not have the luxury of heat, cover them with fleece or newspaper whenever a frost is forecast.
Finally keep pests and diseases at bay by spraying with an off the shelf pesticide or fungicide.

MARCH

Early Chrysanthemums
by John Peace

By March I will have thoroghly cleaned out my cold frame and painted the inside white.
March is the time I start to move my plants on from 3” pots into 5” pots and for this I use the same mixture as I did for the 3” except that I use John Innes number 3 instead of number 1, mixed with a multi-purpose compost.
Once I have potted them on I will leave them in the green house for a further few days prior to moving them into the cold frame.

When they are in the cold frame remember to watch out for severe frosts. If there is a frost forecast protect your plants by covering the cold frame with either an old carpet or some heavy duty poythene. You should also keep up with your spraying programme as a deterent for White Rust, Green Fly and Black Fly.
Again when they are in the cold frame I spot water, meaning only water those plants which are giving me signs that they need water. Those plants which turn a bluey green or wilt on a morning, these plants will get watered and by doing this you are encouraging a nice healthy root system.

The first week in March also sees me stopping my first plants, the plants which take more time to develop such as Joyce Frieda (7th March). Later on in the month I take varieties such as Billy Bell and other early intermediates.

Now is the time to have a soil test taken on your plot of land, ensuring that you use a reputable company who carry out soil analysis.

APRIL

CHRYSANTHEMUMS
BY JOHN PEACE

April is the time to get your soil prepared for planting out in May. The soil should have been dug over before the start of the winter months and then when the soil is right, not too wet; I like to use a Tiller to prepare a nice tilth, ready for the fertilizer to be added. As any soil test recommends, don’t be in too much of a hurry to add the fertiliser. A lot of people make the mistake of applying the fertilizer too early. I usually add it to the soil at the end of April by forking it into the top few inches of the soil and then raking it over.
The recommended NPK for early Chrysanthemums is 200 parts per million of Nitrogen, 150 parts per million Phosphates and 150 parts per million of Potassium. April is the time to commence the stopping (pinching the growing points out) of the reflexes. This helps with the timing of the blooms and encourages new breaks to develop so that you can grow 2 flowers per plant. When planning for a particular show it is best to have at least 2 stops, seven days apart to make sure that you have the blooms ready on time. This is also a good time to get your canes placed out in your planting ground, where your plants will go in preparation for tying the plant up.
I sterilize with a mixture of household bleach and water in a container and let the ends steep in there for a few hours.
You now need to harden your plants out ready for planting. If the weather is dry and there are no frosts forecast you can leave your cold frame tops off or leave your greenhouse doors open.

MAY

The month of May is the traditional time for planting Early Chrysanthemums out into the land. After checking the weather forecast to make sure there are no hard frosts on the way, I would usually plant out the first and second week in May. Some people, put all of their plants out in one or two days, but I believe in taking my time and enjoy planting out over a two week period, there is no rush.
The feriliser has been added at the end of April, and so now I will rake the beds over and put the canes in prior to planting out. I plant 18” between rows and 18” between plants, in a domino fashion. I try to do two rows and then a path, making it easier to access all of your plants during the growing season. A good tip before planting, wet the soil to try to make sure the soil bed is moist. I do not water the plants in after planting so that the roots are encouraged to leave the root ball to search for water. I will only water my plants when they show signs of wilting, which can be a week or so after planting.
I like to water the plants in the pot, the day before I put them out in the land. This makes them easier to tease out of the pot, otherwise the roots stick to the side of the pot and cause root damage. Dig the hole with a trowl next to your cane and pop in your plant, firming the soil lightly around the plant. I secure the plant to the cane with string in a figure of eight style. A lot of the varieties have two breaks and so there will be two canes at either side of the hole with the canes placed so that they are angled to widen at the top, in a sort of V shape so that when the plants grow up the cane their is room at the top for each of the blooms.

JUNE

Early Chrysanthemums
By John Peace

Your early Chrysanthemums will be well established now whether you are growing them in the ground or in pots. Mine are grown in the ground and June sees me starting to feed my early Chrysanthemums with a liquid feed. A good balanced feed, equal parts of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potasium is best at this stage. This can be easily bought at any garden centre. I will feed every time I water which is roughly two or three times per week, depending on the weather. At the end of this month we will see the centre buds starting to appear and this is the time to disbud, just leaving the central bud in the centre and removing all of the side shoots. Once I have secured the central bud I like to change the feed to a high Nitrogen, where the Nitorgen amount is higher than the other two. I only do this for a couple of weeks and then revert back to the balance feed and stop all together at colour show. Securing your buds on time will result in an even supply of blooms in time the show (see picture)

Things to do this month:
Put parafin down cane tops to control earwigs
Spray with a fungacide to prevent white rust
Spray an insecticide to prevent damage from caterpillars and greenfly
Remove all side shoots from side joints so that all of the nutrients are supplying the main bud and not wasted on unwanted side shoots

JULY

July Issue Early Chrysanthemums
John Peace

Your buds should nearly all be secured by now, for the timing to be right for shows in early September. If you are aiming for shows at the end of September buds should be secured by the end of the month. It is important at this time to have a regular spraying programme to deter pest such as red spider mites and thrips because towards the end of the month we will start to see colour show. Firstly on your large intermediates (such as Billy Bell ) and medium incurves (such as Joyce Freda). In my garden the latter is the first to show colour, roughly around about the 20th July. When these varieties first show colour I will spray the tips with an insecticide and bud bag them (7” x 7” greaceproof paper bags). I secure the neck of the bag around the stem with a twisted. I will put the date that they have shown colour on the bud bag this gives me an indication of when the flower will be ready. It takes approx 4-5 weeks from this date to be ready for show. After 11 days in a bud bag you need to change them into a larger greaceproof bag 10” x10” or 13” x 12” depending on the expected size of the flower. These larger bags are inflated to allow space for the development of the flower by inserting a tube into the neck of the bag and blown up (see picture) I secure the neck of these bags with either a twisted or a tie rap. Remember you only bag the incurving and intermediate varieties and not the reflexing varieties. The reason why we bag the intermediates is that it keeps the bloom clean and improves the form of the flower (see picture).
Once the plants are showing colour I will cease the feeding programme and just give them water.

Important things to be done this month
• Keep your beds weed free by regular hand weeding
• Nip any basal growth at the bottom of the stool. Do not pull out as this is where your cutting material for next year is produce (nip it off)
• Nip off any between leaf growth allowing all of the energy to be delivered to the bud rather than to spare growth
• Keep your beds moist at all times during this month