This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol2", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
These are now grown in such enormous quantities for the various markets, that to be successful it is necessary for the grower to keep his selection strictly up to date, and to neglect no detail in his system of culture. To obtain good prices, or to ensure selling at a reasonable rate when markets are glutted, the quality whether of blooms or spray must be good, and the grading and packing above reproach.
MARKET CHRYSANTHEMUMS 1. Le Peyron. 2. Freda Bedford. 3. Elsie Fulton. 4. Mrs. F. MacNeice.
(Half natural size).
The first and one of the most important considerations in good cultivation is naturally the soil. Good rich turfy loam is the best, and no trouble should be spared to obtain it. Most nurseries have a meadow of some description to draw on for their potting supplies. It is worth while considering whether the turf from that source is as good as it might be. Practice has proved that the cheapest method of feeding Chrysanthemums is to mix the necessary ingredients with the soil; it is still cheaper and more convenient to apply such manure to the turf a year or two before the soil is wanted. If a plot of ground for a year's supply of Chrysanthemum soil is marked out, samples should be drawn from different spots thoroughly mixed, and a portion sent for analysis to a competent horticultural chemist, who will usually indicate the methods by which the soil may be improved. As an example of what may be done, the following hints may be of use. If nitrogen is deficient, a light sowing of clover will improve matters, the nitrogen-fixing bacteria will enrich the soil from the atmosphere with practically no expense to the grower. As nitrogen is the dearest food we have to buy, this becomes a considerable item. Lime in many cases (especially on alluvial soils) is present in negligible quantities; it is better to apply it in three or four dressings to a growing turf than to have to apply it in quantities at time of using. Phosphates are applied easily and economically on most soils by the use of basic slag, which also supplies lime; as slag is only slowly available, the advantage of applying in advance of requirements is evident. Potash is usually in the soil in sufficient quantities, although not always available, but the increased quantities of lime will bring it into use. This may appear to be a prolonged method of obtaining good soil, but it is undoubtedly the best. A much smaller amount of feeding is required when the pots are full of roots, the labour of applying the manure is saved, and the plants make a steadier and sturdier growth. As a piece of ground is stripped, if depth permits it should be dug over, a dressing of chemicals given, and sown down with a suitable mixture of grasses containing a fair proportion of clovers. A good turf should be formed in four or five years.
It takes two or three years usually to raise the food values of the soil to the required quantity; and if so much care and time cannot be given, an analysis of the soil should at least be obtained, and, acting on the analyst's advice, the necessary materials added in the spring. If rotted or mushroom manure is to be used, this should be mixed in before samples are drawn.
For a soil of medium texture the following method may be commended to those who do not wish to trouble about an analysis. To 5 parts of soil add 1 part of spent mushroom manure, or if rotted manure is used, 1 part to 6. To every two barrowloads of soil add one 32-pot of bone meal and one 32-pot of slaked lime; to every four barrowloads add one 32-pot of ground hoof and horn. Turn several times to ensure thorough mixing, and, if possible, leave a month or two before using.
For light soil rotted manure is better than mushroom manure, and should be used more freely - 1 part to 4 or 5. The soil should be the first care of the grower, and after that the stock. It may be added that one advantage of putting the manures into the soil before starting to pot is that less feeding is required, consequently the cuttings come more freely and are better; if it can possibly be helped, they should not be taken from plants that have been highly fed. The best cuttings come from plants that are planted out on poor soil on which practically no care or attention has been expended, with the exception of keeping the weeds down. As far as possible only sucker cuttings should be taken; other cuttings run to bud.
Stools from which cuttings are desired, if not from the open ground, should be knocked out of the pots, and the ball of soil reduced. They should then be packed together as closely as possible on the surface of the ground in a cool house, and lightly covered with soil; at the same time a drenching with clubicide or similar preparation - 1 to 1000 parts of water - being given to kill all slugs and other insects. A temperature of 45° F. with plenty of light and air will favour good firm cuttings. After the latter are taken from the plants, before they are trimmed, they should be dipped in a wash of XL All, one 60 pot to 2 gal. of water, if there is any suspicion of Greenfly. A good cutting should be moderately thin, firm, and slightly purple on the stem; 2-2½ in. is a good length. A clean cut should be made with a sharp knife immediately below a joint, and the leaves trimmed off for two or three joints, or about 1 in. As soon as the cuttings are trimmed they should be dipped in a solution of potassium sulphide - 1 oz. to 2 gal. of water - as a preventive of rust and mildew. The soil for them should consist of 3 parts light soil to 1 part of mushroom manure; this should be put into herring boxes and rammed firmly, keeping the soil 1½ in. from the top. Fifty-five cuttings usually go to a box. A hole 1½ in. deep is made with a dibber for each one, the cuttings being inserted, and the soil pressed firmly round the sides and base; it is very necessary that the base should touch the soil, or rooting will not take place, and the cuttings will wither. The boxes may then be labelled with the number or name and the cuttings watered in, a good soaking being given.
The best place for them is a pit in the house, made by putting two 6-in. boards on edge and laying lights over. Failing this, sheets of paper or glass should be spread over the boxes to prevent the cuttings from flagging. A little flagging is beneficial to encourage rooting; slight dampings with a syringe once or twice a day will keep this from going too far. An occasional watering, however, will be necessary to keep the soil moist. All decaying foliage should be picked off at once. When the actual rooting has commenced, more air should be allowed, and the boxes given greater space. When the cuttings are firmly established, all the air possible should be given them, the temperature being kept at 45° to 50° F., and everything done to ensure a firm and stocky growth.
From the boxes the usual market practice is to pot the cuttings direct into 48's (5 in.), putting two or three plants into each pot, according to the variety. For incurved varieties it is better to pot singly into 60's (3 in.), being careful to keep the young plants well up, as thoroughly ripened wood is most essential. A mixture of 3 parts of loam to 1 part of mushroom manure, to which the addition of a 48 (5 in.) potful, both of lime and bone meal, to each barrowload will give good results. They should be potted firmly, the pots being filled to within f in. of the top, using only a flat stopper to cover the hole in the pot. After potting they should not be watered till absolutely necessary, but soaked thoroughly when they are. As soon as the roots reach the sides of the pots the plants should be put into a cold pit if the weather is favourable, of course making ample provision for covering in the event of a frost. From the middle to the end of March is the usual time for shifting to the pits, and once there they do not require a great deal of attention. Careful watering, full air on sunny days, indeed plenty of air at all times except when frosty; care in giving the growing plants needful space; an occasional scraping of the surface of the soil, and removal of weeds; these are some of the chief things a grower should attend to if he desires to produce good and creditable plants.
The final potting cannot commence till the third week in May; but everything ought to be prepared in readiness, all the required pots should be cleaned and crocked, soil got ready, and potting benches set up. With new and choice varieties a shift from a 48 (5 in.) pot to a 32 (6 in.) is often worth while, to keep the plants moving. A careful eye should be kept for any signs of starvation, and a weak stimulant given at intervals to keep the plants up to the mark. It does not pay to pot rubbish. Soot and stable liquor are both excellent if well diluted for this feeding.