If you get them well established it will take a lot of brutal treatment to kill them, although continued skillful management is needed to insure best results. I am very particular about the first watering. It should be sufficient to thoroughly wet every particle of soil on the bench. The quantity of water will depend upon the dryness of your soil when planting. We shade the first week after planting (and I think that is of great benefit) by simply throwing some muddy water on the glass. A lump of stiff blue clay dissolved in a tub of water and the water thrown on by a tin dipper will answer every purpose. The rain soon washes it off and if you don't get a rain the hose will do it with little trouble. In a week or at least in ten days the new roots will be active in the benches and no more shade is wanted till the following spring.
If the weather is hot and windy I prefer to let the houses be hot rather than draughty. A cutting wind is bad for any plant when its roots are inactive, so keep the ventilators almost closed for the first few days, and if the nights are still give all the ventilation you possibly can then. You will see the carnations stand up in the morning as if they had grown there all summer. The cool night air is their salvation and the hot, dry air of daytime is their severe ordeal. We throw water around the house and lightly spray the plants for the first few days, and we believe, contrary to scientific exponents, that the plants are greatly benefited by so doing. After the first week and the plants have taken hold we ventilate all we possibly can day and night and entirely discontinue all syringing.
No part of my endeavor to impart my simple knowledge to the reader is done more earnestly than that regarding the summer and fall management of the carnation. It is during the months of July, August and September that so many promising houses of carnations are ruined, and there are lots of them that have too little ventilation supplied them, and many growers don't avail themselves of the means of ventilation that they have. A strong, sturdy, healthy plant in the latter part of September will endure a lot of mismanagement for the next three months, but a forced up, weak plant at that date will never repay you when the dark days come. Give all the air you can, day and night, till winter sets in. There are thousands of carnation houses throughout the country most inadequately furnished with ventilation. Get them altered, or grow something else.
In a week or ten days the second watering of the beds is needed, but no subsequent watering should be so copious as the first one. To attempt to tell you how often a bed needed watering would be preposterous. If you can't tell by sight or touch when the beds are dry and will take a watering I might as well try to describe by words a sharp or a flat in music to an ear that cannot observe it when heard. You should not attempt to keep a bed or potted plant always at one degree of moisture. Extremes are bad, but it does not hurt to let them get slightly on the dry side or in that healthy state when a watering will be greatly appreciated by the plant. We try to keep the surface of the beds slightly loosened up and entirely free of weeds at all times.
The Modern Type of House for Growing Carnations.
Some growers tell us to keep the beds free of weeds and "dry leaves, which should be removed." I am happy to state that we have not had occasion to remove any dry leaves for some years, and there is no occasion to have any if the plants are properly treated during the first month on the bench, particularly the first week. Some of our best growers clean the surface of the beds thoroughly in August and then put on a half or three-quarters of an inch of mulch, which feeds surface roots, prevents the drying out of the beds and the necessity of continually stirring the surface of the soil. It is an excellent plan. This should be repeated again by the middle of February. For the mulch we use finely broken up cow manure, and before putting it on the bed we stir the surface and sprinkle on a good dusting of bone flour, covering the bone with the mulch. If you are going to carry your carnations on into June this mulching will be of the greatest benefit.
I don't think i have yet said anything about temperature. If a house is very light the day temperature is not of great importance providing it is high enough. It is certain that some varieties do better in lower temperature than others. Enchantress flowers freely in a night temperature of 45 degrees, Lawson wants 55 degrees at night, or does very well at that, but 50 degrees at night will be found to suit the great majority of varieties very well, and is high enough for any if first-class flowers and a continuous supply is expected. All of them should go up to 65 degrees in the daytime, unless the weather is very cold and it is all fire heat; then stop at 60 degrees. If the sun is shining let the house go up to 70 degrees; that is only the carnation's natural temperature. Some growers attribute bursting of the calyx largely to a very uneven temperature; that is, letting the house get down some nights as low as 40 degrees or less. But this may be theory only. The nearer you can keep the house to 50 degrees at night and to 65 to 70 degrees in the daytime, or noon, the better success you will have. A little ventilation should be given for a short time every day except in the very severest weather. On cloudy days when the outside temperature is perhaps 35 to 40 degrees it is economy to fire up and give ventilation.