AUTUMN TASKS FOR GARDEN VARIETIES


Now in October, a number of my bedding Violas are still trying to flower. They really do deserve a rest, so I shall be cutting the more vigorous varieties back again. My usual time for this is early September, when I take any cuttings that may be available, cut back all of the old flowering growth and give the plants a feed. This usually gives me a crop of cuttings towards the end of October. This timing appears to suit my plants, and fortunately gives me two months to concentrate on the more fickle exhibition stock; which do not take kindly to severe cutting back.

Another task is to check regularly on the state of my seed crop. Varieties chosen to bear seed are usually pot grown and isolated. I try to put small bags over the swelling pods. Nothing is more frustrating than having the seed scattered far and wide, when you have made careful crosses. However, it might be worth your while to go carefully over your plants and see if you have any open pollinated pods. If they are fat and of dark line they can be removed to a small container to burst at will. The odds against getting anything outstanding are small, and yet I can never resist a "chance". If you have a little heat you can still sow the seed fresh; or you may choose to wait for the natural warmth of spring.

Two things to think about: do not sow too deeply, and darkness does not really aid germination. I base this on the fact that a self-seeding plant broadcasts its crop, much of which will fall onto the surface of the soil. There it will sit day and night until eventually the conditions will suit its germination, following nature can never be a bad guide?

Cuttings need protection from slugs, a real pest this year, aphids and fungal infection. As we have Roseclear once again I give each cutting a bath before it is put to bed, and the compost is drenched with Liquid Sluggit.

For those who may not have attempted this before, I offer a brief introduction to the taking of cuttings.

As a result of cutting away old growth and a little feed, the majority of garden varieties respond with a flush of basal growth. These I remove with a sharp blade, and trim below a leafjoint. I then insert into trays of 50 / 50peat and grit, water in with Roseclear / Sluggit and place into the cold frame. I have a heated propagation bench which is used for my tender plants, and there is always a little space available for any late cuttings: last year I was still taking them in January.

I also use the heat to "bulk up "the less vigorous varieties, especially those of procumbent habit. As insurance, I lift some of these plants and pot them up in fresh compost. A little dose of high nitrogen feed and a move into a cool greenhouse usually brings the desired result.


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