Summertime Blues By Roger C. Styer

The final word

Boy, is it hot in the greenhouse today! Must be July or August, the two worst months to be in the greenhouse business. I think most allgrowers hate these months, unless they are on vacation, in which case they hateto return.

Spring season is over, a distant memory for many. If you arestill selling stuff left over from spring, was it planned for this late? Ifnot, who are you kidding? It probably looks so ugly it should be dumped atonce. Hopefully, you have already done a recap of this past spring season tosee what went right and what went wrong. Go over sales figures and make notesabout where weather conditions influenced sales, put together a plan for nextspring based on what is selling and what is not, and put a tickler on it forwhen you need to place orders.

By now, you are knee-deep in fall mums, and gettinginundated with poinsettia cuttings. As if that isn?t bad enough, fallpansies are also starting up! What a terrible trio of crops to have to dealwith during the heat of summer! I think if most growers could choose, theywould just grow fall mums and forget the rest. But since the market wants otherplants besides mums, growers need to get their act together to have saleablecrops on time.

Fighting the Blues

Here would be my to-do list if I were growing crops duringthe summer:

Make sure greenhouse and outside growing areas are cleanedup from the spring season. Pull and control weeds, clean up plant debriswithout making a lot of dust and dump old plants you are hanging onto. Hosedown benches and concrete with Greenshield. Start with clean pots and flats,disinfecting properly if reusing them.

Be prepared for crops coming in. Make sure to have enoughpots, flats, soil, labels, chemicals and rings for poinsettias. Have thebenches and greenhouse areas cleaned out and ready to go. Did you check youracknowledgements to see what subs or CNS you have to deal with?

Review the growing procedures for poinsettias, from cuttingsto finished plants. You are in the rooting process now, but will quickly be inthe finished stages with the larger pots. You should not only have awritten-out production plan, including schedules for all pot sizes andvarieties, but also a cultural program to follow after potting. Define yourprograms for fertilization, growth regulation, height control, graphicaltracking, and insect and disease control. Know what varieties you are growingand what finished specs you have to attain.

Keep fall mums moving by keeping them watered and fed. Onlywhen buds are showing can you stress a mum. Apply sprays of B-Nine, Bonzi orSumagic as needed before buds show, after which you can use drenches of A-Rest,Bonzi or Sumagic on varieties that need it. Stay up on insect and diseasecontrol based on indoor or outdoor production. Pray that you don?t gettoo much heat delay this year.

Have your growing media tested for pH, EC and all nutrientsfor fall pansies before you start production. The right media, control ofalkalinity in water and the right fertilizer will keep media pH at 5.5-5.8throughout the crop. Use fertilizers containing calcium and magnesium, as wellas low phosphorus and NH4 (17-5-17, 15-5-15), and do not overfeed crops unlessgrowing outside under high light. Make sure pansy plugs are healthy before transplanting,and reduce stress on the transplanted product for the first 7-10 days if at allpossible. The key is to get the pansy plugs to root out properly. Use growthregulator sprays and drenches as needed for height control. Spray for foliardiseases as needed based on rainfall. Stay on a monthly fungicide orbiocontrols program for root rots. Scout for insects and spray as needed.Remember, pansies hate to grow during the hot weather but will grow much betterthe minute a cool front goes through your area.

Focus! Focus! Focus! I can?t emphasize this pointenough. At this hot time of year, no one likes to be inside greenhouses orworking long hours taking care of crops. Don?t cut corners or you willregret it later. Getting plants off to a great start is most of the job, butcontrolling them and keeping them healthy thereafter is the rest of it.

So, to avoid the summertime blues, keep your focus on thefollowing: 1) get poinsettias off to a good start, 2) keep mums moving butunder control and 3) get pansies through the stressful period aftertransplanting. Remember, the things you do now will set you up for the rest ofthe fall!

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Roger C. Styer

Roger Styer is president of Styer?s Horticultural Consulting, Inc., Batavia, Ill. He can be reached by phone at (630) 208-0542 or E-mail at [email protected]

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