Stopping and Feeding

The reasons why we stop plants or pinch out the growing tip is to control how early we wish to have the plant bloom.  All plants will grow to the point of producing their own break bud and then produce side laterals.  This is often too late and the results are not what you may desire.

Most people set for a date in mid September for the Earlies and so it is that growers in the past have recorded their results and so we today have a guide to follow.  The guide is not written in stone and only to be used as a general guide.  Differences will become apparent due to the different areas that you reside in, the conditions of warmth and hours of sunshine that plants receive.  So the keeping of a written record does help.

It is fair to say that the large bloom cultivars [23a, 24a, 25a] will take longer to grow/mature and open to full bloom so these are often stopped in late April and early May and then the medium cultivars [23b, 24b, 25b] are known to come into bloom somewhat quicker, and so a stop of mid to late May is justified.  But then, this said, there are always the odd ball ones that do their own thing and so to ask of other growers is always helpful in making a final decision.  And then there is the effect of what you feed the plants to get them to be big enough to produce blooms.  Garden sprays fall into a general mid May to 24th stop date.

So to feed your Earlies please read on...

Fertilizers can have a very big effect on the end result.  Good or bad is mostly within your control and so to follow a set regular feeding pattern and then to keep a record of what you have done is the best way.

In early May, most plants have been up-potted several times and have grown a good root system.  Some early growers will have them planted in the ground.  Many plants will be a foot in height needing support and filling a 7 inch pot and ready to plant by May 15th.   This is the time of year for growing as big a root system as possible and only with minimal of feed in the growing medium.  And now, for the plants put into the ground, it is the time to apply a basic fertilizer to the ground and towards the end of the month to start a liquid feed program.  If you are to be growing only in pots then now plant into 8 inch, 9 inch or 2 gallon size and make sure canes are used.  Yes, it is work but, to secure by tying to a cane, does have advantages and, to have your cane/stake in the ground first and put the plant to this, is the better way to grow.

For liquid feed, the brand is your choice, knowing that [30-00-00] is Nitrogen and is great for the green get up and grow part, and that [00-10-00] is for the strength and health of the plant, and then [00-00-10] is to feed the roots and produce the final bloom.  So a 30-10-10 fertilizer is good for the first feeds of June and July and then a more balanced 20-20-20- in mid July to mid August and as the bud breaks then only water is given, or you may want to just go with a balanced 20-20-20 the season through.  When purchasing a fertilizer, do read the label and make sure it is a complete, meaning that it contains all micro and major elements of feed.  Following a program of feeding full strength once a week is good in open ground growing and to feed a half strength solution to pots twice a week is a better way of being secure that there is no interruption of feed, or a starvation will show in the final bloom.

The Stop and feed of Lates is different but the same guides apply.  Most Lates will have had a first stop/pinch in late March or early April and then grown on in pots and are now ready to go into their final pots, containers or specimen exhibition hardware.  This is when it is advisable to put a slow release fertilizer under the plant and which formula to use is dependent on what you want from the plant.  A 16-10-10 is for more top growth and the 14-14-14 a more balanced one.  Then a 2nd stopping in June is needed, at this time some of the first side laterals can be disposed of leaving what you need plus 1.  You can make your choice of entries for the various classes in the November schedule if that is your goal.  There are exceptions to the rule and by asking of fellow growers we find the answers that we need.  What about Fairweathers?  Ask Franz Kleijn, for these may need some extra help and feed.  And, as for bonsai and potted mums, ask Bernie.  Liquid feeding of these may not be as frequent or needed till mid August.

David Ledward