The festivities are now behind us and hopefully the worst of the winter is also behind us. I hope to give you a monthly update on what I am doing with growing my Carnations. This I must stress is how I grow mine as every garden and indeed every gardener will have their own way. I hope this might encourage you to give growing Carnations a go.
It is now the second week of the month and the gales of the past few weeks have at last eased and we can at last get in the greenhouse and poly-tunnel to see how the plants are doing. The plants have not been watered since late November and I normally find at this time of the year with the start of the increase in light levels and temperature that they need a drop of water. I must stress that it is only a drop and only to those that I think need it, as a mild day usually means a very cold night with a frost. So try and do any watering early in the morning and I use a small 1 ltr watering can, lifting each pot to see if it needs a drop. Do not use a large watering can as there is no control on the amount given and you do not want to let the leaves become wet if possible. Try to remember that over damp wet compost will deter root growth and can eventually kill the roots and the plant. I also ventilate as much as possible when conditions allow by opening all vents, windows and doors, good air circulation is imperative for good growth but do not forget to close them if the weather conditions deteriorate and certainly by evening.
If the forecast is one of a good spell of weather then I will give the plants and all cuttings a spray of fungicide/pesticide, this the start of keeping the plants clean and healthy. This once again is done early in the morning which gives plenty of time for the leaves to dry before the evening. Never spray if there has been a frost, far better to wait for a spell of milder weather.
These were all potted up into 5” pots by the end of November in a 2-1 compost of Multi-compost and perlite with a dusting of bonemeal. I use M3 compost but any peat based multi will do. They have all been stopped; this is the growing tip being removed to allow breaks to form. I normally wait until the plants starts to break naturally before stopping as I believe you get a more balanced plant with even breaks but sometimes this not the case and you have to stop the plant to force them to break. I certainly have all my perpetual stopped by now, otherwise they would not flower in time for the shows as it takes my Perpetual’s approximately 8 months from stopping to bloom.
They are all housed in the greenhouse and at this time of the year space is at a premium. They too have been kept on the dry side and had very little water. I will soon give them a feed of African violet fertilizer feed which is high in phosphate and this will stimulate root growth and help build up a good root structure. I try and keep the Perpetual’s moving on and they will be monitored closely for being pot bound, white wisps of root showing through the pots drainage holes are the first sign that they need potting on into their final pots.
The pots have stood in the poly-tunnel since last September and as the Perpetuals have had hardly any water. They will now get a drink as there are signs that they are starting to come out of their hibernation period. One or two have started to elongate, that is the flowering stem has begun to spindle (remember Border Carnations are not stopped as Pinks and Perpetuals)I like to go around at this time of the year to clean up the plants by taking off any rotting leaves and cutting any dead ends off the leaves. Leaving them on will cause rot to set in. Be very careful removing any leaves, gently tug whilst holding the plant, if in any doubt that the leaf is still firmly attached and may cause problems by removing it then leave it until it can be easily removed.
The Pinks are also housed in the poly-tunnel as the Borders they are totally frost hardy. Some are starting to show growth at the base which is a sign that the centre stem is elongating, these need removing to encourage the flowering stems. It is a simple matter of bending the stem over and it should snap easily, do not pull or tug at it as this can damage the young plant. I find early morning is the best time to remove the centre stem as the sap is rising.
Once again try and keep the watering to a minimum and only when needed.