Avalanche Petunias

August 7, 2003 - 11:11

Avalanche offers numerous grower-friendly characteristics.

The Avalanche series was the first trailing seed petunia to
be manageable on the bench, flower under short days and require less PGR
applications. Further, an unparalleled color range including two reds was, and
still is, the crowning jewel to this class.

Germination

Germinate pelleted seed at 70-75° F, uncovered. Expect
germination to occur approximately one week after sow, depending on
environmental conditions. Move stage 2 plugs out of the germination chamber or
house and into the greenhouse to under 30- to 50-percent shade, and maintain
70° F night temperature. At stages 3 and 4, plugs will happily withstand
relatively high light levels as long as watering practices are monitored
closely. Temperatures during stage 4 may be reduced to tone the plugs. Be wary
of Botrytis outbreaks.

Avalanche plugs may be held for a period of time. Control
stretch with either B-nine or Bonzi at 1,500-2,500 ppm or 3-8 ppm (spray),
respectively. Bonzi is especially effective and should be used by experienced
growers, as similar rates under varying environmental conditions may have
different results.

Growing on

Avalanche petunias are suitable for finishing in 4-inch pots
to 12-inch hanging baskets for three primary reasons: 1) They are well behaved,
yielding a much longer bench life; 2) they flower and sell very early; and 3)
they are quite floriferous over the whole plant, not just at the terminal ends
of lateral growth. Their well-mounded and full habit is particularly conducive
to premium hanging basket production. Each of these attributes makes for a
superior final product that will sell quickly, no matter the pot size.

Grow Avalanche on at 65-70° F day temperature and
58-65° F night temperature. Avoid high day temperatures, as this will only
stimulate excessive stretch due to a high positive DIF. Average daily temperatures
may be dropped closer to sell date to intensify flower colors, maintain or
increase flower size, and extend bench life.

Avalanche petunias are more behaved than other trailing seed
petunias but may still require PGR applications to tone and/or augment their
habit. For 4-inch production, B-nine at 3,500-5,000 ppm may be applied 1-2
times during the crop cycle depending on climate. Late applications of B-nine
may delay flowering by one week. Although it is generally not necessary for
Avalanche petunias, Bonzi at a 10- to 30-ppm spray may also be applied once
visible bud stage is achieved. PGR applications are usually not necessary for
Avalanche basket production.

Avalanches aren't particularly fussy. Maintain relatively
low EC levels (about 1.0 mmhos), and fertilize conservatively so as to limit
excessive growth. About 150-200 ppm nitrogen should suffice. Limit your
application of fertilizers high in ammonical or urea nitrogen, as this will
only stimulate quick, soft growth. Alternating 20-10-20 with 15-0-15 should
yield good results. Maintain pH levels around 6.0.

Sow to transplant generally requires 5-6 weeks depending on
your climate. Flowering occurs quite early and is not an accurate barometer of
total crop time, while weeks to fill out the final container is. For 4-inch
pots, an additional 4-5 weeks from transplant are required for finishing. For
10-inch hanging baskets at three plugs per pot and 12-inch baskets at four
plugs per pot, 5-7 weeks from transplant are required.

Pests/Diseases

Avalanches are generally insect free. Scout for occasional
whitefly infestations and spray accordingly. As for diseases, Pythium poses the
primary threat. The best defenses against root diseases such as Pythium are
good watering practices. Allow soil to become moderately dry between
irrigations. Subdue Maxx applied as a preventative or curative, generally works
well for Pythium control.

Avalanche is easy, quick, floriferous and versatile. It is
also a great choice for combination pots, where it won't overwhelm accompanying
plants, only enhance them. Currently comprised of nine colors -- Cherry,
Lavender, Lilac, Pink, Red, Rose, Salmon Shades, Tropical Red and White --
most any theme or color combination may be developed with the Avalanche.

About The Author

Jason Riley is N.A. Tech/Sales Representative for Bodger Seeds, Ltd. He may be reached by E-mail at jriley@bodger.com.

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