Summertime Blues

July 10, 2003 - 11:01

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 all
growers hate these months, unless they are on vacation, in which case they hate
to return.

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

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

Fighting the Blues

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

Make sure greenhouse and outside growing areas are cleaned
up from the spring season. Pull and control weeds, clean up plant debris
without making a lot of dust and dump old plants you are hanging onto. Hose
down 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 enough
pots, flats, soil, labels, chemicals and rings for poinsettias. Have the
benches and greenhouse areas cleaned out and ready to go. Did you check your
acknowledgements to see what subs or CNS you have to deal with?

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

Keep fall mums moving by keeping them watered and fed. Only
when buds are showing can you stress a mum. Apply sprays of B-Nine, Bonzi or
Sumagic 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 disease
control based on indoor or outdoor production. Pray that you don?t get
too much heat delay this year.

Have your growing media tested for pH, EC and all nutrients
for fall pansies before you start production. The right media, control of
alkalinity in water and the right fertilizer will keep media pH at 5.5-5.8
throughout the crop. Use fertilizers containing calcium and magnesium, as well
as low phosphorus and NH4 (17-5-17, 15-5-15), and do not overfeed crops unless
growing 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 all
possible. The key is to get the pansy plugs to root out properly. Use growth
regulator sprays and drenches as needed for height control. Spray for foliar
diseases as needed based on rainfall. Stay on a monthly fungicide or
biocontrols program for root rots. Scout for insects and spray as needed.
Remember, pansies hate to grow during the hot weather but will grow much better
the minute a cool front goes through your area.

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

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

About The Author

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

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