December 2021 To-Do’s
Prepare your stools for Next year’s cuttings:
– Keep the stools outside, protected from cold, wind , rain and slugs. It is important for the plant to chill and remain dry and dormant until 2-4 weeks prior to taking cuttings. This chilling period will produce much stronger cuttings for the next growing cycle. Most plants can withstand one or two nights of freezing, down to 28 deg. but 3 or more consecutive nights freezing will probably kill all but the hardiest of your mums. During severe colder snaps, a garage, greenhouse, shed or tarp can be used temporarily to protect your plants until the cold snap subsides.
-Two to four weeks before the desired cutting- time, bring the stools into a heated area (60 deg. for example) and feed with a dose of high Nitrogen fertilizer such as Miracle grow to stimulate new growth. For me this translates to moving in and heating the old stools to mid Dec. as I will be starting with new cuttings in mid to late January.
– Clean up and re-fill your cutting beds:
Every 3-4 years it is good practice to clean out your old cutting beds, Spray all the structure and mats with a fungicide and refill with fresh new cutting media. Since we are on a kick this year to eradicate White Rust, this would be a good time to do the complete refreshing of your beds. Even If you are now starting directly in 2 ½ in cross bottom pots, or other newer pellets, you are probably placing the new potted cuttings on top of your old cutting bed. So it’s still necessary to clean it up.
I now recommend a starting bed media of 50% Green Mountain sharp white sand and 50% Pro-Earth #2 starting mix. The Green Mountain sand comes from crushed stone and has sharp edges and corners. The sharp edges tend to penetrate the cambium layer along the imbedded stem, which promotes development of many more roots on the cutting. The Pro Earth medium is a bit finer than the M&R mix, contains more basic fertilizer combined with some longer term slow- release fertilizer, and a basic dose of trace elements.
Some Old Basics:
-Cutting beds need heat cables or pads and a means to hold the Temp. between 65 and 69 deg F.
-Some rigid foam insulation under the cutting cables or pads will help maintain the heat.
-The cutting media should be approximately 3” deep.
-Cutting bed size should be selected so that the bed can accommodate one or more of the standard trays of 11”x22”. Mats generally will come in sizes that approximate multiples of the tray size.
-An overhead fluorescent light is generally required. A 2 bulb 4ft shop light works well. You can buy special gro-lux or plant-gro bulbs but they are relatively expensive and plain old white light bulbs are still very effective.
If you want help designing or building a cutting bed, contact one of the veteran ECA growers.