Weeks to Finish a Hanging Basket
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We did an experiment to see when the best time was to plant baskets to meet the Mother’s Day market. We also wanted to determine how crop time would vary with different planting dates. We used 3 cultivars and 5 planting dates. The three cultivars were Surfinia Petunia 'Mini Brilliant Pink', Scaevola 'New Wonder', and Tapien Verbena 'Blue Violet'. The five planting dates were timed 3 weeks apart. Plants were received and potted on the following dates in 1999: Planting date (PD) 1 on Jan 22 (Week 3); PD 2 on Feb 12 (Week 6); PD 3 on March 8 (Week 9); PD 4 on March 26 (Week 12); and PD 5 on April 15 (Week 15).
Plant material was received as rooted cuttings in 84-plug trays. Three cuttings per basket were potted into 10-inch hanging baskets using a soil less substrate. For each shipment, six baskets of each species were placed in a glass greenhouse on expanded metal benches with day/night temperature set points of 68/65 °F. Plants were not manually pinched. Eleven days after potting each shipment, plants were sprayed to runoff with Florel at 500 ppm. Initial plant spacing was one basket per square foot. Beginning in mid-March, baskets planted on the two early dates were spaced as needed (once every 4 weeks) to accommodate plant growth and prevent crowding.
All plants were hand watered as needed with constant liquid feed (CLF) at 200 ppm 15-16-17 from planting to mid-February and then with 300 ppm 20-8-20 CLF for the remainder of the experiment. The potting media was tested weekly for EC/pH using the saturated paste extract method. Yellow and blue sticky cards were used to assist in pest monitoring.
On week 18 (May 6), the plants were rated on quality and marketability. The quality rating (1 to 5, 5 = best) was based on plant size i.e. the amount of bench space they were occupying and cascading stem length (measured from top of foliage to end of stems), flower number and marketability for Mother’s Day. Marketability was defined as the time when the foliage covered the medium and was just beginning to cascade with flowers distributed evenly across the plant canopy. The next day (May 7), the baskets were sleeved and left in a “simulated shipping” condition (indoor room with no light or air conditioning) for 3 days. Sleeves were removed and plants were observed for post-shipping quality.
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