Thursday, April 13, 2006

The weather

How does the weather affect the Gerberas?

Quite a lot really. Although they are kept under a plastic tunnel, and consequently spared the ravages of wind and rain for the most part (some at either end may experience a little more of both than we'd prefer!), other weather patterns affect the Gerbera.

Humidity. Powdery mildew and Botrytis are two diseases that are brought on by humidity, and lack of fresh air circualting around the plants. It is our pattern to spray for botrytis on a regular basis. Once when we didn't spray often enough the whole crop of flowers had to be discarded. All had the tell-tale sign of the disease on the petals of the flower so were of no value to the florists.

Powdery mildew affects the leaves more than the flower. Once again, spraying when it appears is necessary. There are other ways, but we choose to spray.

Cloudy days. Now this makes a big difference, especially when the weather is cooler. Gerberas like warm, sunny days. The flowers just slow down so much when we have several cloudy days - and there is little we can do. Obviously production is down. Less flowers for the florists. Less money in the till.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gerberas in the Commonwealth Games Flowers.

The floral gift given to each athlete who won a medal was most interesting. There's quite a story behind it. There was a competition and florists were asked to submit ideas. Interflora was behind the winning idea, and some 45 florists worked full time during the games to ensure that all medal winners received an exact replica of the winning design.

The flowers were heliconias, and mini gerberas (Harley - a sprightly orange) which were surrounded by yellow "billy buttons", and an anthyrium on the outside of an extra-ordinary frame. The arrangement had to withstand rough handling by the competitors - it must not fall apart. As far as I saw it didn't.

We were tickled pink about the arrangement - they certainly weren't our Harley's in the Comm Game flowers but they are one of our favourites in our hot house.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bugs and diseases

It is not always fine and dandy in the hot house. We have to manage a range of bugs and diseases.

Currently we are fighting an attack by the "apple moth" that has found it's way in, laid some eggs and it's little offspring have found their way into many buds. The eat their way in, poop everywhere, and destroy the flower. As we pick we come across these damaged flowers, so pick them off, stomp on the flower to kill the grub, and keep up the spraying until it is all clear again.

Another bug that we have currently is red spider mite. These tiny pin head insects can be seen all over the leaves in particular, and sometimes create a fine net around a flower. More spraying to control them too.

We don't like spraying - but it is a fact of life, and we choose to use less toxic sprays on the plants. Sometimes we have little choice. Spray it must be.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

De-leafing - our rush to finish.

One of the things that happens when you give plants high nutrient to "encourage" quality blooms, is that as a side effect, you also have lush foliage. Gerberas are no exception, and one of the challenges in the hothouse is to ensure that there is good circulation and light (preferably sunlight) reaching into the crown of the plant.

We do regular "de-leafing" - removing the dead decaying leaf litter that occludes the crown of the plant, as well as the mass of healthy leaves that overcrowd the adjacent plants.

One thing we do is regular "hair cuts" with hedge shears - removing all the leaves that hang into the walkways between the rows of plants, and then we get to - either with secateurs to cut away the excess leaves, or with our hands, pulling out the leaves that are no longer needed. It is a dirty back breaking job - but you can almost see the plants sighing with relief as they know that they can "breathe" easier.

I do an hour or so at a time - it IS backbreaking, and you then have to remove the wasted leaves from the hothouse.

We plan to de-leaf in the two hothouses in the next couple of weeks - before the really cool weather sets in.