Growing Baskets by Biennial Method


  This is one method that is used by Fuchsia showmen, to grow to a large, full of flower basket. This is achieved by growing for shape and structure one year, then the following year to grow for the flower. The basket is a 14" - 16" wire hemispherical basket, with a round bottom.
Sit the basket in some form of bucket, for stability whilst planting. Add a basket liner, moss, plastic or propriety ready made liner.
The compost is a multi-purpose compost, to which has been added, Perlite or Vermiculite, to open the compost, this being added at one part Perlite to six parts compost. To this is added water retaining crystals, a tablespoonful, for a 14" basket. This is then mixed thoroughly together.
When making up the basket, some compost is laid in the bottom of the basket then a number of empty pots, formers, the same size as the plants pots, are arranged around the outside of the basket, almost touching, in this case 9mm pots are used.
  When all the empty pots are arranged around the basket, compost is filled in between the pots and gently firmed down. The finished level in the basket, should be approximately 1" below the rim of the basket.
The beauty of this, is that the plants, in their growing pots can be arranged for the best shape.The centre pot should be the tallest plant, so as to give the maximum overall height. This centre plant can if necessary be left until later when you have a larger plant.
When the white roots of each plant, in its own pot, has filled its compost, then the empty pot former can be taken out and the plant taken out of its pot and inserted into its place.
Water in all the plants, when finished.
In no time at all, the plants will be growing fast. When each branch of each plant has grown 2 pairs of leaves, pinch out or stop the growing tip. It is a definite must that when doing this, that all the basket is stopped at the same time. It is best to do this, if you sit the basket in the bucket again, and with a small pair of scissors do every growing tip of the basket. This way you will have a balanced basket that is growing evenly all over.  
  This regular stopping provides a close framework for the basket to give lots of blooms and gives a close structure that will be able to carry all these blooms, without breaking the stems or splitting the baskets overall shape. In a very short time, the individual plants will have formed into one canopy.
This growth is carried on during the first year and by this regular stopping, no flowers form. At the end of the first year, you should have quite a woody framework to the basket. One of the reasons for stopping at every one or two pairs of leaves, is to keep the basket compact and not too large.

The Biennial growing of a basket requires some form of heating during the winter, to keep the plants ticking over in green growth. Regular spraying with insecticide is needed, to keep a check on whitefly and other pests.
As the basket gets bigger, it is necessary the internal structure is checked for dead leaves, which must be removed in case Botrytis ( Grey Mould ) takes a hold. If it does, spray with a fungicide. Some of the internal leaves, if not all, can be removed, to give some form of ventilation and air movement through the basket, especially during the cooler, darker days of winter.
As the darker days of winter give way to the lighter spring days, the growth speeds up again, keep up with the regular stopping. By now, it can take quite some time, taking out the growing tips, for there will be hundreds.
The final stop is done by counting back from the show date, or the date you want it to flower, 7 weeks for a single flowered Fuchsia and 8 - 10 weeks for a double flowered variety. From this final stop, it takes the plant this time to produce the open flower. This final stop is only an approximation because in the 7 weeks, or 8 -10 weeks for doubles, the weather can be dull and cold, thus retarding growth, or could well be hot and sunny thus accelerating growth and flowering.
During the first year growing season, once feeding is needed, a high nitrogen feed is applied regularly, to promote vigorous green growth, and then in the second year, a balanced feed is given.

This method, of course, can be used for half or wall baskets.

The Biennial method of growing certainly produces really floriferous baskets to make your friends and neighbours envious.

G.Foster, amended 16 Sept.2001

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