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Cultivating your Tuberous Begonias

Your tubers are dormant when you receive them, in order to get them growing you will need to place them in a suitable medium. Begonias are susceptible to moisture related problems so your medium must be loose and well drained.  Most Begonia growers will use a half and half mixture of peat and sand. At Bloomex we advocate for renewable materials so coco coir or two year old wood shavings mixed with sand is our recommendation. Peat is not a renewable resource and rapidly increasing demand has placed significant pressure on natural habitats where peat mosses naturally occur. Whatever you choice, ensure good drainage.
Place your tubers, hollow side up, into prepared standard nursery trays or containers that are 3 inches deep, leaving room around each tuber to allow for development. Cover each tuber lightly with your starting mixture to help ensure even root development. Maintain moisture but do not over water. Place your tray in a warm location, a heating pad will work wonders, and once your tubers have sprouted and exhibit approximately 3-4 inches of growth you can move them to their summer container or a transplanting pot if they are destined for your border.
As with all art forms, technique and success develop over time. One mistake new gardeners make with Begonias is to neglect to pinch out their young plants. Pinching is what most of the staff at commercial greenhouses are involved with during the early growing cycle and it is directly responsible for the thick, lush plants you will see there.  Younger tubers will support fewer stems than older ones, so leave one or  maybe two on young tubers and three or four on older ones. When you are pinching out unwanted stems, choose dominant  ones and think of the location where your  Begonia will be displayed,  remember that plants have” faces” and we want to see that  face when we interact with them. If you are growing pendant Begonias for containers or baskets, disregard the above and allow all stems to grow.
The next cultural technique you will want to consider is which flower buds you want to remove... yes, that is correct, you want to remove some of those buds. Begonias are Dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. If you examine the bud arrangement closely, you will note a large(er) central bud with two adjacent, smaller buds. The larger is the male and it is the showy double bloom you desire, pinch out the smaller buds to assist the male bud to grow larger.
Your tubers are dormant when you receive them, in order to get them growing you will need to place them in a suitable medium. Begonias are susceptible to moisture related problems so your medium must be loose and well drained.  Most Begonia growers will use a half and half mixture of peat and sand. At Bloomex we advocate for renewable materials so coco coir or two year old wood shavings mixed with sand is our recommendation. Peat is not a renewable resource and rapidly increasing demand has placed significant pressure on natural habitats where peat mosses naturally occur. Whatever you choice, ensure good drainage.

Read more: Cultivating your Tuberous Begonias

 

What is Biochar and why is it good for your soil

What is Biochar and why is it good for your soil?
You may have encountered the term biochar when investigating organic approaches to soil amendment and, like many gardeners, been left in a state of minor confusion. Essentially, biochar is charcoal. When used as a soil amendment, the term biochar is employed.
The production of biochar is likely as old as agriculture and is perhaps best known as the by product of swidden, or slash and burn agriculture.  Although classical slash and burn, which is still practiced in some regions, is said to involve the complete combustion of vegetation to clear land for agricultural use, over time agriculturalists would undoubtedly have observed that in areas where the vegetation smouldered, rather than burned entirely, the soil exhibited enhanced characteristics.
Today, we know that the addition and mixing of biochar, largely through the activity of earth worms or human intervention, into a soil greatly enhances its water retention characteristics, reduces nutrient leaching, decreases soil acidity ( i.e. increases pH), stabilizes populations of soil microorganisms, increases soil cation exchange capacity and available levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and enhances soil structure.  The easily observable benefits to the gardener include: reduced irrigation need, reduced fertilizer input, and enhanced soil tilth. Experienced gardeners will recognize these as the three pillars of success.
Interestingly, biochar amendment has also been demonstrated to reduce the soil emission of nitrous oxide (a very destructive greenhouse gas) which is a prevalent problem in modern NPK agriculture, especially corn production, and virtually eliminate methane emissions (in agriculture, a product of manure decomposition).  Biochar has also been demonstrated to reduce the effectiveness of pre-emergent herbicides and to reduce the uptake of contaminants and  pesticides by plants.
Amendment with biochar is a relatively easy do it yourself task, one can create one’s own biochar or purchase the product. Its effectiveness is very long lasting, in fact soils in Meso America where the practice was widespread prior to European contact in the 16th century exhibit enhanced qualities to this day, and those soils are known as Terra Preta de Indio.  Optimum application is in the order of one pound per square foot but lower levels still confer significant advantages.
You may have encountered the term biochar when investigating organic approaches to soil amendment and, like many gardeners, been left in a state of minor confusion. Essentially, biochar is charcoal. When used as a soil amendment, the term biochar is employed.
The production of biochar is likely as old as agriculture and is perhaps best known as the by product of swidden, or slash and burn agriculture.  Although classical slash and burn, which is still practiced in some regions, is said to involve the complete combustion of vegetation to clear land for agricultural use, over time agriculturalists would undoubtedly have observed that in areas where the vegetation smouldered, rather than burned entirely, the soil exhibited enhanced characteristics.

Read more: What is Biochar and why is it good for your soil

   

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