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The Editor's Tutorial

.Starting

 The start of a new season with dreams of the finest pots and blooms ever, visions of prize cards and trophies - all these seem possible at the start of the season.

   The new season begins for me in early February* with the starting of small cutting tubers, followed by medium sized ones in mid-month and the largest at the end of the month.
   At the beginning of March it is the turn of the main tubers (all aimed to be ready for the South Coast Area Show the first weekend in August).  Finally in mid March older tubers to be used for garden display fill any remaining spaces in the heated sand-beds.
   As explained elsewhere in this website I start all my begonia tubers individually in pots or half-pots.

Isabel Keenan

I start begonia seed in January

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First away - the small cutting tubers.
  These are restarted within four or five weeks of being harvested as they tend to shrivel if stored too long.  A higher loss rate than with larger tubers must be expected.  Most will not make large enough plants to give worthwhile results this season and must be regarded as "money in the bank " for next year.

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The right size pot.
The pot (a half-pot) should be of a suitable size to accommodate the tuber and subsequent roots.  The tuber should be completely covered.
The top of the tuber can be identified by the scar from last year's growth.

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Cottage Loaf.
Sometimes when a cutting dies back too quickly at the end of the season part of the stem remains and hardens to become part of the tuber.  It takes on the shape of a cottage loaf.  

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Starting in a heated propagator.
A heated propagator is ideal for starting a small collection,  growers with larger stocks usually prefer a heated sand-bed.  In either case a constant temperature of about 70f. 21c. should be maintained.  The compost is 50%   Scotts Levington Professional F2 and 50% Irish moss peat thoroughly pre-mixed and sufficient water added to make it cling together.

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Keeping costs down.
Using fleece to cover a heated sand-bed will help to keep down heating costs in the early part of the season.

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First signs of life.
An emerging pip signifies that the buried tuber has awakened.  On this tuber two pips are emerging, this will enable the smaller to be taken off as a basal cutting if so desired.
Alternately if the two stems develop equally then a double stemmed pot plant is possible.

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Erratic starters
Some plants are breaking out into green leaves whilst others are not even showing a pip, this is quite normal with begonia tubers and there is no cause for concern as the slow ones will catch up.  Some growers prefer to wait until the pip emerges before placing the tuber in it's starting medium.
Note the fly traps have already claimed a few victims.

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Greenhouse insulated with double-bubble.
Tubers just covered. 
Compost just moist with a constant temperature of 70f. 21c . 

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