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PANSY CULTURE

Pansies are known as "cool weather plants" because they display their largest, most colorful flowers in a temperature range of about 40 degrees F. at night to 50 degrees, or 60 degrees during the day. Although they are hardy perennials, they are most generally grown as annuals to bloom freely in the cool spring season and are discarded when warm weather fades the colors and reduces the size of the flowers. If strong plants are set out early in the fall, they will begin to bloom later in the fall and even in the winter in localities favored by frost-free intervals that last for some time.

The modern seed strains are highly bred by specialists for size, color, substance and form. Their high grade is maintained by rigid and painstaking selection, requiring a good deal of hand work which necessarily make the seed expensive. The quality of the best strains soon runs down if this careful selection is not continued for each seed crop.

The soil for pansies must be fairly rich to produce an abundance of good sized flowers. The addition of well-rotted manure in liberal amounts is very beneficial. Heavy soil can be greatly improved by digging in a good proportion of sand to loosen it as good drainage is important. In situations where water might stand during wet weather it is advisable to build up the beds a few inches to insure the run-off of excess water. Ample moisture is necessary, but a saturated condition will soon harm the plants. In the spring or during the season of bloom, fertilizers such as are used for other crops in the garden are helpful. The best results are obtained from light top-dressings at intervals of about 2 weeks, each application being followed by cultivation and watering.

The seed also may be sown in a specially prepared bed or frame located where surface water from the surrounding area will not run over it, or a box 9 inches to a foot high might be utilized, half filled with sandy soil. The soil in the seed bed is well pulverized and freed from lumps, stones, or other coarse materials, leveled, pressed down, and watered.

Broadcasting the seeds is usually practiced when boxes or frames are used. In open beds sowing in rows about 4 to 6 inches apart is desirable to identify the seedlings more easily, which simplifies cultivation and weeding. The seed is distributed thinly and evenly and covered lightly - only about 1/8 inch deep. The entire surface is then pressed down with a flat piece of wood to bring the distributed seed in close contact with the soil. A mulch of leaves or cover of burlap laid on the seed bed during the 8 to 10 day period for germination aids in maintaining the necessary moisture.

This cover is removed when the seed has sprouted. The most critical time is during germination and early growth of the seedlings. If the seed becomes too dry after it begins to sprout it will die, and if kept too wet and confined, it may be attacked by fungi. Water must be given frequently but rather sparingly at first.

Pansy seed does not germinate well if kept above 75 degrees F. A canopy to provide shade over the bed may be made by stretching muslin or burlap on a light frame. After the seedlings are up, half shade is needed for 2 or 3 weeks. The canopy is placed a foot or more above the bed to allow the air to circulate freely.

The soil is kept loose and free from weeds by frequent shallow cultivation. If the seedlings come up to thickly, it is necessary to thin them to stand at least an inch or two part. The plants taken out may be transplanted into a bed prepared like the seed bed and grown on until large enough for the beds where they are to remain. When the plants in the seed bed have developed their first rough leaves the canopy is removed to admit full sunlight.

When the plants have developed several leaves, they are ready to set out in the beds where they are to flower. Usually they are spaced about 7 to 10 inches apart. Care is aken to lift the plants with as little disturbance of the roots as possible and reset at the same level as in the seed bed. In cold, northern sections early September transplanting is advisable. After the ground freezes a thin mulch of straw or manure is applied to reduce fluctuationsof temperature in the soil. Hard freezing does not harm the pansies but alternate freezing and thawing does much damage by lifting the plants out of the ground. Where winter weather is mild the plants may be set out later in the fall.

To avoid the care necessary to grow pansy plants during thehot weather, many gardeners prefer to buy the plants from pecialists in the fall at transplanting time. Enormous numbers are grown for this trade by nursery men in localities favorable to seedling production. The plants stand long distance shipment very well, if properly packed and grow readily. When a shipment of plants is received, it is agood plan to put them in cool water for an hour or two torestore lost moisture. In re-setting them care is necessary to separate and spread out the roots in their natural position and press the soil firmly around them.

Plants of blooming size over-wintered in coldframe also aresold in quantities for planting in the spring. They furnish many flowers with little delay and are quite satisfactory, but the best results are secured from plants bedded early inthe fall.

The above information secured from USDA, Bureau of Plant Industry.

Indoors sow seed in late winter 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting outdoors in spring. Where winters are mildsow in summer for transplanting outdoors in early fall.Spread moist Grow Mix even with the top of a shallow container. Sow seeds in shallow rows and cover to their thickness. Bottom water and place in a cool location about 60° F. Keep moist, never allow to dry out. When 4 leaves develop, transplant to 2 1/4" pots. After danger of frost,set pots outdoors in a protected area to harden plants for 2or 3 days. Then transplant 12 inches apart in good garden soil and water well.

 
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