Hello Orchid Growers July 2020
It certainly has been a challenging period both physically and emotionally. Covid-19 situation has impacted so many of us in so many unexpected ways. It was not a good time for Liz’s mother to have a sudden unexpected hospital admission resulting in going into high care Age Care. We have been heavily involved in subsequent – property clearance, Age Care, Centrelink Pension and medical care. It has been very time consuming and some things that would appear to be simple to organize turn out to be frustratingly complicated!
Despatch orders had been disrupted and Australia Post now seems to have returned to a better reliable service. Out internet and phone services have been experiencing periods of going down. This apparently is a local problem, not just our issue and is still being addressed. Many frustrating hours wasted on Telstra – most memorable was for 3 hours and 40 minutes, only to result in being disconnected! Our website is now backup and coming months will see the addition of many more new varieties. It is not possible under existing Covid-19 restrictions to conduct our July Orchid Growers Group.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Winter Care Tips for Your Orchids
Winter is a period when most of our orchids are in slower or dormant growth. This does not mean that we do not need to take necessary steps to ensure that they do not just endure this period, but come out of it performing better in the growing seasons to follow. Here are some tips for Winter care of your orchids.
Dormant and plants in slow growth require far less water in both quantity and frequency than those in active growth. Growing media takes a longer time to dry out between waterings in Winter. Overwatering will result in soft growth and rotting of root systems which are not taking up the water. This will then compound fungal and bacterial disease problems. It is very important to water only on days when the foliage will be dry by nightfall, particularly for the monopodial type orchids like Phalaenopsis, Vanda and Paphiopedilum. Orchids are just like us – they do not like to be cold and wet for prolonged periods and will feel the cold even more if their feet are wet!
Yes, it is beneficial to fertilize many types of orchids in Winter as they are still growing but at a slower rate. Some types of orchids are totally dormant so will not require fertilizing, other types of orchids may be maturing growths or have new inflorescences developing. As orchids are generally not in most active growth in Winter they require far less Nitrogen. During these Winter months we should change our fertilizer type to ones of low Nitrogen, such as HSO 12, Grow and Flower, Campbells A, Peters Finisher Etc. Over fertilizing will result in weak growths, may inhibit flower formation and result in a build up of excess salts in the media as watering quantity and frequency is less. It will also compound fungal and bacterial problems. Fertilizing in Winter with fertilizers specifically formulated with higher Calcium (Ca) and Potassium (K) can lead to orchid growth being sturdier and more resilient to cold temperature.
Orchids still require good light in Winter. They are still photosynthesising as required to maintain good healthy life. Some growing conditions find it beneficial to have reduced shade during the Winter months to maximize Winter light. Some types of orchids like Softcane Dendrobiums in dormancy may even be moved to positions of full sun during these months. It may be necessary to move some types of orchids around to maximize light exposure. This could be achieved by moving them higher or to a more exposed aspect. Low light in Winter can result in weak, soft growth and also inhibit initiation of flowering in some types of orchids.
Humidity and Air Movement
Orchids like appropriate humidity and good air movement all year round including Winter. If you totally shut up your growing conditions due to cold temperatures you will then compound humidity and air movement problems. This will result in significant disease problems. Some types of fungal diseases such as Botrytis thrive in these conditions. Overwatering will compound excessive humidity problems. Opening up your growing areas on those warmer and sunnier days will help. Over crowding of plants will also compound the issue. For some growers it may be beneficial to install a fan to generate air movement.
Protection from Cold
In the first instance, a strong healthy, appropriately watered and fertilized orchid will be your best protection. Unhealthy and weak orchids are more susceptive to cold. This is related to the factors that we have discussed already. In extreme periods of cold it may be necessary to move some orchids inside. Growing areas can be covered in removable plastic covers. In decades past old-time orchid growers would cover plants with sheets of newspapers. (This is probably not possible now all the print media Newspapers are being shut down!). When extreme cold conditions are expected we water the floors of the growing areas exposed in the evening and early morning to give some protection from frost damage.
Winter flowering orchids are more susceptible to flowers being spotted by Botrytis fungus. As flower buds are developing move the plants to areas more protected from temperature extremes and also which have good air movement both day and night. Many types of orchids such as Cymbidiums, Phalaenopsis and Softcane Dendrobiums require a period of cooler temperature to initiate flowering, so all cold is not bad. Prepare for enhancing Spring flowering results by staking up canes of Softcane Dendrobiums. Stake emerging Cymbidium and Phalaenopsis inflorescences. This preparation will enhance your flowering result in the coming Spring months.
Winter is an ideal time to do a pest check and prepare to minimize problems that will come with the warmer growing season approaching. Though there is generally less insect pest activity, they are still preparing to cause you potential grief in future months if not attended to. Check for slugs and snails, scale, mealybug and Aphids in particular. It is easier to eradicate these in Winter than in the warmer months. If you start Spring with a clean orchid collection you will then have little future pest problems. Starting from a low pest population base means that you will end up dealing with only isolated “spot Spraying” as an incursion occurs not “wide spread devastation”.
Weed activity is at its lowest for the seasons. This is a perfect time to ensure you start the warmer months weed free. The lower the population of weeds that you have to seed in coming months, the less time consuming problem in the future. We use a stick with a cotton wood bud attached which is dipped in 3 parts Roundup / 1 part water. It is viscous enough to dab on the weed leaf without running off – one dab spot on weed leaf is enough. Keep the floor of the growing area and companion plants weed free. When the warmer Spring months approach weeds will flourish and provide a perfect lush breeding ground for mites and thrips. Eradicating weeds in Winter will also reduce your mite and thrip problems in your orchids in Spring and Summer.
Use your Wheelie Bin
Lets face it – we all have our problem plants! There are most evident in the Winter months. There are many reasons why these plants may be persistently underperforming. It could be the wrong type of orchid for your growing conditions, that it has an underlying pest and / or disease issue (eg. Virus, Fungal or Bacterial disease, Scale, Mealybug), or that it is inherently not vigorous. Some people thrive on “rescue” orchids but inevitably have low quality collections. If you aspire to have a high quality, healthy collection of orchids then use this Winter period to have a clean out. Your Wheelie Bin is the best place for these plants – it will save you time, money and result in a more rewarding collection of orchids.
Thank you for your support
Ross and Liz