Ivor mace



Keywords: british national carnation society, perpetual flowering carnations, carnations, borders, pinks, dianthus, flowers, rhs, bncs. growing, showing blooms, stems, pf's,
Description: Society for all things Dianthus in the UK. With links to affiliated societies and information on growing and showing Carnations and Pinks

This article replaces the piece from the old website, Ivor has kindly updated where he feels necessary, any new text is in italics. This is quite an extensive piece and covers six web pages. We would like to thank Ivor for the time he has taken out of his busy schedule to do this for us

When I started in horticulture soil-less compost was in its infancy. The University of California had published papers based on moss peat and sharp sand at 3-1 with a number of straight fertilisers and trace elements were added. I moved from a local cottage hospital after 5 years employment to a general hospital there was the opportunity to use steam to sterilise soil for the manufacture of potting compost. Later when I moved to the parks nursery I asked them to purchase a Camplex soil steriliser. The difference between the two methods of sterilisation are, with steam the soil needs to be dryer to begin, as steam makes it more moist and the Camplex steriliser works on heated plates transferring heat through very moistened soil, turning it to steam and conducting the heat throughout the soil. Both methods give the same end result. The recommended temperature to kill fungi, weed seeds, perennial plant roots, wireworm and other soil pests is 180of or 82oc. This is known as partial soil sterilisation. Higher temperatures will kill soil bacteria and render the soil totally sterile. This is not something we want to happen because it will take the soil some time to become inhabited by soil bacteria again; this is an essential constituent of the breakdown of organic matter. Remember when you cook soil you hasten the breakdown of any organic matter present, like plant roots (mainly grass if the soil is from pasture land). Therefore what ever method you use be it a commercial soil

When I worked for the health authority we used to lift turf from a field containing a nice medium loam full of fibre from grass roots. We followed the John Innes Institutes recipe of:-

No trace elements are present in this base fertiliser. However when I moved to the parks nursery we had to buy in loam, there was little or no fibre in it, unlike the rotted turf I had been used too up to this point. I found that using the JI recipe, the compost set like concrete, causing both poor air porosity and poor water penetration. Eventually after some trials, I modified the recipe to:-

Obviously with the reduction in the loam content and the lack of decaying organic matter in the loam I moved from JI base fertiliser to Vitax Q4 which along with its N-P-K it also contains trace elements. I feel this is important because with the reduction in loan content the need for another source of trace elements is important.

The difficulty in obtaining enough good loam and the cost effectiveness of it against moss peat has resulted in further experiments. I have found that an 80% peat to 20%

loam still gives comparable results. In other words the 20% loam is enough to give the compost some buffering capacity. That is the ability for clay particles to attract ions of the opposite polarity. Positively charged Ammonium for instance will stick to negatively charged clay particles, avoiding them being leached from the compost. Plants can absorb nitrogen in the form of ammonium but because it sticks to clay it is limited in its uptake by plants, however when ammonium converts to nitrate after micro bacterial activity, the nitrate ions are negatively charged, so they repel from the clay particles and are suspended in the soil water and are absorbed by the plants. Just imagine if ammonium was leached from the compost before it converted to nitrate, this would necessitate heavier feeding with the possibility of higher salt concentrations, root scorch and poor water uptake being a possibility. Thereby is the reasoning behind my philosophy of having some loam present in all my composts for plants that are going to occupy them for a long period. This is the reason I only make my compost to the equivalent of a JI number 1, Yes JI number 1. To get good root establishment, then I use soluble feeds to increase growth after the plants have established in their pots, 31/2 inch, 5 inch and 8-9 inch final pots.

There are several ways you can make compost: - purchase moss peat, loam and grit or perlite. Or alternatively, purchase a good quality peat based compost and add 20% loam and 10% grit or perlite, adding base fertiliser for only the proportion of loam and grit because there is already fertiliser present in proprietary composts. I write this because I am mindful of the fact that moss peat is going to become increasingly difficult to obtain because its use is being discouraged for environmental reasons. Very few garden centres stock it any longer. The environmentalists see potting compost as a necessary evil, but using moss peat for improving soil structure in gardens is defiantly being discouraged. Eventually even multi-purpose composts will have to contain a large percentage of renewable material like bark. Many already do, this is not necessarily a bad thing because composted bark has good air porosity like moss peat, where as fine grade loam has not.

In fact in trials this year I grew Bob’s Highlight and Linfield Annie’s Fancy in this type of compost and they performed just as well as the other varieties.

When I mix compost for rooting cuttings and sowing seeds I make it up with even greater air porosity to enable respiration and cell division at the base of the cutting not to be compromised. I use: -






Photogallery Ivor mace:


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Ivor around 1995.jpg


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Rose Show Reports


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Stock-Car Racing in Britain - The Early Days


CHRYSANTHEMUMS in ABERDEEN - Late National 2010 Report by Ivor Mace


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March | 2015 | Everything I Know about the UK... I Learned from ...


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Introduction