By now all of your tubers should be planted, (as soon as frosts are finished) although there is still time for any late arrivals or potted shoot cuttings.
The later the planting the better the first flush of blooms should be for show dates in early January/February. However, if you want blooms for Christmas/Garden Displays then September planting is fine - certain varieties are early bloomers so trial and experience will help.
Around this time you should have done your first stopping (ie. removing the growing tips) as this causes the plant to branch out and produce more flowers. As the first flush of flowers begin to open, a little side dressing of general fertilizer or Potash is beneficial as this improves the colour and stems.
To help your plants survive the long hot summer a few suggestions.
An underground watering system (i.e. leaky hose or trickle hose) as this does not wet the leaves causing potential fungus problems.
An automatic timer is also extremely helpful if you are not up for romantic evenings in the garden watering and disbudding. Try not to use overhead sprinklers unless absolutely neccessary.
Night time watering is ideal as this gives the plants all night in the cool to do their uptake of moisture and nutrients. Early morning watering is okay but avoid the heat of the day.
We find deep watering every 4-5 days is better as plants tend to put down better roots in the search for moisture rather than relying on us to water them nightly or regularly. They can easily get too soft and sulk if you go away for a couple of days.
The mulch you applied, whether pea straw, sawdust, stable stuff etc will also be a great benefit in moisture retention and weed control.
A regular spray programme should ideally be underway. Always follow the intructions and never be tempted to double up or add a wee bit more to "kill the blighters". This could result in severe damage or 'superbugs' immune to any sprays.
Always use compatible sprays - a combination of insecticide and fungicide will save a lot of time and effort.
Remove any lower leaves to let air circulate and stop the spread of smut and humidity spots.
The more you pick the more they will produce so keep on top of disbudding the laterals, dead-heading and giving bunches to friends!
Hope to see you at the shows - we all have to start somewhere so give it a go!
Remember to enjoy your flowers, the Christmas holidays and the reason for the season.