Monday, April 23, 2012

Feed your head? No feed the soil first!

Welcome back to another edition of Lost in the Farmer’s Market albeit delayed due to a spring cold, and today we have a double-header. First on today’s list is a plant spotlight for a very interesting house plant and then the main feature.

In the business it is not hard to come across odd things at suppliers and in garden centers, the hard part is remembering that you are in these places to buy things for clients and not for yourself. I admit while walking through the green houses of a supplier in search of purple heart plants I saw something I just had to buy. The plant in question was a far cry from what I was looking for and thus we have today’s plant spotlight, and the plant in question is Spear Sanseveria. For all you botanical latin fans out there you might recognize the word ‘sanseveria’ as it is the first part of the name Sansevera trifaciata or as we commonly know it, ‘snake plant’ ‘Devil’s Tongue’ or ‘Mother-in-Law’s Tongue’.  The spear sanseveria however is a differing animal; instead of having broad flat leaves with banded green and white striations the spear instead has round leaves.  By round I mean cylindrical, with a pointed tip no less that of course is where the ‘spear’ part of the name comes from. For all of you out there who need to know the botanical Latin name for the spear sanseveria is Sanseveria cylindrica. Like its more common cousin, the spear sansevera grows from an underground rhizome and is suited to long periods with no watering. The spear sanseveria however has evolved a form that reduces the surface to volume ratio of the exposed leaves and thus they survive well in the sweltering heat of their native Angola with little problem.

 Honestly this picture does spear sanseveria no justice, the above is three growing tips from a single rhizome.

In home cultivation this plant is rather rare to see as it is very slow growing and absolutely does not tolerate constantly moist soil. Not unlike an aloe, if kept wet to long the plants will rot and fall apart, and also are quite happy in a pot for a very long time without repotting. The soil mixture for these plants if you can get one, should definitely be cactus soil but barring the ability to buy that try to make a soil mix that has some fine gravel and about 50% sand in it to mimic now nutrient arid soil. One thing that is worth noting, indoors in a somewhat shady location this plant is able to go without water for up to two months, and about two weeks if grown in a hot and brightly lit area. Once the weather warms in the summer and stays above 60 degrees at night these houseplants can be moved to the hottest areas of your garden as temporary displays. Cuttings of this plant can be taken in the same manner as other sanseverias, cut a roughly 3” piece off a leaf tip, allow it to dry for a day or two, dip the cut end in rooting hormone and insert half way into any decent potting medium then be very patient, as it may take weeks to root. If you are resistant to disfiguring your plants by lopping off stem tips you can also wait for the plant to naturally form smaller offsets or ‘pups’ as they are some times called and split those off when repotting. Lastly if all of the above did not blow your mind, note that the Sanseverias are in the Asparagus family, though I must admit I have no idea if they are edible or not.

Now with all that covered today’s topic, is an extension of the week before last, where I covered how one turns under a green manure crop. But what does one do if they did not sow a green manure crop what do you plant then? The answer is simple you perform a few easy actions to get your soil ready.

 1. Remove all mulch and any plants in the bed area.

2. Loosen the soil and Use a shovel turn one side of the bed’s soil over, make sure to dig to a depth of 6”.

 3. Add any kind of soil modifier you need to, like lime for example.

4. Replace turned soil and repeat process on other side, then smooth out the soil and top dress bed area with compost, or soil amendment and blend into upper 1-3” of soil surface.

5. Smooth out the soil and apply old mulch if still in good condition and/or new mulch as needed. You may also plant  your crops as needed in your newly mulched areas at this point.

6. Water the bed to allow the soil to settle and to ease transplant shock for your crops.

In short with just a little time management and planning one can revitalize a soil  if no green manure crop is available but more then that with a little planning one can also have an excellent crop in the ground sooner rather then later and extend the season by a few weeks.  It is worthwhile to note that the lime used above is agricultural lime,  this particular form is an easy spreading non-burning type that essentially is finely crushed limestone. The soil amendment seen in step 4 is my own compost, about 1" of it. For amendments most nutrient rich compost products will do good examples include mushroom compost, black kow, black hen or even something as inexpensive as scotts topsoil without the fertilizer. Your own compost of course whould only be applied if it is as well decomposed as seen in the picture above where no chunks of what you have composted are readily visible. With all luck, you'll be feeding your soil and for all that effort, your woil will feed your crops which will feed you.

Check back next week for our next article "The making of black gold" where we at LITFM crack open the compost pile and demonstrate how to turn raw compost that has been sitting undisturbed for almost two years into workable quality material. Also we will have a plant spotlight regarding the Orchid Primrose, a short-lived perennial that defies what you would expect from the primrose family.

Thank you for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment