Friday, December 14, 2012

Progress Takes Its Own Time

Two weeks of growth in my  pasteurized "earth mix" at right.  Center plant is peat comparison. 
No swarm of creepy crawlies have shown themselves to suggest this was a very bad idea.  Yet.
I've pulled 4 or 5 tiny weeds. 
Hoping that's not an omen of other things able to survive 225 degrees in an oven.
Ma's Second Thoughts is giving me a second chance.  It was down to about 3 leaves. I walked it out to the window ledge for a few weeks of east facing sunshine. Except it's a bit cold and drafty. And I tend to forget to water things on that shelf often enough. Most of them are cactus plants so that works for them.  AVs not so much! 
It's back under lights.

Tiger Trail (PINK vs CREAM) have been divided. 
PINK seems less pink? 
CREAM is holding its color! 
One has been added to a MODIFIED 2-piece planter. 

All planters failed their former experiments and the plants in them removed and re-potted in an attempt to save them. 

Ness' Fantasy Gold and Sky n' Snow are doing much better. If you consider being once again back down to just 3 or 4 leaves better?   They both seem to prefer it OUT of those damn pots!  Hats off to those can make them work.  I fixed them . . .
(Well, time will tell if that's true or not!!)

MODIFIED 2-Piece Planters:
I took a power drill with a masonry bit and drilled a quarter-inch hole right through the middle of the inner pots. It took a really long time to drill through with a regular bit. 
Mason's bit (for cement) ...worked just like butter!

Not convinced plants fare well without drainage/leaching option.
Now there's space in the outer pot to catch drips if watered from top and can act as a saucer to water from bottom. Maybe. 
(Time will tell!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"6 of one...half dozen of another"

"Graft" Babies on their own.

I separated the graft experiment offspring a couple of weeks ago and saved nearly all of the plantlets, no matter the size. There were slightly more variegated leaves than plain.
The plain leaves seem less unruly?

The odds any of them are actually a cross of Heaven's Reflection & Lime Jewel are probably slim. But what the heck!

The variegated leaf kept growing and the 2 parent leaves didn't seem to be "stitched together" at any place along the stems, although babies & roots were certainly mixed.   
The 2 types of leaves grew mixed around both stems.   
Probably to be expected!

Below the egg container is an actual plantlet of Lime Jewel and also Heaven's Reflections for comparison.

As sold by Ebay seller in August
Lime Jewel - December 2012

The original Lime Jewel received in August is proving difficult to grow! 
Leaves were removed. 
At first simply in an attempt to give the center leaves room to grow. And then just because I HATED the way they looked. 
It was Live or Die.

All new growth has developed but it's not what I'd call a well behaved plant in the least!

I'm determined to see this one through to blooming stage.  
The almost leafless plant photo below shows my Golden Rule:  
"Be Ye not afraid to yank the freaking leaves off!"
They grow back. Most of the time ;)

All the way down to this!
It looks as if it's "hungry" but I'm terrified of feeding it too much. I've started reducing number of hours lights are left on from 12 to 10. Mostly because it "feels" like stems are never really long enough and I'm wondering if length of hours lights are left on has something to do with this, rather than water pH or fertilizer. I continue to feed only twice a month - 15th(ish) and 30th(ish)
Ish equals a day or so later, but not earlier usually(ish).

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Wicked Experiment!

To Wick or Not to Wick?

(That's the experiment!)

Rebel's Sugar Pie - 1 wick, (through center hole of bottom and hanging slightly over edge)
1 modified Texas Style.
(Wick coiled in "C" on top 1/2" layer of Miracle-Gro Perlite,)

Katy Did - 1 wick, 1 not, 1 modified Texas Style. (Wicks added as above.)

Sassy Sister - 1 wick, 1 not.
(These all used my "earth mix")
Teen Bride - 1 wick, 1 not.
Potted up Nov 19 with peat mix.

(Wick added with darning needle up through center hole on bottom to hang a little over the side.)
Wick material 3/4" strips of pantyhose stretched thin.

This experiment in response to All About African Violets Podcast
Podcast 23 mentions using wicks VS not...
A listener comment posed a Wick Experiment Challenge for podcasts to come.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Absence of Earth?

I went to the forest in search of dirt.

Test subjects in takeout pie keeper!

I took a small hand-shovel and went mining for rich earth beneath an old pine, a grove of cedar trees, a decomposed moss-covered stump, the final remains of a fallen log and years of leaf decay beneath piles of rocks. "Real Dirt!"

An experiment.
A substitute for Canadian Peat Moss.
Would my African Violets benefit from a little bit of earth?

When I first came to the internet to explore the  mystery of "What keeps an African Violet alive & blooming?" I embraced the "soil-less mix" concept and practiced the art of 1:1:1 potting mix recipes.
Equal parts of Peat Moss, Perlite and Vermiculite. 
Forest Compost/dish has test mixture.

Except, I generally settled on a 2:1½:1 mixture. 
I'm a determined, if careful water-from-the-top grower. 
1:1:1 seemed meant for growers who wick-water and my plants always seemed to need watering.  

So, it's after the fact once again. 
Plantlets above have been separated from their mama, only to be experimented upon.  In container ~ planted in my "earth-mix":
(3) Mickey Mouse (Center pot has peat moss-mix, separated a week earlier; largest plantlet.)
(1) Darling Blue Trail
(2) Storybook Princess 
(2 in pot*) Grandmother's Halo
(3 in pot*) Maverick's Faded Jeans
* Very small - will separate if they live! 
I asked a friend for advice. More to come on her blog I'm sure, as we have things up our collective sleeves for the coming months!!

I dug a book out to do a little more research. 
African Violets: A Gift from Nature by Melvin Robey. (1988)

I searched & searched for this book soon after discovering African Violets have names (the first time I grew them) and finally found a reasonably priced copy. It's a very interesting resource.
"CHAPTER 6 - Understanding your Potting Mixture."
Mr. Robey explores the ongoing quest for the "perfect potting mixture" recipe and then concludes there is NO ONE PERFECT MIX. If 100 people in a room were asked for their "perfect" mix, he surmised there would be 129 recipes!

(Someone in the room clearly was not following instructions.  
Hey. Don't look at me!)

He does however suggest "earth" is obsolete in light of the "new soil-less way of doing things" and does NOT recommend using "dirt". But if you must he explains the method for pasteurizing it. 
NOT sterilizing it, as that kills everything good. 
(I did find this info online, although the temperature for the oven and length of cooking times varied a bit.) 

My favorite section of this chapter was his theory on WHY we experiment with different mixes:
"Why does someone suddenly switch from one potting mix to another? There are 5 basic reasons I can think of  for this odd behavior in African Violet enthusiasts." Melvin Robey 
1. Change for change's sake. (Possibly worriers, looking for solutions?)
2. Trying a friend's mixture. (It worked for them, so why not try it too?)
3. Trying out new ideas. (The experimenters!)
4. New products introduced. (A new marketing fad?)
5. New Cultural Practices. (Change to wick or matting, for examples.) 
(His list is actually quite a bit wordier...)
So, disregarding an expert, I went for a walk to the back corner of our property and returned with bags of "dirt".  
(And cooked it a little while, like the internet said.)

This is an experiment
Do NOT try this at home . . .
Well, unless you like to experiment too!