Sunday, May 13, 2012

I feel like a Pariah

 Hardly anyone wants to do trades with me, no one wants leaves.  I feel like my name is smeared and I am like an outcast. I brought it on myself I know.  I'm still waiting on the soil test. I'm still having trouble finding mites to take to an entomologist.

I did cut down on watering, let the soil mix actually get dry and crumbly on the surface, which means too dry I thought.  But with the heavy mix it still is very moist just an inch under the surface.  Where it dried out, the roots are starting to grow back. Where the soil is moist, the roots are dead.

The Menards african violets in the bathroom are starting to grow new crowns.  The new growth is still pale.  I used an old PH testing strip.  The PH was high, like somewhere between 7 or 8. That is too high for ideal growth.  The city water seems to be alkaline too.  The soil was supposed to be acidic, but maybe the water brought up the PH.

 I'll try a little experiment:
1.Lighten the soil mix with more perlite
2. Microwaving some of my soil to pasteurize it and set a few starters in it.
3. plant a few starters w/o pasteurizing the soil
6. Get some soil acidifier from Menards or mix powdered sulfur in some.
4. wait it out, give them the same care. See what happens.

 If the ones with the acid soil amendments grow out the best, then it is a PH issue.  If the ones with the pasteurized soil grow out the best, then it is a soil pathogen case.  if they all grow out well, then it was a watering issue.  If they all grow out like crap, then there is something else going on. I'll need to check for pests or my lighting.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Maybe I'm just stressed out and ready to see faults in everything.  Maybe I've been killing my plants out of paranoia.

The mites seem to be very elusive. I brought over a plant to the local plant pathology lab. They could only find one mite, but were not able to identify it.  So I walked past a couple buildings to show the mites to an entomologist. Somehow he ended up with mite free leaves and thrip free blooms.  I'm glad for the no thrips, but puzzled how I missed giving him a mite to look at.  The darn things crawl really fast. They seem to like hanging around the soil and pot rims.  These little details and their long front legs makes me think these may be a an Oribatid mite or a predatory mite. Perhaps one of these? Or these? Or these? Or these? Or a Hypoaspis mite?
When I peered through the microscope in the plant pathology lab, I got a clear view of the mite, even clearer than my camera got.  It looked a lot like the last photo, an Amblyseius swirskii or some mite in that family or possibly in the Hypoaspis family.

That still won't stop me from trying to catch a few mites to bring back to the entomologist. If he verifies those are predatory mites or soil mites, then I'm not going to bother trying to get rid of them. It's doing me more harm trying to kill them, than to accept them as part of the microbiology.

This is my opinion on springtails.  Though they look ugly floating in the bottom of the water tray and just plain annoying, they serve a real function. Spreading good fungi and eating harmful stuff.  In fact it seems whenever I see my african violets growing in soggy wet soil without rotting, almost always, a colony can be found.  I learned that lesson once with a Christmas cactus. I sprayed and sprayed until most springtails were gone. The soil got moldy and the plant collapsed.  I learned to better leave the springtails be and just water less.

What about the strange growth? What is causing it?  The plant pathologist lifted one of my african violets out of its pot. He grumbled about the roots. "All dead" he said. "No roots, the plant's dead." He continued to complain how wet the soil was.  I too was shocked to see how soggy it got.  It felt dry on the surface.  It also got wet from spraying all my plants with forbid.  Out of curiosity I'm getting the soil tested to see if there is more to it or if the soil is just wet or has the wrong ph.

I'm still waiting on the soil test result.