Tuesday, October 12, 2010

SoftAcres Maine September 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Growing Seed Inventory - With Prices




Salvia is not the only rare plant that I am growing. Here are some seeds that can be purchased now. Please send an email to SoftAcres(at)gmail(dot)com, for mail orders and other information. All seeds are untreated. Very limited quantities. $5 minimum purchase amount s/h is included.



POPPY SEEDS



Papaver somniferum v. "Drama Queen" $0.05/seed


Papaver somniferum v. "Danish Flag" $0.05/seed


Papaver somniferum v. "Giganteum" $0.05/seed


Papaver rhoeas v. "Shirley" $0.03/seed



MORNING GLORY SEEDS



Ipomoea violacea v. "Heavenly Blue" $0.02/seed


Ipomoea purpurea v. "Tricolor" $0.01



OLOLIUQUI SEEDS



Turbina corymbosa v. "Christmas Vine" $0.30/seed



WILD LETTUCE SEEDS



Lactuca virosa v. "Lettuce Opium" $0.02/seed

Growing Salvia divinorum in Maine: Good Summer



I have been meaning to work on this blog for a while. Things get in the way sometimes. But I'm finally back to post some new pictures and tell how the Salvia is growing.

It has been a great summer, weather-wise. No Maine summer in recent history could compare so nicely with a tropical climate. Unfortunately for the natural plants around the yard a very serious lack of rain is probably going to hurt them this year. The reason for this is that we also had such dry winter--only one or two snow storms.

But for the plants I'm raising and able to water everyday, the increased sunny days have been a real ally. Temperatures have been averaging 85 F. And we have had more humid days than we have for a long time.

The Salvia has grown into a family of over 150 plants. I bought some better pots (deeper) and have been using only Miracle Grow potting soil. I have been feeding them with plant food every week. No the cream of the crop are my 16 large (~20") beautiful clone-ready plants (shown in the photo above). They really are amazing, having grown from a height of 6" in only 2.5 months. This is the type of growth you can expect when conditions are right. I just need to sell them now.

As you can see by the most recent photos, there was no longer a need for the windhouse going from about June 1, on. And June and July were VERY hot and sunny. I had the larger plants near the Heavenly Blue Morning Glory vines, out in the middle of the yard. That was a mistake. The sun bleached them into a yellowish green color. So (as luck would have it, right be before a small tornado ripped through the yard) I moved all the Salvia into the shadier region against the barn. A large rose bush provided nice afternoon cover to the smaller plants and the larger ones began to recover in the shorter exposure area. I could make 100 clones a month now but I'm not selling enough to be able to afford to buy more pots and soil.

I had issues with a brown beetle species too. They would sleep during the day under the boards and pallets around the plants and then after sunset crawl up and eat the leaves. Their tell-tale excretions and munched leaves seen each morning alerted me to their presence. Eventually I realized that if I went out at about 10:00 pm I could catch the little buggers chomping away. I noticed as I picked them off the plants that they were quite helpless there in my plastic cup. They made a kind of buzzing noise and all huddled (6 of them) together. They have wings but didn't seem to remember to use them. Since I don't kill anything for no reason I took them to the way back field and dumped them out, with plan of watching to see if they would return the next night. They didn't. There were a couple individuals I missed the first night and I scooped them up and relocated them as well. I had no further problems with these guys. Besides inch worms (that were only a problem in mid July) I have seen no further pests that like eating the very bitter leaves of Salvia.

So readjusting for less direct sunlight and solving the pest problem helped keep the Salvia family growing.

Here is a short video I put together that takes a walk through my very small inventory of Salvia divinorum plants and seed-plants...





______________________________________________


Here is a breakdown of prices for live Salvia divinorum plants...




$25 Plants




$40-$50 Plants




$30-$100


______________________________________________



I am not in a position to pay for advertising or else I'd be able to sell these plants like crazy. Prejudice and ignorance about this species has also been a big struggle for me. Soon I should be able to offer credit card sales again. This time it will be through a friend of mine who specializes in entheogenic sales. I should know more about that and will announce the team-up by the end of next month.

[Live plants available to Maine residents only.]

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Growing Salvia divinorum in Maine: Maine Winter and the Indoor Desert



In Maine, when the leaves are yellow and red, and the skies become clear, crisp blue, broken only by the golden sun, somewhere around the end of September, it is time to occasionally start bringing the Salvia plants inside for the night.

Even this spring, Maine had an unusually early string of fair weather in March when I was able to test what the adult plants might be like outside, I absolutely had to bring them in at night.

Now, in the middle of April, for the last three nights I've transferred all 50 or-so plants outside to the 70-80 degree (F) windhouse, for the daylight hours, and then back in again at night. The benefits of extra hours of full-spectrum sunlight, humidity and the soil-warming action of the sun, far out-weigh the lazy approach of just leaving them inside for another couple of weeks. Fortunately, tonight they will be able to stay out. They like it that way - they told me. :] And it is likely that there will be no more frost (I feel my fingers wanting to cross).

The very early kick-in of germination and sprouting in March this year, with frost occurring later in April, has really hurt many of Maine's crop farmers. Unlike me, they were not able to bring their babies in from the cold.

Anyway, getting back to the fall and the coming of winter, Salvia should not be in temperatures below about 39 degrees; I have seen them live through that this spring. Any night - at least in Maine - with temperatures slipping below that mark means one is running the risk of very localized pockets of frost developing. And if the plant hits the freezing mark, it's a permanent goodbye. Why risk it?, I say.

By the middle of October the plants will stay inside for the duration of the winter. This is where the fun begins...

Instead of going into some kind of dormancy or hibernation, things continue on as they did outside. Window light - even from the Northeastern window that I have to use - is adequate for another month and a half. This is one of the Salvia grower's many unusual pluses. Since all parts of the plant are relatively useful to cultivate re-production is nearly always done by rooting the cuttings from bigger plants, not by seed. And in that case, the plant doesn't need its natural light cycle in order to grow or for reproduction; it has humans for that! Terence McKenna once said that "...plants invented animals as a way of moving them around." And so it's true, especially in the case of Salvia divinorum.

Over the winter I made my way toward an unusual lifestyle of Salvia-obsession. I have two Feline American roommates, and for the first time, last year, Salvia ALSO came to live with me. And she is the most beautiful roommate I've ever had...though a challenging one in some ways.

CLONING

After deciding to devote my attention to mass-producing this sacred herb, one challenge I ran into right away was the deleterious effects of over-cutting. I wanted 100 plants by the first day of Summer, to start my business with. That meant maximizing with all possible haste and efficiency, the "cloning" technique. My plant is the Blosser clone (named for it's collector, Bret Blosser). Genetically speaking, it is not related to his plant; it is that plant. In this way the plant never really dies. Interesting facts about the reproduction and cloning (a-sexual) production, as well as hundreds of fascinating sources of information about Salvia can be found at Daniel Siebert's (the discoverer of the action of Salvinorin A) amazing site: SageWisdom.org. Daniel's site is THE source for the best information on Salvia.

I discovered that taxing the plants by cutting off too many bits for rooting, can put the plant into a dormant-like state. The stems get woody and it takes more effort for the plant to make new growth. In a way, I had no choice but to sacrifice the health of my first host plant in this way. But she gave generously of herself, like Salvia always does, that her offspring might become hosts themselves. And that is exactly what happened.

Until Thanksgiving time, in November, she held up well, yielding the first flush of 6 clones. They are all still alive, as is the original host--now in retirement. But even they have given much too, but not-yet, too much. They stand now in the windhouse as what I call "clone poles," having had all their large leaves and even tops harvested, in order that the small branches can get large enough to be cut-off and rooted.


Photo of a "Clonepole" After Winter




MOISTURE

I called the indoors environment of Maine a "desert," because there is virtually no moisture in the air. And as we learned in the last post of this series, Salvia likes a damp place to live. To make up for this I became the cheerful mister-guy for 5 months, six times a day, every day. I may have been over-reacting a bit (as I discovered later, they don't need THAT much mist), but they sure LOVED it. And they grew better than I'd ever seen on the web or in any book before.


After Watering




I worked that Mister mister until the cheap-ass spring that bounces the lever back, broke. [Now I have a bottle whose cap is attached to a sprayer that is only there for decorative purposes. People at the "Sprayco" company can probably find a stronger spring to use. Although, I'll give credit where credit is due, on the bottle it says, "This spray bottle was proudly assembled by mentally and physically challenged people in Michigan." The assemblers are great, it isn't their fault the spring company delivers crappy parts. But I digress... ;)...]

By the time Christmas arrived, things were really starting to move along. I had 6 large, healthy plants about 6-8" high, maybe 10 more small cuttings in various stages of rooting, and one incredible host who was just beginning to show the REAL signs of wear.

To save the plants from experiencing too much suffering, I tried multiple ways of rooting really small pieces. I wouldn't have even tried this but I noticed that when even 1" leaves fell on the surface of the soil they wouldn't die! So, as an experiment, I would take them and simply stick their little stems right into the soil of the larger plant, and then water the large plant as I usually did. Within 3 weeks the little leaves rooted. It was a Eureka moment for sure, as I had never read of such a thing before. This got me thinking about a change in tactics for rooting.


A 1" Leaf Rooted




And it was because of my curiosity over rooting small pieces that I made my first real discovery about rooting Salvia divinorum, and the first time I ever lost or sickened cuttings.

THE FEBRUARY DEBACHLE

I decided that perhaps the smaller the piece of Salvia, the easier it would root, under proper conditions. And if I could achieve these conditions, then perhaps I could root dozens at once from only a few plants; because, there are always many of these tiny growth spots (where new branches were waiting to grow out) on each plant. This tempted me to experiment again. My question was: Why use water to set a few medium-sized cuttings in for rooting, if many smaller pieces would be able to root while simply sitting in the soil that they would end up in anyway?

In February, I took two styrofoam, Egg Land's Best, egg cartons and filled each little cup with potting soil. Then I cut 24 tiny, pre-branch pieces - maybe 1/8" high stems, with 2 little 1/4" leaves on each - off the plants and stuck each one in a soil-filled egg cup. I was thrilled as several days went by and they all still looked pretty good. Then small, dead, brown patches appeared at the tips of the leaves and spread over the whole cutting; over the next week or so I lost about 1/2 of my 24.

I was desperate to have my ingenious plan work, but they just kept dying. Strangley - and I have no explanation for this - about 8 of them DID live, and even thrived. There was little difference in them as compared with their dead associates, when it came to size and method of treatment I gave. What this told me was that 1/3 of cuttings in this size range will survive. Unfortunately I also discovered that it took about 1.5 months for roots to finally show on the survivors; 3 times as long as a medium-sized cutting would have taken.

In addition, I didn't like a method that killed 2/3rds of a population just to get more itty-bitty clones. The extra effort it took and the robbing of what would have been a bunch of nice 3-4" branches in the same amount of time I tried to root them as 1/8" cuttings, was wasteful. I didn't fully understand this at the time, but the experience in February was the first of my most important lessons in cloning multiple specimens of Salvia divinorum. To this day, those 8 plants are still a bit sickly and only 1" high. It has been months now that I've waited for them to shoot for the sky, with the first real signs of new growth occurring just in the last week, probably due to the benefits of the windhouse environment.

THE JAR EXPERIMENT

Simultaneously with the first dying off of my egg carton cuttings, I began another more successful series of experiments.

I took 5 very small (1" stemmed) cuttings that had already rooted and put them into little, glass spice jars - 1 in each - and then dropped in a pinch of soil and gently filled each one with those tiny styrofoam balls that break off of packing material. I wanted to see how well they would do so that I might be able to sell them this way in the future.


Jars Being Prepared



The jar containing the first plant was sealed with the jar-cap and then shrink wrapped in plastic. For kicks I printed off a label like it would have when shipped. I wanted to make sure the plant could live for three or for days without fresh water or air on its journey to whatever hypothetical destination it might be traveling. I ended up leaving it for 1.5 weeks without opening the jar, and then crackled off the shrink-wrap and pulled the cap off. The plant was fine!

It then struck me that it would be in a cardboard box and be without light. I had not controlled for this, so I ran the experiment again, this time with a second plant sealed in a box. On the second time around I also left out the pinch of soil--which only made them a little bit healthier, as I had suspected.

Since I wouldn't want to lose any precious rooted cutting for nothing, I quickly unsealed the box, for each day, after the third day. I did this in a dark room and examined it with a flashlight. Again, after 1.5 weeks both little plants (one, given light and one, having light suspended) were fine.

The other 3 jarred plants I simply let grow in their jars without the caps on, until they reached about 3". When they had plenty of roots, all jars were emptied and their occupants were transplanted into 8" wide pots. Today they are developing beautifully and are ready to make (what I call) the 3 month growth spurt. That is when 3" plants rise to 12" plants. Now, Daniel Siebert has said that due to environmental situations, cloned plants may develop very different visual aspects than what their hosts display. And such is the situation with these five. They are heavily marked with purple. I have no idea at what point they changed. Was it soil? Was it the jar growth? I have no idea, but they seem to be like a new "variety." Though, genetically, I know that isn't possible. Perhaps this mystery will be solved as I continue to work with this enigmatic plant.

My lesson with the spice jars showed me that small Salvia clones can go a long time without light or fresh air and water, plenty of time to ship them successfully; and as long as they are not subject to the freezing compartment of a jet. It is very likely that I will begin to do just this kind of sales and shipping at some point this summer. But until the 3rd week of June, all cuttings must be kept for production purposes.

Another lesson I was just starting to learn, was about Salvia's sensitivity to different soils and to soil itself, as compared to inert substraits, like styrofoam. As I've come to realize, Salvia isn't really a plant that needs the chemisty of soil as much as it simply needs the soil to simply hold itself up and provide a place for roots to grow and gather water. I suspect hydroponically grown Salvia would be even healthier than soil grown Salvia. And I may try this at some point. The thing that turns me off about hydroponics is all the tubes, plant food and special tubs, etc. I'm sure there is a "homemade" way to hydroponically grow things, but I've never really investigated it. If anyone has a lead on this, please post a comment. Thanks!

The plants are really puffing up now as the hours of daylight are increasing. And this brings me to my last experience with winter growing...

LIGHT

Around Christmas was the depth of the darkness of winter outside. I was lucky to get 8 hours of indirect sunlight through that window of mine. And from about the beginning of December, I began supplimenting the light with 4 hours of flourescent light (two Energysaver bulbs at 35 watts each). As I have implied above, Salvia is not real picky about the intensity of the light. But to keep them in a vegetive state (growing), rather than a reproductive one (slowing their growth and going to flower, which according to Sea Mac can take up to three months), the plants really need a 12 hour duration of light every 24 hours. And it doesn't matter when they get their extra 4 hour suppliment. Sometimes I'd forget to switch on the lights at sundown, and I'd pop them on at 8:00 pm and off again at 12 am. Of course, forgetting to turn off the lights - though a waste of electricity - only gave them more growth.


Winter Late Afternoon



Winter Supplemental Light




CONCLUSION

As a summary of my winter adventures with the Salvia roommates, let me say the following...

Salvia is both easy to grow AND has a sensitive side too. The things I thought would be a problem - namely, moisture and drainage - were not an issue. But the rooting of multiple clones can be as well as soil used at the wrong time, and soil-types.

I learned that tiny clones take what seems like forever to grow (1.5-3 months or more). So, starting with a cutting that is at least 3" is the most efficient means of cloning.

It is important to add that this spring I was finally able to try rooting large 12" (or more) cuttings (please see earlier posts). And what I discovered with that is they take a good solid month or more to root. However, these large pieces develop more roots, bigger roots, and already will posses the height they need to be considered adult plants.

So, I must ammend one of my earlier statements (please see my first post). It is not the smallness of the cutting that produces quicker root growth. Medium (3") cuttings are the ones that always root before small or large ones.

And to sum up my current understanding of cloning, here is a table I hope might be useful if you become a Maine Salvia divinorum grower and have to work on the plants over the winter...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recent Pictures


THE SALVIA LAB


Full Space




Work Bench




Rooting Table




Large Cuttings




Medium Cuttings




Small Cuttings



Friday, April 16, 2010

Growing Salvia divinorum in Maine: Introduction to Salvia and its Environment

The Salvia divinorum Enigma

Salvia divinorum - a member of the Family: Mint (Lamiaceae), Genus: Sage (Salvia, Latin, meaning "to save"), Species: S. divinorum, (Latin meaning "divination") - is an unusual plant in so many ways.

First, it is a plant that has been cultivated for so long in only one part of the world - in the cloud forest of the Sierra Madre region of Oaxaca, Mexico, home of the Mazatec Indians - that it has become its own species, and is therefore considered to be a cultigen: "...a plant that has been deliberately altered or selected by humans; it is the result of artificial selection." Until the mid 1990's Salvia was only grown in this remote area of Mexico and grew nowhere in the wild. Now it really needs human attention and appears to be getting it from entheogenically inclined people all over the world who have chosen to grow and propagate it in the own countries.


Salvia divinorum's Endemic Home



The State of Oaxaca, Mexico (Latitude 16 degrees, 20 minutes N)


Understandably, Salvia is best adapted to its native environment: cloudy, humid, warm air, diffuse sunlight, in the ravines, along riversides, in the subtropics where day length is very close to a regular routine of 12 hours of light, 12 hours of dark.

I grew Salvia when I first learned about it back in 2000, in my apartment in Portland, Maine (here is a great pdf Map of Maine). I did pretty well, but the strain I was trying to grow seemed somewhat flacid and weak (I believe it was a Wasson/Hofmann clone). Anyway, Southern Maine (Latitude 43 degrees, 30 minutes N) is much farther North than Oaxaca, Mexico. My first Salvia growing attempts failed because I ended up having to move out of my apartment and couldn't take my plants. But I vowed to try again someday.

Let's look at some specific conditions that make Oaxaca ideal.


Below are some pictures I linked to through the master Salvia Gardener (and my hero) Sea Mac's terrific sites...

The Secret SAGE Garden
Sea Mac's Photo Journal

Grow your OWN Salvia Seeds
Sea Mac's Botanical Research Page

These are pictures from Sea Mac's friend, Jupe...


Salvia grows in an ideal environment...




And an image of the soil, barky-rich, some-what sandy...




Here is a great picture of Salvia being harvested...




Sea Mac hails from San Diego where the temps and weather are more like the native environment of Mexico. He has been able to achieve astounding success (biggest Salvia divinorum plants on the web and maybe on earth!)...


Giant Salvia of the Amazing Sea Mac!







I strongly urge folks to visit all of the links that Sea Mac offers. He is a gentle genius and great internet mentor for salvia growers everywhere.

I had the opportunity recently to get in touch with him. I would love to do an audio interview, and that might be something to look forward to in the future here at SoftAcres.

Also in the future will be the next installment on this particular thread, Growing Salvia divinorum in Maine: Maine Winter and the Indoor Desert.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

SoftGenesis: Salvia divinorum




Last year in August (2009) I bought and received by USPS Priority Mail,one Salvia divinorum plant from Mazatec Garden. Total cost for the rooted cutting with shipping and handling was about $35.00. The plant was ingeniously packed into a 4" x 4" x 12" box and took 3-4 days to arrive, but was no worse for the wear.

The plant was 8" high and consisted of one stock with three identical stems coming out and about 6 (3" long) leaves, with several tiny leaves that were also just sprouting off the stems. I didn't realize it yet, but I had just received the entire (potential) inventory of a new business.

Here is the host plant, Alpha, about a month after receiving it. Notice the cuttings - Beta and Gamma - that I had already rooted and planted on each side. The tiny leaves that had originally been only about a half inch long were now three and four inches long; the 6 large leaves having been trimmed off a couple weeks before...




Alpha with 2 babies in September 2009



I theorized at the time much about how many cuttings could realistically be rooted and how quickly. I had rooted 2 cuttings in one month. What I didn't count on at the time was that it would really take another month to be able to harvest more cuttings. In my haste I taxed the plant by taking of a few more cuttings while still in September. As the months rolled by and I learned more about Salvia's strengths and weaknesses were, I found I could recognize when it was safe to take cuttings.

Many factors went in to my estimations. I made a spreadsheet and kept changing variables to get a sense of how many plants I could produce under different circumstances. Now I have a better idea but at the time I was overly optimistic.

Here are some basic things I've learned...

* The smaller the cutting, the more quickly it will root, as long as it can be kept alive in a warm moist environment (optimal: 70 degrees F, with 100% humidity). This takes about 9-14 days.

* The bigger the plant is after it roots, the faster it will grow. In an 8" diameter, round, pot, growth is exponential from about 8" to 24" and then slows as the plant reaches about 36". A larger pot will give more.

* The plant should be 12+" tall and healthy enough to yield proper cuttings. This takes about 3 months after it has rooted.

* The plant will replace growth that has been removed for rooting in about 4-6 weeks. Taking more cuttings from the plant taxes it proportionally.

* Large leaves of cuttings should be cut laterally in half or the rooting process can't keep up with maintaining leaf maintenance. I have seen a whole plant grown from one fallen 1" leaf that rooted under ideal circumstances. But I have never seen just a stem, with out any leaves, root, nor produce more leaves.

* The single most important thing about growing Salvia indoors during non-summer months is to have plenty of drainage. People know that Salvia loves water, but it doesn't like old, still, dirty water. The roots need air as much as they need water.

It has been 7 months since I began rooting Salvia divinorum cuttings and here is a video of what I have now. This was taken this afternoon...


video


The Salvia Windhouse April 2010


From one 8" plant I now have 30 plants, as follows...


HOST IN 12" POT (> 24")


Alpha ~ Triple Stem: 30" + 28" +27" = Estimated Value: $180.00


LARGE PLANTS IN 8" POTS (> 24")


Beta ~ Single Stem: 33" = Estimated Value: $85.00

Gamma ~ Single Stem: 28" = Estimated Value: $75.00

Delta ~ Single Stem: 30" = Estimated Value: $70.00

Epsilon ~ Single Stem: 30" = Estimated Value:$70.00


MEDIUM PLANTS IN 8" POTS (8-24")


Zeta ~ Double Stem: 12" + 12" = Estimated Value: $50.00

Five Plants ~ Single Stems: 10" = Estimated Values: $30.00 each ($150.00 Total)

One Plant ~ Double Stem: 10" = Estimated Value: $40.00


SMALL PLANTS IN 8" POTS (< 8")


Five Plants ~ Single Stems: 3" = Estimated Values: $10.00 each ($50.00 Total)

One Plant ~ Double Stem: 3" = Estimated Value: $12.00

Twelve Plants ~ Single Stems: 1" = Estimated Values: $5.00 each ($60.00 Total)


Total Value of plants: $842.00

[These plants are not yet for sale in Maine, but they will be in June. I'm developing a way to ship cuttings. I still need to build up more inventory and be able to replace what I sell. Stay tuned for more information on all of that in future posts.]


So with some potting soil, watering, good drainage, patience and care, anyone could turn a $35.00 Salvia divinorum plant into a family of them worth $842.00 or more. I had many problems and encountered many mysterious issues along the way. Still, that is $120 of value gained (on average) each month. Where else can you invest $35 and make over 342% interest each month on it?

It's not a complete walk in the park, but it is certainly easy enough to do as a part-time job (watering for ten minutes a day and some new planting every couple weeks). And there is real potential there to turn professional as the inventory increases.

Of course, it helps to understand quite a bit about the plant before you ever decide to propagate it for money.

I will talk a lot about the nature of the plant itself in future posts along with growing tips, under the heading, "GROWING SALVIA DIVINORUM IN MAINE," plus links, pictures, videos and other products that I will soon have for sale.

As an introduction, and to give an example of a challenge northern regions encounter, next time we'll look at environment. The environment of any place where plants grow is ruled by these four things: temperature, humidity, rainfall and light. We'll see where Salvia is sensitive and where it is forgiving.