Thursday, April 29, 2010

Recent Pictures


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...

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


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


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


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.