Thursday, May 2, 2013

The First Secret of the Green Thumb: Feel The Soil

We're going to start with water, because it's basic to everything, and if you understand watering you'll understand plantcare.


Ninety percent of successful plant care is making the correct watering decisions.  There are a number of variables in the environment of indoor plants - light, temperature, humidity, soil, etc; but water is the variable over which you have the most control.  If the moisture-to-air ratio in the soil is on target, the plant is healthy, it looks good, and it has the natural resources to resist disease and  pests.

If the plant is not looking good, the first thing to investigate, and the most important to adjust, is soil moisture

If the soil is too wet or too dry, the roots can't function properly, and the plant starts to fail; too wet,  the plant is drowning, too dry and it's starving to death.


This is the AAA,  the First and Foremost,  the Most Especially Important Secret of the Green Thumb! You have to feel the soil so you know how much water is already in there - not to mention soil quality, soil composition,  and simply vibin' with your plant.  After using this system for awhile, when you're familiar with your plants' conditions and water requirements, you'll find it impossible to water without at least touching the soil surface to make sure all is going as it should, and that no one has been pouring behind your back.

Your most important tool is your fingers.  As you start to familiarize yourself  with soil moisture, push a spoon deep into the pot, well past  half way to the bottom; if you have a bigger plant, you'll need to use a big spoon, or a garden trowel. Bring up a small scoop of soil.  Squeeze it between your fingers, observe how it looks, and how it feels.  

If you've never been able to quite understand the variations between "wet" and "dry",  or if you're not sure if what you mean by "moist" is the same as what someone else means, here's a little thing you can do at home.

Take a small handful - a couple of tablespoons - of potting soil or potting medium, the kind you are using, or plan to use, for your plants.  Make sure it is completely dry; you may have to microwave it awhile, or let it sit around for a few days.  Then put it into a small bowl, and pinch some between your fingers.  This is "dry," this is what people mean if they use the term "completely dry." Now start adding water a little at a time - about  1/4 teaspoon - and stir it around well.  Let it sit for a few minutes after each addition of water, to allow the particles in the soil to absorb the water.   Pick up a little soil and squeeze it after each portion of water has been absorbed ,  try to feel how it changes from the barest hint of moisture to soft and cool to dripping wet. 

------------------- end of excerpt from The Color of Your Thumb Has Nothing To Do With It -----------

In the full text, and also in the video version of the text, there is a Moisture Chart   that lists the moisture levels from 1-10, describes what they feel like and how you can refer to them.   The text and video will be available for purchase on the yet-to-be-launched website, on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  The videos that are available on YouTube are trailers for the complete videos, and I hope some of you will be interested in adding the entire production to your libraries.  I'll be letting you know about the website as we get closer to launch date.  Also more short videos coming soon.  I hope.

Be part of the Down With Dead Houseplants movement!  Pass on the Ficus Wrangler to your plant-challenged friends!
                                                                                                    (by Marlie Graves)

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