November 25, 2012

Interesting Water and Soil Tests -- Updated

I received the TDS meter today, so began to test various waters and combos with soil:
(P.S. by the way, the federal standards for safe human drinking water is no more than 400 ppm TDS)
UPDATED test list

source of water                            ph                    TDS


Mom's spring water                       7.5                 411 ppm
our well water                               7.5               1466 ppm
our well water after Berkley filter    7.5               1466 ppm

rain water in October                    6.5                 109 ppm
rain water in November                  4                    84 ppm
yet to test:
Harlem city water
Dodson city water
bottled spring water
bottled distilled water


In October:
1 cup distilled water (7 ph)
ran two times through 4 inch pot of
freshly mixed soil                        5.5                did not test

In November:
1 cup of Mom's water (7.5 ph)
ran two times through 4 inch pot of
> potting mix                                5                  did not test
> Splendiferous plant displaying symptoms
                                                  4 or lower        751 ppm

tests comparing soil ingredients and mixes:

1 cup Mom's water (7.5 ph)
ran two times through 4 inch pot of

Miracle Gro AV Soil                  4
Glacier Gold Compost                5
my potting mix                            6
a plant from my friend (different mix) 4

November rain water (4 ph) with
1/4 strength Jack's Classic 20-20-20
                                                  5                   did not test

Mom's spring water (7.5 ph) with
Neptune's Harvest
> very dilute Liquid Seaweed 0-0.1-1
                                               7 or 7.5            did not test
> very dilute Fish Fertilizer 2-4-1
                                               4 or lower         did not test
powdered super phosphate      3.5

Jack's Classic 20-20-20          6.5
Schultz AV                              6.5
Dyna Gro 7-9-5                      4.5
Dyna Bloom 3-12-6                3.5
AlgoFlash 7-9-5                       4

concentrated WA solution:
1 tsp cottonwood ash per 8 oz. mom's spring water (7.5 ph)
ph tested way off the chart so not included because I couldn't
figure accurately.

November rain water (4 ph) with
> 1 TB WA solution per 4 oz.      7.5
> 1 TB + 2 tsp  per 4 oz.             10. + very purple (past blue?)

Poured 1 cup of 1 TB WA per 4 oz.
over 4 inch pot of potting mix      6.5

wood ash test below (Note the test tube is purple... but not the 'red' on the acid end of the color chart, but blue-purple of the other end, or off the other end!)

I did the wood ash tests after reading all I could find in 'modern' books and online about adjusting soil ph in pots and while mixing soil.  All mentioned limestone, lime, etc.   Brief mentions of wood ash were included as part of an 'etc.' listing.  I didn't have any lime, and am not going to town.  So, I decided to read the old AV and gardening books, and came up with the above concentrate solution that was used for outdoor use.  I will test the concentrate Wood Ash solution in a day or two and see how it changes.

I was surprised at the very acidic ph of the mixed fish fertilizer!  Good thing I tested it! 
Now I am wondering about the other fertilizers that I take for granted!  When I have lots of  'good' water, I have more testing to do!  (My bottle of test solution was for 'indefinite tests, ample for typical gardener'! Do you think I am typical???)

I just tested the other fertilizers I have used or plan on using on my violets.  I was surprised at the acid effect of the two Dyna formulas.  Also the AlgoFlash which is the fertilizer I used on my greenhouse plants this past spring.

I will get 'good' water in a day or two.  In the meantime, I have one gallon of the October rainwater that tests with an okay ph.  If any violet needs watering in the next day or two, I will have that.

I found three violets, including the Splendiferous, that show symptoms of limp, yellowing or dying older leaves, with some possible root damage (ie:  soil mix in pot staying damp longer than normal)  These three are blooming fine, but overall plant vigor is slowing, leaf and blossom stems are stiff and darker colored, backs of leaves showing some degree of purple coloring, and center young leaves are very slightly twisted and tight.

These three plants will get 'flushed' with Mom's spring water and a small amount of the Wood Ash concentrate.  I will pour the water through the pot.  Then I will set the pots on a bath towel, which seems to always soak lots of water from the pot.

Before and after photos will be taken, I hope!  :)

November 24, 2012

I Hear Singing Again!

I woke this morning to canaries singing again!  It was nice!!!
I haven't posted about my canaries for the past year... as there was only bad news to report!
Remember I bought canaries December 2010.  2011 was fun, with lots of nesting, babies, and many cages of birds!  I sold and gave away some, and saved several of my favorites.  Summer of 2011 I had 8 birds.
Then they began to die.  First ones to go were the two older ones, which didn't worry me much.  They were given to me as older birds.  Then I lost the white male my mother had raised.  He was less than 8 months old!  Next went another young male I had raised, also less than 8 months old.  Next one of the hens I bought, and she was just two years old.  Well, I still had one male and two hens.
I did some reading, and couldn't find what I may have been doing wrong.  They did not get sick before they died; just suddenly got weak and died in about two hours.  One day, my mom heard a news story that the Scotts company was being sued for contaminated bird seed.  They had treated bulk seed in storage with an insecticide that was known to kill birds and cause Colony Collapse Disorder in bees that may visit bird feeders, which they do quite often.  The contaminated seed was sold under 90+ different labels, and by more than one company. 
I had purchased several specific types of bulk seed, from a lesser known seller on Ebay.  I had noticed that some of the birds did not eat much of it. 
Was this why they died at various times?  Did it depend upon how much they ate?  ????
I also changed the water I gave them.  Maybe our well water HAD changed somewhat after the flood, although the first three had died before the flood. ????
Then last month, my lone male died.
I intended to just let things be for a while, and not get in a hurry to buy more birds.  Although it was a pretty lonesome corner where the single cage now stood.  Even the hens were quiet... and one would call, and call!  She really missed the male.
THEN, we made a 'goat deal' with the canary guy and he 'talked' me into bringing home a few more birds.  :)  It didn't take much talking, as I had taken a cage with me when we went to pick up the goat!  :)
I have birds that sing!  And the two older hens are happy and lively again!  :)
Left to right:  In black cage are two Red Factor birds, a pair.  In the white cage are two males and a hen.  On the right, are my two older hens.
P.S.  The 'canary guy' and others have offered the opinons that I 'overfed' my birds last summer.  They think I gave them too much to eat.  I was following all the instructions in The Books, but I might admit that I had so much fun mixing egg foods, breeding formulas, alternating fruits and veggies, and adding treat seed mixes... that I might have gone overboard and 'killed them with kindness'.  I HOPE it is ONLY THAT!
So, they are getting a set amount of simple canary seed mix, and a small amount of green and orange vegetables several times a week.   :)
P.P.S.  One other possible cause of the deaths:  shortly before the deaths began, I had bought glazed pot saucers (made in China) to use for food dishes in the cages.  Over the past years, we have heard cautions about using China-made dishes/mugs ... especially items listed as 'not for use with food'.  There have been other cautions about toxic metals in other China-made items, especially the cheaper ones.  These pot saucers were cheap/cheap, and definitely not intended for use with food!  ?????

Thoughts on PH, Water, Soil, and Tiger Trail

Update.... after researching in Robey's book, several horticultural botany books, etc...
I tested my water, again!

Last month, I ran about a dozen tests, on the various water sources I have such as city water, bottled water, distilled water, our well water, my mom's spring water, and the water from my rain barrels.  Simply:  all local water was slightly alkaline, and the bottled water was slightly acidic.  The distilled water was as close to neutral as my cheap-o test kit can show.
I tested my soil mix, using the distilled water, and running it through a small pot, then testing the saucer water.  It was slightly acidic, bordering a bit toward the worrisome.  But since my water was alkaline, and I have used this basic soil recipe (from the same bulk bags of peat, vermiculite, and perlite) for the past 18 months, and had no real problems, I decided to assume, as I have in the past, THAT ANY INCLINATION TOWARD ACIDIC SOIL WOULD BE COUNTERBALANCED BY THE ALKALINE WATER.
We got a small rainfall, and so I filled all 35 gallon jugs from the rain barrels... before the water froze solid!  :)
(I don't mind if they freeze, I simply bring them indoors during the winter and let them thaw in the tub!  Instant water! )

After noticing Tiger Trail's leaves were purple underneath, I took a closer look at all my violets.
I found:
  • bloom colors more intense generally, with some varieties/plants having blossoms more solid than normal
  • some plants had leaves that were a bit thinner than normal, with discoloration on leaf tips sometimes leading to dying leaf tips
  • 1/3 of the plants had leaves with pink/purple undersides (entire undersides were tinted purple)
  • general impression that oldest leaves beginning to look 'tired' or 'dusty'
  • center leaves a bit too tight and twisted (as I have seen with too much light)
OKAY:  I thought the plants with 'dying tips' may have been the ones that went through single digit temps to the houseplant class!  :(  They would be expected to have some side effects of a 'night on the town'!  :)
And they are all effected.... but I noticed several others that stayed home just beginning to show the same effect.  ????

As for the bloom colors, I have a different combination of light bulbs in my fixtures than usual.  I used one white and one cool for years, then switched to one GroLux and one cool in more recent years.  THIS FALL, I had problems finding any T12 tubes... finding only 'Kitchen/Bath' and 'Daylight', which I decided would be close to the original warm/cool combo.  The fine print on the tube packaging didn't quite match up the old combination, but I decided it was worth a try.  I DO KNOW that BULB TYPE/COLOR does make a difference in the appearance of an African violet bloom under the lights, and in the Grow to Show book, it was written that actual bloom color might be affected as well.????

I also added new BRIGHT light tubes... at least one to every fixture.  And to get as many plants in my space, I have three shelves arranged on my metal shelving units, so the fixtures are normal or closer than normal above my plants.  Maybe a bit too much light????

Reading about Acid vs Alkaline, I discovered that the micronutrients are used more easily at acidic conditions, and decreases the uptake of the three macronutrients. 

Looked at TT closely, and other violets and concluded I needed to do yet another water test!
I tested the water with fertilizer added, and found it was slightly on the acidic scale... today will do a 'runoff water' test with the plant most obviously showing signs.

CONCLUSION:  no real danger yet.... nothing that cannot be corrected.  May have to retest my tub of potting mix, just to see if it has changed after setting.  I did test it a day after mixing, and the 'rules' say to wait a few weeks!  :(   I will also retest my rain water... maybe the recent rainfall was more acidic.
I will use town water or some other more alkaline water, and I will alternate basic Neptune's Harvest fish fertilizer with plain water for a month.  Neptune's does not have added micronutrients... while my other brand of fish emulsion has added elements.
If my tub of potting mix is more acidic than normal, I will remix with new bags of peat, vermiculite and perlite.  I am near the bottom of them anyway, and will use this mix with spring's veggie/flower seedlings.
I will set the light timer to an hour less light.

P.S.  also sent for a  TDS meter... Total Dissolved Solids are in recent literature as having as much to do with plant growth as ph.
P.P.S.  will also set up our Berkley filter again.  We used it after the spring flood was so high and long lasting.  It will be interesting to see if the cheap ph and TDS tests show any real difference in our well water before and after filtering!!???

November 19, 2012

House Plant Class notes are online

Night One of the House Plant Class went fine... with only two 'students'!  :(  Several others could not attend that night, but are hoping to show up for night two.   Well, it is nearing holiday time... and people are just about 'feed up' with keeping outdoor plants alive  all summer, and are happy to be free of something needing watering!  :)    I UNDERSTAND!  If it wasn't for my addiction to African violets, I would be turning to tatting and crocheting for the winter!  :)
The Adult Ed program director wants to schedule another class in March.
We did have fun at the first night!  With so few of us, we were like a group of friends talking about our favorite plants!  :)  Everyone told some interesting or funny 'houseplant' stories, and we learned all about everyone's windows and favorite plants... problems and worries, too!

Night One Notes are online!

Special thanks to Loxi, for helping with the questions, and telling us how much she likes her cyclamen and how to grow it!  Loxi is my 'violet friend' and we have had much fun over the years swapping violets and tales of  'this one and that one'!

November 17, 2012

Tiger Trail questions

Regarding a question by Laurie on her blog:  Curiosity of Variegation

I have had this happen before, in years past.  I have not yet found a reason why.
The resulting 'pink babies' look similar to photos of Ellie Gardner, registered by the same hybridizer the year after Tiger Trail.  But they were not the same as a starter plant of Ellie Gardner.  (I did not have Ellie Gardner long, as that is the time that I discovered a thrips infestation and the plant was eventually tossed.)

After Laurie's questions, I photo'd my Tiger Trail plants, and discovered the newest growth was 'turning red'.  The leaf backs were red on the youngest leaves and the top side of the leaf had smaller specks of pinkish variegation.

Photo of typical Tiger Trail (2003) in window light:

Photo of Tiger Trail 2 years ago (2009):
typical look... maybe a bit overall bluish cast to the whole photo... Under plant light

Photos of Tiger Trail today 11/17/2012):  plants resulting from leaf of plant above:
Note older leaf (lower leaf) is white backed, and the newer (upper) leaf is reddish backed.
Also, note the newest growth in the crown facing the camera.  It has smaller specks of pinkish variegaton rather than the larger splotches of white that is seen in the older leaves.

A second 2012 plant:

Note that there is the same difference between the backs on the older leaf and a newer leaf.
Both 2012 plants are under lights when these photos were taken.
Next, photos of my Tiger Trail leaves that are just beginning to sprout:
The three groups of baby leaves are TT, the three leaves you see with variegation are TT.
This is about normal appearance... possibly quite thick stems?  But my house is cool right now, and I notice sprouting babies are 'stalkier' in cooler temps.
Since setting these leaves 9/13/ I think I have only watered them once or twice, since they have been under a dome until a few days ago.

I did change fertilizers since the early years, and prior to 2000, I always ALWAYS grew Tiger Trail in window light, and since that date, they have almost always been under plant lights.

While the pink version is not ugly, I so enjoy the white version, the PROPER version, of TT that I am going to do an experiment... I am going to put the larger plant in a window, and leave the smaller one on the plant shelf.  I will water both with water only, no fertilizer, for several months.  I will also leech the pots, as you would to flush excess fertilizer salts.

The other plants on my two plant stands are normal, or blooming more intensely than usual.  Nothing has changed it's variegation, or color of leaf backs.  Foliage on all may be slightly more 'brittle' than normal.  I seem to break off leaves just turning pots around or lifting them to place in tray of water, etc.  Two of my three Diamond Girl plants bloomed with much less white in the blossom, but the third is normal although the pink/magenta is dark and bright.

November 8, 2012

Houseplant Class Postponed

The Chinook Adult Ed Houseplant Class has been postponed.  The storm warnings made me nervous and we postponed the first night!!!  :(
The lessons will be online .... shortly after each session, updates will be added to the lessons section of AfricanVioletFun.Com.

November 4, 2012

Elbow Room!

It is amazing what 2 weeks can do.... when the plants have elbow room!  After repotting, and grooming my 'mama' violets, I put all 40 back on the two lighted shelves.  I knew I HAD to put up a third light fixture, but I was busy.....
MILDEW came!  Our Montana nights are becoming cold, and yet the house is warm on the days the sun shines.... SO.... ideal mildew situation:  warm days and cool nights.  There was probably a 15 degree difference. Combine that with the crowded conditions, and I began to see a few spots of mildew on several leaves.
Since I want to have some of these plants for display/demonstration during the upcoming houseplant class, I went to work.  All the plants' leaves got a firm washing under running warm water.  Then trays, shelves and plants were misted, quite heavily, with Lysol disinfecting spray.
Forgot to add that I put up a third light above the original two.
(tFirst photo shows top and middle shelves.  Second photos shows middle and bottom shelves.)

Since this stand is in our master bathroom, I ran the ceiling exhaust for at least 6 hours a day.
It has been 8 days, and no new sign of mildew, but as soon as I take some of the plants to the first houseplant class this week, I will mist everything again with the Lysol spray.  It does have a tendency to spot the blooms, so will wait until after they have had their beauty show.

The philodendron stems in the glass bottle, and the sweet potato sprouting in the blue glass are examples for the class.  On the top shelf, is a tray of sweet potato slips, and a 'Mother of Thousands' kalanchoe.