Monday, February 25, 2008

Dormancy's Twilight

We're starting to get busy again after a few dark and cold months. The greenhouse is up, last year's plants that died have been removed and the ground tilled for a new start in a few weeks. We have rented a studio in Tulsa for use when we make soap, shea butter, lip balm, and everything else, giving us much more room than we'd had before.

Regarding the lost plants from last summer, which I wrote about in the previous post, lab tests from Oklahoma State confirmed Phytopthora, Rhizocotonia, and Pythium, common fungi present in most soil, that becomes active in hot, humid conditions. Phytopthera was responsible for the Irish potato blight. At least we won't have to emmigrate.

Research indicated that these fungi can be combated with another, beneficial fungus called Trichoderma, which, after applied, lives on the roots of plants and protects them against the bad guys.

We bought a liquid solution of Trichoderma in a product called Promot Plus, and although the weather was breaking and the damage done, we applied it through our backpack sprayer to all the remaining plants. This was at the end of last season and the heat had subsided, so any results we saw need to be taken with a grain of salt. The decline subsided, but because of the break in the weather it might have anyway. The real test will come next July and August when it's hot and humid again.

But the plants we sell and plant this spring will all have been dipped in the Promot Plus solution. We know a lot of lavender growers see their plants falter in the heat of summer -- "It's just died!" they'll say -- and humid conditions leading to fungus may be to blame.

We'll report on how the new plantings fare.