Those of you who have read a few of my earlier posts are probably already aware that I raise red composting worms rather passionately, and use the castings they produce from the cardboard cuttings I feed them to manufacture soils to grow all my favorite plants in. (For those of you who may not be aware of this, but are interested, you can find a whole lot more information about my favorite hobby, along with all the tools you need to engage in it for yourself, at this remainder of my very first webpage, The Burrow.)
Now the reason I brought this all up today is that every now and then I like to remind myself exactly why I do all this stuff that I do (aside from trying to save the planet), so I run the occasional experiment just to remind myself that these techniques really work. Having progressed far enough along in my latest experiment that the results are plain to see, I now thought I would share them with all of you guys, my favorite people.
The experiment was really pretty simple. I went to the local corner store, where among other things they also sell a variety of small potted plants. I found, for $4.99, what I refer to as a “Clumpy Cactus”. I call it that because when you look at it closely it appears to be a bunch of column-like cacti all growing bunched together from a single large root ball. Sort of like an octopus with all it’s tentacles held straight up in the air. This plant was perfect for the experiment I wanted to run.
When I got the plant home, I took a very sharp blade and proceeded to cut three of the cactus’ appendages off of the main root ball, assuring that I left a small piece of the root on each of the pieces that I removed. The method I used had been designed to equal out the two main flaws in the test that I thought people might point out if there was a difference in the future growing rates of either the remaining part of the main plant, that now had only three appendages left, or any of the three pieces that I cut off. First, if they claimed that the parent plant was in shock (but for some reason the part I cut off wasn’t), I could point out that the parent plant also retained almost 10 times the amount of root-ball (which was never disturbed) as any of the three cuttings ended up with, and their roots were exposed and had to be replanted. Second, if they pointed out that I was planting the cuttings into a somewhat bigger pot (the only one I had on hand), I could point out that that was why I planted three cuttings and not just the one. At any rate, I did try to be fair. I also have to point out that I made all the cuttings from the outside of the ball of course, which were the shortest pieces of the plant. When this test started, the three appendages that make up the main plant were actually the three tallest parts. So the cuttings had to first play catch-up before they could grow any taller than the original plant. So all that’s left to say I guess is that they all got the same amount of water and the same amount of sunlight, since they both sit in my living-room windows, and I water them on the same schedule. The only difference of note is that the soil the cuttings were planted in is made up of 70% of the same soil it’s parent is planted in, with 30% of worm-composted cardboard added. And this is what they look like 3 months later (I forgot to mention that the original plant – in the first picture, and planted in the regular potting soil – has doubled in height since I bought it).