Saturday, November 21, 2009

Propagation and Cloning of Phalaris Grass

Growing phalaris grass is easy enough for any grower to do successfully. Occasionally, people will have trouble getting grass seed to germinate right away, but here are some tips for getting the most phalaris grass growing as quickly as possible.

You can grow phalaris in clumps or in patches. For clumps, you will want to choose a large, deep pot. For patches, aluminum roasting pans work well. With each pan, you will be able to start a patch of phalaris grass larger then the area of the pan by creating plugs.

Phalaris basically only needs steady moisture to get going. While phalaris seeds can be germinated outdoors, you should be able to speed things up by starting indoors. Some outdoor grows seem to be halted because moisture control is tougher to accomplish. Diligent watering is required, which can be offset by strong sun or wind. Wind also has a tendency to blow your seeds away.

Start out by moistening all of your soil. Then press it flat without any significant compacting. Sow your phalaris seeds on the surface of the soil and press them into the moist soil so they can soak in the moisture more easily. You may cover your seeds with a thin dusting of soil, although we typically do not. We do recommend covering your soil with clear plastic wrap because it allows for better moisture control, which, as mentioned before, is the key to the quickest germination. In a side by side, comparison with phalaris brachystachys seeds, we found that a pot that we covered with clear plastic germinated 1-2 days more rapidly with a higher percentage than seeds in the pot that was not covered.

Once your phalaris seedlings begin growing, you should then sprinkle some loose soil in between each blade to provide support. You no longer need the plastic cover once you are sure most of your phalaris seeds have germinated. Allow your phalaris clumps or pans of seedlings to fill in thoroughly under artificial lights. You may also keep them outdoors in a shady area, but you must take care not to let the soil dry out. You will also have to worry about other seeds getting into the soil. In some cases, a screen may be helpful to keep them out. When growing phalaris grass, it is important to develop a good root system before any transplanting into the ground. While they are indoors your phalaris seedlings do not have to worry about competitors, and it is a good idea to give them a good foothold before introducing them to an environment where invaders exist.

When you are sure that your root system is well-developed, it is time to start your phalaris patch. If you only want clumps, your job is pretty much done by putting them in the ground. For patches, it is best to till the soil to loosen it and remove any competing weeds. Then, go ahead and divide up your tray in to a number of smaller clumps. A 4”x 4” clump should be suitable. Now, plant your phalaris plugs in your prepared area using a spacing approximately half the thickness of the clump. So, a four inch clump will be given two inches of space. Keep the area well-watered, being sure to remove any weeds or other grass species. The spaces in between your phalaris plugs will eventually fill in as the roots spread out, and you will have a large phalaris grass patch. You may then go on to separate clumps out from the patch and plant them in a similar manner to expedite the expansion of your patch even further.

This process is possible because phalaris grass rhizomes spread and send up new blades. Each phalaris seed has its own genetics, but every blade sent up from the root system of the same seed is part of the same phalaris plant. In a batch of phalaris grown from seed, you will have several different sets of genes mixed in from each of the different seeds. Now, let’s say you have a blade that grows especially fast or has unique coloration. If you isolate an individual blade, it will multiply so that every blade has the same code. You may then proceed to clone this grass by making plugs from the patch that develops using the method described above. The resulting patch will have phalaris grass blades that all have the same characteristics. The seeds of these blades may have similar genes, just like a parent has similar genes to his or her child, but they will still have some variation. Phalaris “Big Medicine” and “Yugo Red” are examples of reed canary grass specimens that have been reproduced by cloning. To have true specimens of these varieties, you must have gotten them as clones.

Nobody would say phalaris is hard to grow in the first place. But now you should be equipped to maximize your potential and create a patch that will be exactly as you want it to be, whether in terms of size shape or genetics.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Poor Man's Spore Syringe Tek: Making Syringes Without a Glovebox


Clean Spore Print
91% Isopropyl Alcohol
Paper Towels
New Zipper lock Bag (Quart sized or larger)
Sterilized Syringe(s)
Shot Glass or alcohol lamp
Match or lighter

The following procedure is an inexpensive method for making clean spore syringes without the use of a glove box. We used this technique for shiitake, but it can be applied to other mushrooms as well. Here is an overview of the process: You will be sterilizing water in a syringe, getting your print inside a clean bag, then injecting the sterile water from the syringe right into the bag and sucking it back out with the spores.

You will need an empty sterilized syringe to start off with. Fill your empty syringe with water and pressure cook it at 15 psi for 20 minutes. This will ensure that the water in the syringe is sterile. Water may be replaced with your choice of liquid growing medium if you would like the spores to germinate right in the syringe. You should be extra certain of the sterility of your print if this is the case. When sterilizing your syringes in the pressure cooker, make sure to keep them with the tip facing up or you will lose all of your liquid during the process. The caps should be placed loosely on top of the needle points so that you do not poke yourself when trying to grab them. You can use a quart size Chinese soup container to hold your syringes because it can withstand the temperature. Be sure to allow your syringe to cool fully before use.

Now that your syringe water is at a safe temperature for your spores, go ahead and soak your paper towel with rubbing alcohol. If you cannot find 91%, 70% will work. But try to use the highest possible concentration. Use the alcohol to sterilize the outside of your spore print. Keep it in between the folded halves of your alcohol-soaked paper towel. Then go on to sterilize the opening of the zipper lock bag. Most bags will do, but you want to try to get one that is not too thick, and you will see why later.

Once the outside of the bag is sterilized, you have to get your print inside without letting any air in. This involves closing all the doors and windows in your house and reducing body movement. You may want to spray the air with air sanitizer if you have it. The key is to only open up one side of the bag enough to get the print in. Before acting, prepare the print in the paper towel so that it will face the entrance of the bag properly and be able to drop right in. You want to be able to just open up the two halves of the paper towel and let it drop in. Once the print is in, close the bag up quickly and just give another quick wipe along the entrance with your paper towel.

Now is the part where a thinner bag with help you. You have to unfold the print while it is inside the bag. The ease of this part of the process will depend on your personal skill and how the print was prepared. Eventually, you will become good at it. The key is to be gentle and not use your fingernails too roughly so that they penetrate the bag. You will want the print situated at the bottom corner of the bag when it is finally opened.

Now that the print is open, you will need to sterilize your needle. Fill up your alcohol lamp or shot glass with isopropyl alcohol and light the top so you have a flame. If using a shot glass, you will have a better flame if it is filled to the very top. The flame will also give you some idea of how still the air is in your room. (You can utilize this earlier in the process when you are inserting your print into the bag as a gauge of your air movement.)

Next, you want to sterilize the tip of the needle so that the entire thing burns red hot. If you get one area to turn red, come back to it every second or two while you’re working on another area of the needle so that it stays hot. Don’t go too close to the plastic either, or it will melt. You may hear popping if there is any water inside the tip. When your whole needle is sterilized, cool it down by folding it in an alcohol soaked paper towel.

Hold your sterilized syringe in the towel and bring it to the ziplock bag. While it is safe inside the alcohol-soaked paper towel, use another part of the alcohol-soaked towel to wipe the part of the bag where you will be inserting your needle. (By the way, you may need to add alcohol to the paper towel as needed during the process).

From this point on, you want to act very slow and think out each movement before you act. Stick your entire needle into the bag through the spot you just sterilized with the alcohol-soaked paper towel. Do not worry about the direction the needle is facing. Instead, be sure that it does not go through the bag at any other point or it will let in unwanted air. If this happens, you may still succeed, but it is undesirable. You want the entire needle in the bag so that none of it is left in the open air to pick up contaminates. Once the needle is in, be sure to keep your alcohol-soaked paper towel over the entry hole so that no new air can get in. At this point you want to squirt out the contents of the syringe into the bag. You may squirt right on the spore print to remove the spores more easily, but that is not needed. The beauty of this technique is that you can rub the spores off with your finger right from the outside of the bag. Once the water is saturated with spores, slowly adjust your needle point to face the corner of the bag. Allow the water to collect in the corner and draw the water back into the syringe.

With this technique, you can usually get all of your spores into a single syringe. If you would like to do additional syringes on the same print, just be sure to keep the hole covered with your alcohol-soaked paper towel while you sterilize the next syringe.
That’s all there is to it…

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