The plants in the Rainforest are looking nice and healthy lately but it doesn’t hurt to do a check-up on the soil now and then to make sure. Plants rely on healthy soils to provide them with water, nutrients, oxygen to produce more roots and structural support. Taking a close look at the soil allows horticulturists to anticipate problems and head them off before they affect the plants.
Amazon Exhibit forest floor.
Biologists Sarab Stewart and Horticulture Intern Patrick Carter took some samples of the soil in the Rainforest and Mangroves this week to send to a local lab for analysis. The lab will send information back about the levels of nutrients in the soil and the overall condition of the soil along with recommendations for improvements.
Sarab collecting and bagging soil samples for the lab.
They use a use a soil probe to make sure the samples are deep enough to reflect the entire soil profile. This is a good opportunity to look at soil moisture and see if we are watering correctly and check on the health of the roots systems.
Collecting deep soil samples.
Sarab uses the soil probe to check the soil moisture in the Costa Rica planters.
Healthy soils support lots life in addition to plant roots. This earthworm is our main composter in this Costa Rica level planter.
Earthworm peeking out of the soil sample from Costa Rica planters.
Kristen Natoli, Assistant Curator is also sending some leaf samples of some of the larger specimen trees to the lab. This way we can compare nutrients in the leaves to that of the soil and make sure the plants are getting everything they need.
Kristen collects leaf samples from the Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes).
Kristen collects leaf samples from the Mahogany tree (Swietenia mahagoni) while Vikki McCloskey puts out food for the birds.
The lab results will help us make decisions about how we provide nutrients to the plants from the diversity of methods we currently use, everything from the natural waste from our free flying birds and butterflies, mulch from excess Leaf Cutter Ant fungus, worm compost, bat guano, water soluble fertilizers and just letting the fallen leaves naturally decompose in the planters.
Patrick Carter adds worm compost to the planters in the Madagascar exhibit.
All this to make the Rainforest flourish!