By Tommy Clarkson from the July 2010 Edition
• . . . . Cut palm fronds (leaves) off until there are fully yellowed, brown or clearly dead – in which state they can no longer provide a conduit for nutrients to the palm. Not dissimilar to our organs, along with the roots, they are an extremely important part of that which enables the palms “live long and prosper!” Think how you’d have felt during your gangling teen age stage to have someone capriciously hack off your limbs just because they got in the way when someone wanted to pass by!
• . . . . Paint the trunk of your palms white. Doing so serves no meaningful purpose and embarrasses the dickens out of the palm! Just because someone did so on an unlit Bahamian street many years ago for purported traffic safety or for the falsity that white lime would thwart trunk borers in the early 1900’s, is no reason to do so today. It does not thwart insects, disease or sunburn and, in fact, it clogs the trunk’s pores. If ya’ gotta’ get giddy with your paint can, go paint your own trunk!
….. Plant with a “stick and forget” attitude. Just like you and me, every palm species has different requirements, tastes, and needs. Some like humus, moisture retaining
soil while others prefer that of well draining sand and then yet others want their roots in water most of the time. Bright sun is the order of the day for some while their cousins would like nothing better than partial or even full shade. One hole in the ground does not fit all!
• …… Think that dirt is dirt. It ain’t the same! For us, is the air in Mexico City and Western Kansas in the U.S. the same? I think
not. Accordingly, strive to create the best soil mix possible for each and every palm. Remember, generally, it’s where they are going to spend their entire life! As a result I use several core ingredients including: One portion of the existing area soil (for me that is one which is volcanic rich and highly porous), river (not beach, with salt) sand, tierra negra (rich compost), coconut coir (finely shredded coconut husk and – from a plant’s perspective, yum yum – Ascerco de vaca (dried cow manure).
• . . . Ignore your palms thirst needs, nor – conversely – water them too much! Like any good, long-term, living, growing relationship, learn how much water is required and desired to make it enjoy growth to its optimum potential. It’s going to provide you countless hours of enjoyment – so reciprocate a little. You’ll both the better for it!
• . . . Assume your palm is immune to insects and diseases. Palms are living entities too! Just as we can get a rash, get gnawed on by critters or “catch a bug” so, too, can your palm. Know if it – for instance – is vulnerable to lethal yellowing and if your area has that problem. Research if trunk borers are a local problem. Remember that you don’t speak palm and it doesn’t speak your lingo either. So, take responsibility for your palm babies and assume nothing!
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.