Well, it’s been more than a month, and still the fabled glories of slime mold cultivation evade me. The first serious snow of the season fell this week. Despite daily drenchings of the prescribed amount, nothing has grown. None has been spotted casually growing on rotting wood around the forest either. It may just be a bad year for slime molds, due to the exceptionally dry summer.
It’s late September, which for me means seasonal hankerings for autumnal coffee beverages and questionable slime mold studies. I finally got a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew at Starbucks yesterday. Unfortunately, no plasmodiums have presented themselves as willing partners to help me solve mazes or design efficient transit systems.
I emailed a local expert (someone who wrote an article about slime molds and has a doctorate in a relevant field) a few weeks ago. They advised me to wait until cooler temps and rain naturally induce the spores that lay dormant through the summer. We’ve now had several nights below freezing, but very little fall rain, and I worry my ideal cultivation window is rapidly closing.
It’s time to take fate into my own hands.
I’ve located six locations near to my house with slightly different elevations, exposures, and soil types to serve as cultivation grounds. At each I have placed two piles of brown mulch. I am using this type of mulch because it is what I had at the house. One pile will serve as the site control, while the second will be watered daily. I used a 32 oz. can to scoop the mulch to ensure approximately similar amounts in each condition.
Watered piles will get two scoops of water from a little red plastic scoop that was originally used for protein powder. I chose this because its vibrant hue will make it easier to find when I inevitably misplace it. Also, it was the first thing I found.
I’m using tap water because I really don’t think using distilled water will make a difference — the water at our house comes from a well and is probably more similar to rainwater than treated water would be. The budget for this project is also $0.
A seventh location with 4 mulch piles will examine a wider range of watering conditions–1 scoop, 2 scoops, 4 scoops, and 6+ scoops are the treatment conditions.
The 1 scoop pile isn’t a real control, but there are already a bunch of no-water piles around at the other sites, so having another one here seemed boring. I was going to have the highest value be 8 scoops but I’m saying 6+ because the can I use only really holds a total of 14 scoops so to do all of them in one go it would end up being 7 scoops for the final pile, which just doesn’t follow as nicely from the previous numbers as 6 or 8 does. Still, I want to have this one to be pretty wet so on some days I might go and fill up the can a second time so I can give it 8 (or more) scoops. I fully expect this to degenerate into a “just drench it” scenario within the week.