The Method: Part 2 - Safely Shipping

The main consideration is that your customer winds up with a healthy Salvia divinorum garden.  I do it MY way and no one has been disappointed yet.  I take the greatest of care in raising these plants, they are family: I desire them to arrive alive and undamaged if I'm going to part with them ...

Secondary considerations: the 3 Salvia plants should be so well rooted as to be root bound, when shipped. The major cause of plant death is from root shock incurred during shipping. Salvia's roots are very sensitive to root shock during shipping so it is wise to cushion them well and minimize the total transit time. I Do Not ship plants younger than 2 months old: this is one of the reasons I said to write the potting date on the pot with the Sharpie before using the Sharpie to form a rooting socket in the dirt in my Production tutorial.

The critical idea here is to protect their root balls in transit. The plants root ball IS the essential part to protect - it IS the heart of the plant! A beast can wander along and eat the plant up: if the root ball survived the plant will be back! If the plant wilts back but you water it in time to save the roots from drying out all the way: It will live and grow back. If cold weather kills the plant above ground but the root ball doesn't freeze the plant will grow back in the spring.

If the root ball is healthy chances are good the whole plant will look healthy.  If the root ball dries out or freezes or gets root rot: the plant is dead. They DON'T like being shipped and you DON'T DARE to mess with the root ball during repotting ... just place it flush with the surface of the new dirt level. Never bury a Salvia divinorum root ball: it needs access to air to be healthy!

The plants should be mostly pest free and a rich dark emerald green color. If you water them with an organic fertilizer mix, containing mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria, 2 weeks before their expected shipping date you will surely see that lovely color in their leaves. It is a good Idea to feed them once or twice, between their regular waterings, in the weeks before shipping: to ensure good health. It is important that the plants you ship have been mycorrhized during potting: the easiest way to insure this is to mix an organic fertilizer containing bacteria and mycorrhizae (Like "Kellogg's Organic Rose and Flower Fertilizer" or "Happy Frog for acid loving plants") into your potting soil.

Before shipping you should very gently rock their stems from side to side briefly to check how much wiggle it has: a plant that is well rooted will have very little side to side play - a plant that flops back and forth loosely isn't well rooted and may die upon arrival. Put the floppy plant back in the nursery to let it grow a couple more weeks before reconsidering shipping it again.

I ONLY ship 3 plants at a Time. I don't sell single plants: I only sell these special plants in groups of three (Triads) for one price (often cheaper than other people charge for One plant). I have lots of plants: I can make a dozen a week if I'm not so lazy. I haven't made any in a while. It's time ...

The reason I only sell plants in lots of 3 units is known as "Double Backup Redundancy" and it's based on real life rocket science! That way you can screw one up with too much of a pesticide or something / drop one and break it / and STILL have a 'saving throw' (and found a dynasty and a garden). If a policy of 'double backup redundancy' is good enough for NASA I'll settle for it too!  3 plants fit perfectly in a Standard 16" X 13" X 3" "Express Mail" Box ... and each has 2 brothers or sisters as traveling companions!

With all of the above considerations: preparation for the shipping of a Triad begins weeks before the expected shipping date.  

This is what I ship to my Customers:

3 Very Healthy Salvia Plants to ship in one box! Each is a foot tall and WELL Rooted!

Give them a good close looking over above and below each leaf for all kinds of pests as a pre-flight check JUST before you pack them.

My tip for removing a stray aphid or a tiny caterpillar is to tear off a short piece of tape from the shipping roll and gently press the sticky corner down upon the pest: a small corner of tape generally doesn't adhere well to salvia's leaf but the insect is a goner! If there are too many pests, if you can't remove them all in a 5 minute period with the tape trick: do not ship that plant!

The plants I ship must meet certain criteria: essentially it boils down to "Would I want to receive a plant in THIS condition MYSELF?"

I won't ship a plant:
For most of these "Failed Candidates" there is remedial action required before their candidacy for shipping can be reconsidered. For the ones "Too Crooked" to fit in a 2.75" square  by 15.25" long cardboard tube without breaking: well, that's what "Craig's List" is for! I'm sure that nurseries might be interested, or sell them by ads in the paper.  You could always give them away to friends and family.   

Shipping Supplies Needed:

(*)  Note: the "Shirt Cardboard" is NOT Corrugated cardboard so it requires a certain thickness (about a half of a millimeter). The thickness is about twice the thickness of poster board: approximately as thick as 2 or 3 playing cards - this is a very important part of the scheme! The "Shirt Cardboard" is used to structurally support the wrapped plant and insure it does not shift around in the shipping box.

The source I had for this item was the 40" X 48" non-corrugated cardboard sheets typically laid between layers on pallets. I could cut 9 of these 'shipping shell blanks' from one sheet. (3 long by 3 wide)

Here's a photo of those things you'll need:

Form all 3 of the pieces of rectangular shirt cardboard into 3 separate 2.75" by 2.75" by 15.25 shipping tubes.

First measure a line 2.75 inches in from an end of one of the 3 sheets and crease on it so that the first of the 4 sides is formed. Then fold that side over towards itself 3 more times - to form 3 more 2.75" sides and a half inch tab on the other end (like this):

Then use that first sheet on top of the second sheet and with BOTH Sheets fold over the first panel/side again using the top sheet as a guide for the first crease: making the first crease and side of the second sheet ... move the first sheet aside then use the first side of the second sheet: and fold that side over towards itself 3 more times to finish the second shipping shell (as above).

Repeat that paragraph again with the 3rd piece of shirt cardboard to form the 3rd shipping shell.

Water the plants well with plain water early on the morning of the day they will be shipped: make sure the pots drain well before you pack the plants. You want all the water to be up inside of the plants (where it belongs) and not still down in the pots by the time they are packed.

Got all that? Good.

You are ready to pack up that Triad of those 3 Plants: here's how ...

(Optional: Write the plant's date, or serial number, or whatever, on the outside of the shipping shell.)

(Optional: Take a Photograph of the 3 plants you are shipping and email the photo of the customers babies with the tracking number. That way the customer knows what to expect and can check for shipping damage.)

Not an Option: Now look the plant over carefully for pests - use a magnifier! Most pests are found UNDER the leaves so I just hold the baby up to the light and above me and I look up her stem for pre-flight inspection.

Tear off ABOUT 18" of foil

Pre-form a tube from that strip of foil by rolling it around your forearm ...

Now comes the really tricky part: the first restraining and insulating layer around the plant! Gently holding the pot between your knees you will gently wrap the tube of foil you just formed around the middle and top of the plant. Start off with the bottom edge of the foil tube a couple of inches above the dirt level in the pot and gently lower it towards the pot as your gathering in of the leaves and the rolling up of the plant continues. This encourages the leaves to gently bend downwards towards the stem so that no leaves are sticking out of the side of the foil tube.

If the plant you are shipping is extra short: all the leaves can be gathered in, pointing upwards, sticking nearly straight up along the stem as you roll up the plant. This adds about 4" to the height of the foil compartment above the stem top: so if your plant is a foot tall you MUST pin her leaves down GENTLY with a wrapping of foil.

The tube gets wrapped around the plant ...

This is the trickiest of the tricky parts ... but it's easy to learn.

Gently ... gently - close the bottom in snugly first near the stem - you are NOT trying to roll this plant up tightly: just enough to restrain it's leaves in a fixed position during shipping.

Just tightly enough to hold the leaves down near the stem without breaking any of the leaves at ABOUT a 3" diameter. Crimp the bottom end loosely first: and you may consider rolling the tube up like a funnel from the bottom first.

Gently tuck the leaves down in the tube and seal the side from bottom to top as you get each level of leaves tucked down. Honest: it's easier than it sounds ...  You'll just have to get the feel of the tension in the leaves stem as you gently bend them downwards. you'll pick it up right away.

Roll the tube in closely around the narrower top

The top leaf waves bye-bye to the sun: the plant will go hungry now until it gets unpacked. Sometimes the first rolled up foil tube WON'T Cover up the whole stem. Tear another sheet of foil and wrap it around and above the tube that just covers up the middle of the plant. If it is gently crumpled around the plants leaves and stems it will hold it's tubular shape without harming the plant.

The top of the plant is now secured in a insulating tube of foil and air. The leaves and branches are restrained: so the plant can't squirm and thrash and flail around in the box, trying to make a break for it, and throw the plane off of balance with it's constant restless squirming ... ;-)

Now rip a 12" square sheet of foil to wrap the pot up securely.

Fold up the side of the foil against one side of the pot and fold its end over the top and tuck it down a little: the edge should crumple and wrap up against the flared bell of foil at the bottom of the stem so as to securely overwrap it in Foil.

Fold the wings of foil on either side forward to wrap them against the 2 adjoining sides and tuck the top edges sticking up over the top into the pot: lightly crimping to the soil level, and around and outside the bottom of the first foil tube you wrapped (so as to keep the soil in the pot).

Fold up the 4th side around the pot: this secures the root ball from being ejected from the pot in transit.

Plant secured with foil but no tape

A little silver club! Snug as a bug in a rug!

(Optional: two 8' strips of shipping tape on opposite sides securing the foil shell over the pot to the shell over the top of the plant - locking their relative positions together.)

Lay that silvery club on its side in the shipping tube you wrote its Serial Number on.

Tape upward along the outside of the cardboard tube: and run the tape over the cardboards edge and then over one side of the pot. This secures the pot to this side of the shipping shell.

Tape pot down to cardboard inside the shell securing the pot snugly to the 3rd side also.

And the top area of the plant gets the same treatment

Tape it down into the shell too!

roll up the box around the plant.

Put flap over the outside to overlap it with the first side.

Tape on both ends all the way around tube

Snug as two bugs in TWO Rugs!

The packed plant: view of the pot from the bottom of the shipping tube. This hollow area MUST be snugly filled with packing peanuts to support the pot in transit. The tape alone will not hold the pot securely in place: both the top and bottom ends of the tube must be filled in with peanuts to help support the plant.

The one time I forgot to pack those shock absorbing peanuts tightly UNDER the Pot: that plant got uprooted and killed in transit. LEARN from my mistake! Peanuts Above the plant can be loosely packed and barely filled in there: peanuts Below the plant are critical!

Bye-Bye baby ... Last glimpse of the sun ...

I pray for their safety the whole time I'm packing them: I speak gently and softly reassure them that the duration of the period of their lack of sun will be as short as I can make it. I pray that their new owners garden gets as large as mine ...

One plant packed down securely and 2 more plants to go.

Two down 1 to go

All 3 plants: (double backup redundancy)

Biodegradable starch "Peanuts" line bottom 2 to 3 inches deep

Pot in tube pressed down into peanuts to pack them tightly under the pot. Pot centered in the middle and straight up and down.

Tape top of center plant to box top to hold it centered

Put next plant in: centered in remaining space. Push cardboard tube down into peanuts layer to assure pot is supported underneath ...

Slide peanuts between down between these two tubes and pack em in. Make a nice tight crushable shock absorption layer between plants.

Fill both ends of all tubes with peanuts to hold plants surrounded with peanuts

3rd plant pressed into peanuts at bottom: loosely filling the top of the tube. You should place the tube 'pot end up' for one of the 3 plants: to balance box out a little. You may want to add or remove a few peanuts from the box bottom before that plant goes in: raise or lower the level so as not to snap off the top of the plant.

Pack more peanuts (One at a time) around both sides of the 3rd tube (as before)

You may have to slightly fold down the ends of the cardboard tubes so the box flaps can close flat over them. (as seen above) It'll be a tight squeeze but nothing will be 'rattling around' in there when you are done.

Fold 3 flaps - the 2 side ones in first then the inner (Non glue strip) flap folds down flat

Tape them down

Seal last flap

Tape a single band around all 4 narrow sides.

Mail by 2PM your time, at the latest, to have them delivered overnight!  Transit time MUST be Minimized to avoid serious trauma to them.

If you were restrained like in a straight jacket, and sealed in a cubicle in the DARK (You eat sunlight, remember? You're going to STARVE Now!), and jostled, and flown, and jostled some more - I'll bet YOU would want it all to be over as quickly as possible, Too!  Urge them to unpack the plants and give them some local tap water ASAP ...

Happy Gardening!

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