I have always enjoyed visiting Farmer Zhang up at Muzha. I love seeing his smile and his dedication to tea. He told us good tea starts with the right varietal, which is the Tieguanyin varietal Hong Xin Wai Wei Tao 紅心歪尾桃 that his ancestors brought over from China.
He also told us that tea plants need good care and he was very proud to show us a huge photo album of his Lupine flowers. He said they are great for fertilizing his tea plants and because of them, he doesn't need to use artificial fertilizers.
We were very lucky that one of the tour members, Jim Miller, knows a lot about plants. Jim explained how Lupine works: " Lupines, which are in the same family as the pea/legume(Fabaceae) are "Nitrogen-fixing." By that, I mean, they draw nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules on their roots. Therefore, they make great "green-manure." They are called " cover crops" and are grown to turn into the soil in which they grew. This can be done in two ways:
1. About a month before planting, a desired crop, the cover crop, may be dug and turned over to decompose in the soil. This adds the Nitrogen in the roots and the plants fibrous material to the soil. This improves the soil and feeds the plants.
2. Or, they can be cut at ground level, which leaves the roots with the nitrogen to feed the plants around them and the cut plants serve s a "mulch" which holds in water and prohibits weeds from germinating. The fibrous material which is added to the soil increase the organic level of the soil. As these substances decompose, they improve air and water-holding capacity to the soil. So by growing cover crops (Lupines), protects the soil from erosion during the winter, adds nutrients in the form of nitrogen, which all leafy plants need for foliage; tea leaves, and improves soil with organic material."