A Surprising Turn of Events - Medium Convert!

jodik_gwMay 21, 2011

This is more of a short story than an educational post, but I think it just goes to show that you never know how much of an impact consistently repeated factual information can have... even when you think no one is listening.

Since meeting Al and reading all of his well prepared articles on the science and physics of mediums, how water behaves in mediums, and the basics of growing healthy containerized plants from the roots up, and using his recommended medium mixes myself, I've spent a good deal of time repeating what I've learned to anyone who will listen... and given the rather stagnated state of affairs within the gardening industry, any valid information I've shared is not usually received well. People seem confused, more than anything.

Anyway, I didn't really think anything I said would ever take hold, or at the very least, make anyone think twice about perhaps mixing up their own medium as opposed to taking the easy path of just buying bagged soil, readily available anywhere. And then, I got the shock of my life!

My gardening partner pulled into the driveway yesterday and commenced unloading several large bags of... (gasp!)... PINE BARK... from her van... that with a little sifting will be exactly what we need! She also pulled out a few small bags of vermiculite and fine peat, which won't be as useful, but the bags of pine bark and the reasoning behind her purchases gives me fresh hope that the science is finally sinking in! I have not been speaking in vain!

Her plan is to amend the few small raised beds that she uses to grow vegetables, giving them more aeration while still trying to retain some moisture through the hot, dry summer. I must commend her for trying... for making an effort toward the ends of growing truly healthy plants, from the roots up!

But even more so, I must commend Al... yet again... for making all this science so available to us! For without his assistance, without his generous spirit, I wouldn't even know that there was so much more information available on what happens beneath the soil surface, beyond what the industry pushes, and that correcting my container growing mistakes was so easy!

I won't rush to point out any mistakes my partner might make... she's on the right path now, and with time and experience, she'll see her way through. It was just such a shock, and a joy, to realize that my continued "teaching" actually had an audience, I had to share this story of a medium convert with all of you! :-)

And another one joins our quest for truth in growing, to the best possible potential! Baby steps... I guess it all happens in baby steps... but those small steps are better than none, at all. Thanks for reading, and...

Happy Gardening!

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That's great to hear. Very encouraging! Evert journey starts with a few small steps.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:31AM
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That is a wonderful story Jodik! I loved it. It was very refreshing to read after a still going to be long day gardening. I just came in to relax and will head back out soon.

I have had a few switch over because of me too. One in particular was a man that works at the local nursery for over 20 years. He was never able to keep a gardenia or citrus healthy and alive, until, that is until I had him read Al's threads and he on his own decided to make the gritty mix. It was funny when I visited it last month and saw he had been growing these plants at a phenomenal rate. When I looked at the mix thinking it was peat, low and behold, it was the gritty! He never told me. lol

So I have to agree that science and truth will always prevail and it is always there, here for the taking when it comes to growing very happy and healthy plants on a continual basis, some that most people could never do.

I am with you on this one and share the same excitement as you!

Thank you Jodi


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 1:44PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I enjoyed your story Jodi. My local gardening friends keep me intimidated from speaking out. You know,like not mentioning your religion or political party, keep your opinions about the popular mixes to your self, instead of becoming an evangelical in the container garden world. Even worse, trying to explain that you use another standard completely, in your garden, from what you just suggested for your containers. Congratulations on your convert. Al

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 10:09AM
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Thanks, everyone! :-)

This conversion just took me so much by surprise that I had to share it! It's not often that I find other gardeners agreeable to the science I speak about. I think we've all been there... perhaps when we first began looking for the ingredients that we needed... and we found so many confusing looks and stumped store clerks staring at us like we'd grown a third eye in the middle of our foreheads! "Pine bark? Why on earth would we need pine bark? And what the heck is turface?"

I try not to preach, per se, but I definitely speak my mind when conversing with other growers. The science is very solid, so there's really no need to keep quiet about the realities of container growing. Every aspect we talk about can be validated. But the indignant responses are very real... some folks get supremely put out, literally angry, when I challenge old fashioned methods and misinformation! It's kind of strange how close some people cling to fallacy.

What amazes me, I think, is that so few people actually question the gardening industry... but then, a lot of folks are not that serious about growing, and only want to have a few pretty posies on their porches every summer... or they just want to grow a few tomatoes or an herb or two. It does take a more serious grower, I suppose, to look deeper into what makes plants "tick".

Calistoga Al, I can only imagine the giant can of worms you'd open if you blurted out the truth regarding the industry and what they offer! I'm not saying that all bagged mixes are awful or completely useless, some having their place in certain circumstances... but I can just imagine the reaction from a large garden club, if you stood up and tried to make a case for a more durable, free draining medium... or tried to explain the physics of water moving through soil in a container environment... or tried to dispel the many myths that abound!

So many people have been growing a certain way for so long, and have held beliefs for so long... it would be certain chaos to expose bagged soils for what they are! :-)

Mike, science and truth will only prevail if people are open and accepting of new ideas. We know the science to be logical, and we've seen the evidence up close and personal... but when we encounter the type of person that thinks there's nothing further they can learn, the type of person that closes themselves off to the new or different, getting them to listen can be quite the chore! Sometimes folks need to discover things on their own... so we keep pointing them in the direction of truth and science... and we hope they'll think about it, mull it over, and maybe give it a try for themselves.

You notice that it's always those people who haven't tried new ideas that have negative things to say about them... or people who haven't quite gotten the idea right, but won't ask for help... and so, they only have negative things to say.

It's not even necessary to use the new ideas... but to acknowledge that there's more than one way to do something... that the facts add up!

Anyway... it's time to "make the donuts"... again! Another day, another dollar, as they say!

Happy Gardening to Everyone! :-)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 11:19AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Howdy, Jodi, Kernul, Mike, Al...!
Yes, it sure can be a diplomatic strain when helping folks with their gardening.
I take each little victory at a time, dropping science here and there, e-mailing
relevant passages, et cetera, to my gardening friends. One thing that's frustrating
is the persistent idea of the "greenthumb." Very often, my success will be dismissed
as a result of my "greenthumb," rather than the basic principles behind my growing.
Sometimes folks will say, "Well you have good light, that's why your plants are happy."
Anything to get around the fact that they might need to alter their methods/ideologies.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 12:48PM
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Josh, I am constantly fending off that remark!
Various neighbors have walked by multiple times and commented on my plants,
saying that I must have a green thumb. I respond with, "Ya, I guess." That is all
I can think of for such a silly remark.

My thumb has nothing to do with it! I think people sometimes get lucky and have a
great garden on their first try, while others attempt to throw plants into native soil or
pre-made potting mix and fail miserably. They would rather attribute their failure to
the color of their thumb than to the fact that they did not consider the necessary factors
to keeping their plants healthy.

I am currently battling with my neighbors across the row, they refuse to put plants in,
but comment daily on how jealous they are of my garden. They say that they have brown thumbs
and lack light, and I say that 4-6 hours is plenty for herbs or various vegetables. They are
just so stubborn! It is an uphill battle, but I noticed a mint and basil plant tossed in
the ground yesterday!

Also, my neighbor down the row added a handful of potted plants, but only after I
littered every available inch of my little yard with them.

Success! Gardening appears to be contagious.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 2:09PM
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Having a "green thumb" is applying learned knowledge to growing plant material. That's it. That's the reality.

There's not much luck involved, no big secrets... the knowledge is freely available, and anyone who wants to make the effort to learn, and apply what they learn to growing, can have that same "green thumb".

The only trick is wading through all the opinion and fallacy, knowing what's wheat and what's chaff. But if a person looks at it with a little logic and common sense, learns the basics, and gets a little experience along the way, it all begins to fall into place.

I think it's pitiful that so many myths are still a part of the industry, and that the industry relies upon our lack of knowledge, and those myths, in order to profit. And it's sad that people have been led to believe that growing beautiful, healthy plants requires a "green thumb".

Part of the problem, I think, is that most of us are trusting of the gardening industry. They're the supposed authority on the subject, so if they say something, or sell something, it must be right. Unfortunately, this isn't always true. Any industry hoping to profit needs to have continual customers. If we all were knowledgeable enough to keep our plants alive and thriving for long periods of time, not many would need to replace things quite so often... including the plants, the mediums, etc... and if the industry were honest, there wouldn't be quite so many unnecessary products on the market, sold through slick advertising campaigns.

I know for a fact, that if I had been privy to the truth about growing plants early on, I would be so much farther along! If someone had told me that there was a world of difference between growing in the ground and growing within the confines of a container, I'd have had much better success with both types of gardening. And if I'd remembered and applied a little of the science and physics I learned in school, that would have helped a lot, too.

But, like most everyone else, I put faith in an industry I didn't think too closely about... I never asked myself what their motives were. And I never really thought too hard about the "green thumb" issue, taking for granted that some people were natural gardeners and some weren't.

Luckily, my frustration at losing expensive bulbs prompted me to look a little deeper into what I was doing... and I subsequently found and read "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention"... and my entire perspective changed!

Now, if I'm not sure about some aspect of growing, I research... knowing the information is out there, and knowing who and where the trusted sources are.

I'm just so happy to have found success, I want to share it with everyone! Perhaps I get a little over enthusiastic about it at times... but I'd still give myself an "A" for effort, at the very least! ;-)

Al should sub-title his main article "You, Too, Can Have a Green Thumb!" :-)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 3:03PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Do you talk to your television? My wife is usually reading while I am watching a "television" gardener. Sometimes she will speak up and ask me " why are you talking to the television?" My problem is only about 50% of what they say on the television is true, and the rest is perpetuating false assumptions that have been proven false decades ago. I watch the programs because I am interested in learning of new plants, and given the botanical name(sometimes!) I can research the possibility for my growing them. Television gardening scrips should be proof read for more than spelling mistakes. Al

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 10:18AM
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