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Report From PIA – February 21

Continuing on from yesterday’s post about horse manure and intransigence, I’m thinking today about the courage to say that you might be wrong, and move forward.

It’s difficult for all of us to admit that we haven’t succeeded or that our original beliefs have proved to be incorrect. And yet, if we move slightly to the side of how it feels to be mistaken or fall short, it’s also very stimulating. Yikes! There’s a new way to do this!

An example: I have long told my audiences that they need to use new potting soil in their containers every year. “Putting this year’s plants in soil that last year’s varieties have filled with roots is like asking you to move into a house where the previous owner’s furnishings are still in place.” I wasn’t wrong, exactly, but there are other ways of thinking about this.

In a time when we are conscious of not wasting materials, and when we are aware of the resources that go into making, packaging, and shipping the products we use, replacing potting soil annually comes at an environmental cost. I might be right that the roots of last year’s plants hinder this year’s varieties from getting established, but I was wrong in thinking that new potting soil was the only answer.

On a listserv for landscapers, members told me of taking old soil out of containers, emptying it into wheelbarrows or other basin, and chopping the lumps of old roots while mixing in fresh compost as an amendment. This loosened mix of new and old is then put back into the pots or boxes, ready to foster a new group of annuals.

I’d be a fool not to admit that there is wisdom here. I am called to have the guts to say that there is, indeed, another route to success. There is always another path and sometimes, in order to see the alternate method, it takes the courage to say, “I’ve learned something new.”

Although you might not need to put new potting soil in your boxes every year, you should empty the boxes, chop up old roots, and refresh the mix with compost or composted manure. Adding a bit of organic fertilizer is a good idea as well.

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