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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – November 4

One thing I love about gardening is that there is always something new to learn. I’ve just returned from the Northeast Greenhouse Conference and will spend tomorrow transcribing my notes and digesting information. I came away informed and inspired.

At the trade show I visited the Fafard booth, where I spoke with their representatives about potting mixes. I’m always on the lookout for a mix with bark because I like a potting soil that has good drainage, but I hate perlite. Yes, I realize that perlite lightens the mix and adds both air and water storage, but let’s face it: it’s white and looks artificial.

When you empty old potting soil into the compost or the garden, that white perlite looks like flecks of Styrofoam or pieces of trash. Even in the pot these white specks are distracting. “Give me a potting soil without pearlite!” I said to the Fafard rep.

Tonight I arrived home to find an article from the Green House Grower about the possibility of replacing perlite with rice hulls. Brilliant! Use something that is normally a waste product to replace something that has to be manufactured. Not to mention something that I find extremely annoying.

Beyond perlite and rice hulls, here’s what I take away from all of this: There are always opportunities for improvement, be it on a personal level or upgrading a product or practice. But it’s up to us as individuals, and companies or associations to be interested in improvements and move beyond the norm.

I have no idea if these containers at Longwood Gardens were planted with potting mix containing pearlite or not, but it's on my mind tonight and this lovely arrangement seemed to fit.

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