Advice on taking Advice
by Brad Thompson

       As you continue down the road of growing experience you will encounter many different methods of growing plants and many new techniques (that are always sure winners).  Well this is a little warning from Brad, "all that seems great ain't necessarily so".   Many well intended growers will pass on their growing secrets to you, some good, some not, and some good but not for you.   You have to take each piece of advice with a grain of soil (little bit of skepticism) regardless of who the grower is.  Just because So and So (even if the so and so is me) tells you something is a fact or the best way to do something doesn't mean that it will work that way for you.  I've seen members listen to a speaker talk about a certain fertilizer or a new type of pot, etc. and then go right home and immediately apply what they have learned to all of their plants, usually with disastrous results.  I knew one member that heard a speaker talk about using a strong type of fertilizer and then killed every one of her plants when she did it at her house.

       Now, the proper way to take advice you hear at meetings or from other growers is to experiment first before you go whole hog with your entire collection.   Make sure that you also give the new method some time before you decide that it works for you.  The problem is that there are many variables that come into play when we're talking about your plant culture.  Variables  such as temperature, how you water, the amount of light, the type of mix you use, even elements such as how hard you pack the mix when you pot can make differences in how your plants will react to a particular method of growing.   Here's an example:  Suppose I tell Mary who lives in Orange County that I've been using 1/4 strength fertilizer every time I water instead of once a week like I had been recommending and my plants were growing like weeds.  Well, Mary goes home and tries the same method and all of her plants burn and die.  The problem was that when I lived in Torrance, where it is cooler, I was only watering once or twice a week anyway and Mary in Orange County, where it was hotter, watered her plants every other day.  She was giving 1/4 strength fertilizer more than 3 times a week and I was only watering with fertilizer about 1 1/2 times a week.  (yes this is a fictitious story)  You can see how problems can arise.  

      As far as the advice I give you, I try to take into account the variables that could occur and try to use extreme caution when I recommend a method that could be misused.  If I'm wrong about something I usually try to let you know right away  (or I will do that if I'm ever wrong about something) no matter how painful it may be to admit.   When you get advice that sounds like it should work and you've seen the results to verify it and want to try it, try it on two or three plants and then wait to see if you get the same results.  A new fertilizer may take weeks before you see real results yourself but with some things you shouldn't have to wait too long.  Just show a little restraint.   There are some people in every club that are always free with their advice (no I'm not talking about me this time) but noone has ever seen them even have a plant to enter in shows or even a show and tell.  I've seen members that come across as experts that haven't even grown a single begonia to maturity.  (maybe they've just been too busy trying to get everyone else to adopt their ideas)   Get your advice from members that have proven themselves to be good growers.

         Hopefully I haven't scared you away from taking good advice or trying new methods because that's how you learn to grow.  I just don't want you to go overboard trying new methods until you've given them a trial first.  ( an additional note from Mary Sakamoto, if you have a method that works great for you don't mess with it)

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