Mirriam-Webster, (of whom I am no particular fan), defines the word “transition” as the “passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: change: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another”. It’s a good word to describe the process we are undertaking at BerryStacks Farm.
Pulling 24,000 strawberry plants is no small task. In order to recover the most medium, we let it dry out for a few days before pulling. Let me be the first to say that phasing in 3/8″ pine bark fines to replace the vermiculite and perlite mix will be a relief on many fronts! It has been quite windy, and the dust from the dried medium covers us from head to toe, making us resemble creatures from the zombie apocalypse. Since vermiculite can absorb up to 300 times its weight in water, it would be stating the obvious to describe in detail the levels of dehydration we are attaining. Suffice it to say, shareholders in bottled water processing and companies who manufacture moisturizer are likely seeing their stock values rise. The worst part is what it does to our eyes. The effect is similar to that of swimming in a pool with too much chlorine. At least the safety glasses keep the large chunks at bay. Once the pulling is done, the cleaning and sifting of recovered medium will begin.
The pine bark mulch arrived yesterday, and it is beautiful! We look forward to reducing if not eliminating our acid usage this year. The mulch should produce enough acidity to bring the pH of our water into the range preferred by strawberries. The recovered vermiculite and perlite will be used in the seed houses and with herbs and vegetables that prefer a higher pH.
One of our regular patrons came for a visit yesterday. She stood, looking over the empty planters, and remarked that it made her a little sad. I could empathize, having felt a little of that myself. It’s funny how the growing season here in Florida mirrors that of more northerly zones. In the north, people with seasonal affective disorder dread the onset of winter; for us, it’s the hot summer months that fuel the melancholy. Not to worry; we will chase it away by planting more nasturtiums, with a smattering of zinnias and sunflowers.
As Summer takes over, the field will fill with color, as tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers mature; and before we know it, September will be here, along with a new batch of strawberry plants to nurture. 🙂