At my Designing with Succulents presentations, I’m often asked “what’s the best soil mix?” If you’re doing only a pot or two, simply buy a bag of cactus mix. Otherwise, combine any bagged potting soil half-and-half with pumice. (For the garden, mix equal parts garden soil, pumice, gritty sand like decomposed granite, and compost.)
Crushed pumice (lava rock), shown above, aerates the soil, absorbs excess moisture, and has trace minerals that enhance plant vitality.
It seems the Petelski family, which has a background in mining, had bought and reopened the mine. When Lexi’s brother Austin was in the San Diego area making sales calls to growers and nurseries, he stopped by. I took some photos of him for my newsletter, told him I wanted to adopt him, and sent him on his way with a hug.
A large scar on Austin’s scalp made me wonder if he’d fallen down a mine. He explained he’d had surgery after being diagnosed a year ago with a glioblastoma. The tumor is in his central brain, and can’t be removed without leaving him speech-impaired or worse (paralyzed). The doctors gave him three to five years if untreated. “It’s not what you want to hear at age 25,” he told me. I asked why he was so calm about it. “Whether I live or die,” Austin said matter-of-factly, “I know I’m going to end up in the same place.” He credits his Christian faith for sustaining him through a difficult year and giving him the assurance of heaven.
Chemotherapy and radiation made it challenging for Austin to run General Pumice, so Lexi took care of her brother and helped with the business, which she continues to do as co-owner. Austin had a checkup yesterday. “The results are good,” he texted me. “The tumor is the same size which means it hasn’t grown at all!” Yet he wasn’t surprised. He knows he looks and feels far better than most cancer patients. Whatever made the difference—perhaps a combination of chemotherapy, radiation, and prayer—doctors now give him 20 years.
As for your own garden, no worries. There’s an unlimited supply of pumice, which will soon be in nurseries and garden centers in reasonably priced, 25- and 40-pound bags. If you want it delivered to your door, right now the cost of shipping is greater than the cost of the product itself. But Lexi and Austin are working on that. “We’ll find a way to get it to anyone who wants it,” he says. I don’t doubt it.