Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Beginnings of a Cactus Garden

Golden Barrel Cactus



We live in an adobe house in the Chihuahuan Desert, so of course we should plant a cactus garden! However, this kind of gardening is very new to me and the rules are the opposite of everything I've learned about planting and gardening, which is to dig deep, add humus and other goodies to the soil to help it hold moisture, leave a little well around the plant to help water go right to the roots, then cover the area around the plant with some nice mulch, to slow evaporation and to keep the soil cool and moist.

Mexican Fire Barrel



Not so with a cactus garden. Here, you drill into the rich, but adobe-hard clay soil; add one part sand to one part chopped up soil, even out the soil around the new transplant to discourage too much water getting to the roots; then spread some nice hot-in-the-sun gravel around the new planting.

Of course, I've left out the part where you must persuade the very user-unfriendly spiny plant to leave its container and maneuver it into the hole that you have prepared for it. The man who sold us the cacti was most helpful with this part: He suggested making a kind of collar out of a piece of rolled up newspaper to wrap around the plant while tilting the pot on its side and gently sliding the thorny fellow out and into place. It worked!


Some kind of Euphorbia? Help! I've lost the little label


Now comes the hard part for a former New England gardener who has always equated abundant water with plant love. I will be watering the new cacti so few times until they are established that I have had to schedule the waterings on the computer. It will be weeks between waterings, and this is the right thing to do, as the most common cause of garden cactus failure is overwatering.

13 comments:

Nan said...

Isn't this just amazing! I can't get my head around it. :<)

donna said...

Hi. A friend of mine recommended your blog, and I had to look. We have driven through NM a few, well several times. I have never seen anything there worth going back for, so I am hoping you will enlighten me about the beauty of your new state. I really hate thinking that a place can be so desolate. I am going to be looking at your lovely photos to see what you see.
Donna

JC said...

Maybe you'll have better luck with your garden than I do ...

With all the rain I got this Spring, the slugs ate most of everything I planted even with the 'kill only slugs' stuff I shook on them ... yeah right ...

I now have a sunny week ahead of me and all I see are weeds with a few eaten green things.

Off I go to buy some plants and pretend I grew them ...

clairz said...

Nan, you are so right. When we lived here before in the 90s I planted some cacti and took very very "good" care of them. I figured if they could grow with very little water, I would water them generously and make them grow a lot. Wrong! Poor little dead rotted-off cacti.

Donna, I know what you mean about the desolate appearance of many parts of the state. I am only slowly growing to appreciate desert scenery. The big skies were easy to love, the rocks and dirt, not so much. Lucky for me, we live in an irrigated river valley, a little oasis. I have the wonderful skies, the mountain views, and the trees I seem to need around me.

JC, I spent years up in Washington state doing the plant a garden/wait for the rain to stop/slugs eating everything cycle. Hopefully, I'll do better here. We'll see.

Sandy ~~~ said...

I water...it's what I do. So, the computer schedule sounds great and I'll remember that one! I love cactus, so many beautiful varieties. They will have a spot in my NM home..and hopefully will discourage curious dog noses to stay away!

donna said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am just beginning to quilt, so I am excited to see the progress. I have sewn for years, and enjoy the instant gratification of completing a project in a day or two. I am not good plodding along for much time, I get bored and lose interest. I am hoping to build my own character as I continue to build quilts. Hope I can see the project through to completion.
Thanks for stopping in.

donna said...

I'm not sure I would do too well out there, I do love my roses. Just got a new one over the weekend, I'll send a picture once I have it planted.

clairz said...

Donna, I hope you are still reading these comments--just a little further along the adobe wall from these cacti are the six roses I have planted so far.

I was amazed at the roses here in Las Cruces. They are absolutely gorgeous and seem to thrive even in the occasional neglected yard. Yes, roses, and lilacs, and irises, too. I was so glad that I didn't have to leave behind some of my favorite flowers when we left New England.

Deb said...

So now I'm in a quandry...what about those monsoons?? Are they going to drown your cacti? If you don't want them quite yet, send them our way! (the monsoons, not the cacti)...dry, dry, dry in the Mid Atlantic this July. I expect water restriction notices soon. My lawn looks like very short hay! Maybe hay for leprechans...

clairz said...

If we actually get rain here, Deb, instead of just threatening clouds, I will just move my cactus watering schedule out a week or two on the computer.

You should see my lawn! (There was a lawn here when we moved in--I wouldn't have put one in). I water it just once a week and it's a little hayish-looking, too. I've only had to cut it once so far.

ain't for city gals said...

Welcome to the great desert..I have lived in Arizona since 1974 and cannot imagine living any where else..it truly does grow on you. New Mexico is another gorgeous state..

Beth said...

Right now, I find myself envying your cactus garden, Clair. It is so very hot and dry here and I have to water every single night. Even so, my plants look tired and uninspired. I feel like I'm watering just to keep them alive. *Sigh*

Linda said...

Fascinating! Especially the getting the plant out of the pot bit. When I think about how I fling plants around...