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.