Archive | June 2014

When It Finally Rains, It Pours

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Or, “How to Drown Your Cactus!’’ Keep in mind that we have been in a severe drought for, what, about six years? But today, June 18, the bottom fell out of a cloud, not once, but twice, serving up a quintessential example of the classic gully-washer/turd floater heck of a rain. And while I certainly can’t complain-the yard and trees and pasture were eternally grateful-I suspect the cactus are about ready for it to quit.

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In the last two weeks or so we have seen rain for the first time since last October. Our rain gauge indicated something over five inches, which for those of you reading this on your laptop as you enjoy your lush, green back yard in Houston, where it recently rained six inches in one day!, this is no big deal. But to us out here in dry West Texas where most of the top soil has long blown away to Kansas or somewhere because we had no ground cover, thanks to the drought, this is manna from heaven. I think today we had about three inches and it took a while for it to soak in or run off since the ground was somewhat wet to begin with this time.

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The irony, of course, is that the cactus do well here being the drought-tolerant plants that they are, and right now they are standing in water! Which will be fine, provided all the standing water has time to soak in and let the ground dry out a bit before another deluge hits, if we are so blessed. This is also why you want to put your cactus in a well-drained area with porous soil. Under normal circumstances, my cactus are high and dry. But these aren’t normal circumstances for around here.

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We also had hail, and the cactus, with their protective spines, managed to suffer little damage. My succulents, on the other hand, took some hits that tore off branches on some of the kalanchoes, put holes in jade tree leaves, and knocked lots of leaves off sedums and senecios. They will bounce back, but some, like my very big and very old gasteria, will have scars that heal but don’t go away and will remain for the life of the plant.

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In the long run, the cactus will benefit from this rain just like the trees will; in the short run, I expect to lose a few specimens before it is all over with. And I’ll just have to deal with it. We had to have the rain.

So just remember to consider good drainage for plants both in the ground and in pots, empty any saucers under your plants so they won’t set in water, and make sure you let them completely dry out, maybe wait two weeks to a month, even,  after a big rain before you water by hand.

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And everything will be okay.

Cactus and Rain

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Cactus, being drought-tolerant plants, don’t like rain, right? Select ones may not, but it has been my experience that while cactus and succulents certainly survive without water, they thrive with it. In moderate amounts, of course. Give them a good rain shower and they just go crazy; they plump up, grow, and make glorious flowers. The key is good drainage and not letting them sit and stay soggy for days. We finally have had rain over the last two weeks and everything perked up, cactus included. I also collect rain water in barrels, for those stretches when rain is seldom seen, and use that to water my cactus. The picture above was taken after we had the first of the rain. You can see they just outdid themselves.

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See that nice green grass in the pasture behind the prickly pear? We haven’t seen that in Muleshoe for it seems like forever.

And a good rain on the cactus bed makes it so much easier to weed. I didn’t think to take a before picture, but we all know how unkempt and messy and ugly any flower bed looks with weeds, but I think cactus look even sadder, and the bad part is that once the weeds take over, it is really hard to get them out and under control again. It is also much easier to grab a weed hiding a cactus,and well, as you know, you will come up with a handful of spines. So when you are blessed with rain, seize the moment and get down and dirty pulling those weeds. The fact that the ground is soft allows the weed to come up easier which makes it easier on your hands with the weeds closest to the spines of the cactus.

So make sure your cactus aren’t sitting in water, that their soil is porous enough for good drainage, let them dry out completely after the rain has drenched them: then sit back and enjoy.

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A Toad in the Dish Garden

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I was checking on a little cactus that was not looking too perky and had this feeling that I was being watched. And I was! Hunkered down in the gray-blue gravel, this mid-sized toad was quietly watching me,  no doubt hoping I would overlook him in his comfy little spot and just move on. Delighted to see him there, I ran for the camera and began taking shots from different angles to get just the right image of him. He obviously didn’t like that because after about four snaps of the camera, he jumped out when I moved for a different view, and I lost track of him.

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I like putting trinkets and little animal figurines and other things in my dish gardens, sort of like creating a diorama or still-life arrangement, and the extra touch adds interest to the landscaping of the little garden. But to have the real deal! Well, that was just too cool.

The first time I discovered the toad living in the dish garden was May 29. Then three days later, on June 1, lo and behold, he was there again!

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So if you are tempted to buy one of the cute little structures labeled toad houses, don’t bother. I have a feeling your toads will find their own homes, thank you very much!