Adding Cactus To Your Landscape
What desert landscape in Las Vegas would be complete without a cactus or two? There are several advantages to using cactus in your landscape design. The biggest being they are native to our area which means a couple of things. 1. They require very little water 2. They manage well in the heat.
The problem is how do you get something in the ground that nature designed not to be touched? The best strategy for planting them is to use tools. Never try to handle a cactus with your hands, even when wearing gloves! (Pricklypears will just leave them full of glochids, and a cholla – undoubtedly the most difficult cactus to move – and will impale you.)
Shovels, tongs and even long chopsticks are useful (and often required) for handling cacti. And carpet scraps, wide cotton rope or old garden hoses make excellent slings to move large or heavy plants. Smaller cacti can be handled with a thick wad of newspaper or an old towel. (Obviously the name of the game, no matter the cactus type, is “Handle With Care!”)
How to move a cactus is only the beginning when trying to replant one in the landscape. It helps to understand how the plant “works,” too.
Cacti aren’t just remarkable in appearance. They also exhibit perhaps the most dramatic adaptation that plants have evolved for life in arid regions: succulence, or the ability to store moisture. This storage is found within the stems. And in a majority of cacti, this piled-up moisture accounts for most of the weight and mass of the plant.
Stored moisture, drawn on in times of drought, also helps in the cultivation of cacti. So when replanting a cactus, it’s wise practice to let the roots dry out completely before transplanting. Drying out allows the roots to heal and close all the tiny lesions that are unavoidable as the roots are ripped from the soil, thereby reducing the possibility of infection. And because leaving a bare-root cactus in the garage is the very same as being in dried-out soil to the plant, the cactus simply continues its business of photosynthesis by using its stored moisture. This is handy for us: It means that there’s no particular rush about planting the cactus, and that the period of drying out – whether a week or a month – has no effect on the vigor of the plant. (But it’s important that bare-root plants be kept dry and in the shade while drying out.)
When it comes to soil type – either in a container or in the ground – cacti aren’t particular, but they do demand excellent drainage. In a pot, water should flow freely through when the plant’s watered. In the ground, water shouldn’t pond around the plant, and a cactus shouldn’t be placed where additional moisture might be expected, like under a roof eave.
Cacti in the ground never need to be fertilized, regardless of where they’re grown. But plants in pots can be lightly fertilized when they’re actively growing. If you use a liquid fertilizer, use it at half the recommended strength, and apply once (or at most, twice) in spring. If using a dry or time-released formula, add it to the soil once a year, again using half or less the recommended amount.
As with any plant, once your cactus is where you’d like it to be, keep an eye out for insects and diseases. Mealybugs and cochineal scale, with their distinctive white, cottony masses, both may occur on cacti. Vigilance counts to keep these pests under control. Strong jets of water will remove minor infestations and prevent them from overwhelming your plant. Various insects, generally called cactus bugs, may also lay their eggs at the base of a plant, and their larvae will eat out the interior of the cactus. (Again, vigilance counts, and killing the adults as soon as you find them works best.)
A few bacterial diseases also occur in cacti. Black ooze or soft tissue are sure signs of such an infection. These are nearly impossible to treat, but if the problem’s caught early, remove the plant from the ground or pot, prune the dead roots, allow the plant to dry out, then replant when all signs of infection are gone. (Note: This treatment works well with potted plants, but plants in the ground are virtually dead by the time symptoms show up, so prevention is key. Don’t overwater, and be careful not to puncture or injure the plant, which just provides a pathway for bacteria.)
Whether you welcome them into your garden with a spot in the ground or in a pot, cacti are among the easiest and most gratifying of all succulents to grow. Following these simple guidelines, you’ll be rewarded with their arresting forms and extraordinary blooms for many years to come.
Our water is typically pretty hard here in Las Vegas. What that means is that it is high in mineral content, which can (and does) leave a hard white crust on things. The mineral deposits often times end up clogging up the orface (the little hole where the water comes out) of the sprinkler head. To help keep your sprinklers running at their best all you need is a few minutes and little white vinegar. First try soaking a cleaning rag in white vinegar and rub the water sprinklers to remove residue. The vinegar naturally breaks apart the mineral content without damaging the sprinklers. If that does not work move to the next step.
Gently twist the sprinkler heads off (they are usually threaded like a cap on a bottle of Pepsi).
- Soak the sprinkler heads in a bowl of vinegar overnight.
- Rinse off the vinegar.
- Gently put the sprinkler heads back on.
- Enjoy your lawn.
With the entire world becoming more aware of the finite resources of our planet, conserving water has been elevated to a prominent position of importance. Due often to inefficient delivery systems, the amount of water needed to keep our yards green might be excessive.
The most popular method of watering gardens, lawns or landscaping is to put in an automatic sprinkler system, which is now relatively easy and inexpensive for even the beginner landscaper. The drawback to any sprinkler system is the amount of water which ends up, not in the soil feeding the plants but rather evaporating into the atmosphere or just blowing away in the wind. It’s like throwing money and energy into the air and watching it disappear.
A drip irrigation watering system on the other hand puts the water right where it is needed, directly into the soil at the roots of the plants. In some cases this system uses as little as 10% of that water consumed by conventional methods. This being said, drip systems still won’t work in every case (e.g. your lawn). When you’re using sprinklers watering at night while the air is cooler and not watering during windy conditions can make a big difference in conserving water.
How it Works
Drip irrigation is achieved with the use of flexible tubing and drippers of various sizes at the ends, for either individual plants or small beds of flowers or vegetables. The tubing is much less expensive than pipe or hose, but can’t take the pressure coming from a standard water system either, so a pressure reducer is required at the spigot or the beginning of the line so that fittings and hoses will remain intact. The size of the initial water line is determined by the size of the area that needs to be watered. As the main line gets to a section of landscaping to be watered by drip, a smaller line can be run for that particular section, and from that smaller line drip lines can be added as needed to the individual plants themselves. One of the great advantages of a drip system is that more lines can be added at any time without cutting pipe or gluing fittings. Simply punch a little hole in the drip line using a drip line hole-punch, pop in a small line connector and you are ready for another drip line and dripper for a new plant.
The next piece of equipment required is a sediment filter. This will protect the small openings of drippers from sediment buildup and prevent clogging. Connected to the sediment trap is the larger size pipe which will carry the water to the rest of the system.
Drippers come in all sizes and are measured by how much water they let through in gallons per hour (in some cases this may be much less than a gallon). There are many different sizes enabling you to water high usage plants and low usage plants at the same time for the same duration, ensuring all hydration requirements are being met.
Note: If you already have a sprinkler system in place, it may be convenient to connect drip attachments by using the existing plumbing.
Once a novelty, drip irrigation is now becoming much more common. There are many manufacturers and different product lines to serve your needs. These products are available at all major home improvement stores and most hardware stores, gardening centers and nurseries.
With easy availability, low cost and potential water savings as well as monetary savings, now is the time to consider doing your part for water conservation, putting away the sprinkler heads and replacing them with drippers.
Apple trees are among the most popular when it comes to home gardening. Without pruning, however, your trees will develop what is referred to as an alternating harvest. One year’s harvest will be bountiful while the next year’s is puny. Pruning is required to open the canopy to sunlight and proper air circulation. Through pruning you can promote healthy growth and a successful harvest year after year.
When to Prune
The ideal time to prune is in late winter. If necessary you can also prune into the spring and early summer. Pruning in the fall is a bad idea, because it stimulates growth when your trees are supposed to be getting ready for winter. If the trees don’t have enough time to complete this growth before winter it can cause cold damage.
It is important that you have access to proper tools for pruning
Use these for removing small branches and twigs. Since you’ll use these most often, ensure that they are well cared for.
Loppers have long handles for increased leverage and usually used to remove branches larger than 1” in diameter.
This tool is used when removing branches larger than 3” in diameter.
Pole Pruners These consist of a blade attached to a long pole and are ideal for reaching higher branches.
If you’re working with a newly planted tree it’s best to give it 2 years to become established before you begin pruning. It is still important however to remove dead or decaying branches. In the tree’s 3rd year of growth you may begin pruning in earnest. Removing dead branches is still a good first step.
As you begin pruning remember that the goal is to open the trees canopy and increase air circulation. Branches that are growing towards the trunk of the tree should be removed to allow room for outward growing branches. If you find buds directed away from the trunk these may be good candidates for new branches. Removing branches above the buds will allow them to grow.
When removing branches you first need to locate the branch collar. This is the wrinkled part located where the branch connects to the rest of the tree. Make sure that you cut above the collar. This contains all of the necessary cells for the tree to heal itself so try not to damage it.
Another important point to consider is that the ideal apple tree has only one central leading branch. If you see another beginning to grow, remove the weaker of the two. This will ensure that your tree remains strong.
If your tree is lacking the lower scaffolding branches you can force them to grow using the following technique. Locate a bud low on the tree and cut 1 mm above and below the bud. Then cut the notch between these nicks completely out making sure to cut though the bark and into the green. This will cause a branch to grow on the spot.
When your tree begins to grow apples you will occasionally encounter an over abundance of fruit. This will cause your tree to produce small apples. Thinning the apples early on will ensure that your tree grows normal sized apples. Generally speaking the apples should be spaced about 6 inches apart along the branch. Remove extra apples favoring larger healthier looking fruit.
Step 1: Layout
Call the local utility company and have them mark the locations of underground cables in your yard. Following this, determine the dimensions of your yard and the sprinkler coverage required. Based on this information plot the location of each sprinkler head and also determine where pipes will be needed to feed water to your sprinklers. You may want to use flags to mark the locations of your sprinkler heads.
Step 2: Anti Siphon-Valve
Because the water that supplies your sprinkler system comes from you main water supply it is important that you have a way to prevent brackish water and lawn chemicals from working their way back into that water supply. To accomplish this, install an anti-siphon valve.
Step 3: Trenching
The next step is to dig trenches where you’ll run your pipes. Dig a trench 6” to 8” deep. Sides of the trench should slope at a 45-degree angle. If you place sod and one side of the trench and dirt on the other, filling the trench back in will be much easier in later steps. Renting a trenching device such as a vibratory plow can make the trenching process much faster and easier.
Step 4: Plumbing
Run your pipes along the trenches and attach them according to manufacturer specifications. Use a t-joint when connecting to the main water supply. Once your pipe has been laid, attach your risers.
Step 5: Sprinkler Heads
It is important that you select sprinkler heads that fit the irrigation requirements of your lawn and landscaping. Before installing the sprinkler heads, flush clean water through your new plumbing to remove any debris. Insert your sprinkler heads into the risers ensuring that the heads are flush with the surrounding sod. Once your sprinkler heads are installed you can fill in the trenches with dirt and sod.
Step 6: Timer
A timer will control when and how often your sprinkler system is activated. Tap into the main water line and install according to manufacturer specifications. Test your new sprinkler system.