Sunday, February 03, 2013

Cactus moving day

I'm not sure how you spent the early part of your Super Bowl Sunday, but I spent mine moving our Eastern prickly pear cactus. It began its journey with us in an unassuming, 8-inch pot. After languishing more than a year in our front yard, I built a scree (desert garden area) and transplanted it there, along with other succulents.

I must have found the perfect growing medium, because after three years, it was trying to crowd out everything else in it. What happened was that every winter, when the plant went dormant, it shot new roots from the pads and expanded its footprint, as it were. Then when the weather warmed, the new, wider plant grew even more.

How much more? I learned today. When the weather turned cold, I decided to divide it and move it to several spots in the yard. The first was a small raised bed where we had (unsucessfully) tried to grow leafy greens.

The first bit to go was a pad that had broken off of the original plant and taken on a life of its own. I had mulched the scree with leaves and had no idea how big the thing had gotten until I cleared the leaves and dug it up.

It's the only thing in this patch of dirt, which has been amended with Permatill, an engineered granite (made right here in North Carolina!) that is used to improve drainage.

I turned a couple shovels full of Permatill in the dirt, put the "pup" (which was a lot bigger than the original plant) in its new home, and covered it with more dirt.

Then it was time to remove and replant the mother ship. With all those roots, the only solution was to chop it into little pieces (One of these days, Roger Waters) and pile up the parts in the cart.

I took the plant to the west side of our house, which has healthy dirt, gets plenty of afternoon sun, and has no water spigot close by. So I cleared some weeds and dug a trench, which I lined with Permatill.

Then I just laid several of the pieces in the trench.

Finally, I covered the plant parts with dirt and Permatill, and will hope for the best.

The power pole is on the southeast corner of our yard, and there's some really nice dirt there, again with little access to water. Some gladiolas and lilies try to grow there, but they ususally poop out during the heat of summer. I thought it would be an excellent place to amend a spot and put one of the cactus parts in.

The pot on the right has a mix of mostly Turface, an engineered clay that's used to improve drainage on baseball fields and as the "drying agent" the grounds crews spread on the mound during rain delays. I don't like it as much as Permatill, because it's not "permanent," but the soil was pretty loose there, and I thought it would work fine.

Finally, I had a lot of cactus left unused.

I decided to try the New York, New York experiment: Dig a hole in a pile of leaves we were using as mulch and compost, toss the cactus in the hole, and cover it with leaves.

If the prickly pear can make it there, it can make it anywhere.

The worst thing that results from this is we have to go back to the farmer's market and plunk down another $20 for a new prickly pear. The best thing? The plants in our scree have some breathing room, and we end up with a dramatic display of native cactus.

Next week, I'll move an agastache that's on the other side of the scree and causing a similar problem on a smaller scale.