MESA GARDEN

Water and soil comments

I am often asked how often should I water this plant. There is no easy answer. The vast majority of cactus and succulents have a very active period that is about 1/3 of the year. During this active period they are very thirsty. During this time watering can be much more frequent and with more applied. You can also apply fertilizer now. The most active time for most cactus is during the spring and early parts of summer before it gets hot.

When the plants are active water them frequently to maintain a level of moisture in the pot. I often water them 2 or 3 days in a row to give them a thorough drink, and then let them slowly dry out over several days. It is not good to think only in terms of how many days between watering as so many variables change the frequency. In the heat of late summer most cacti slow down and just sit and endure the heat. Very heavy watering in late summer is risky. I recommend only partial watering, just a splash or shower of water in the evening for a bit of cooling. Then in the fall when it cools down many kinds will have another period of activity and a few good soaks of water can be given. During the winter most cacti like to be cool to cold and dry with plenty of fresh air. If kept cold enough they will need very little water for several months. A good winter dormancy helps make flowers the following season.

Succulents are much more complicated. You have to learn the winter growers from the spring to summer growers. The winter growers like very frequent light watering during their growth season as many come from regions of frequent nightly fogs and drizzles. I try to mark in the catalog those that are winter growers. Remember the winter growers like to grow when it is cool with short days. The winter growers have no idea that the earth has another hemisphere, they have no idea what goes on elsewhere.

Soil:

My purpose is to grow plants hard and to look naturally with all the rugged features found in the wild. Most commercial potting soils are too rich with fresh organic matter that over time burns the root causing death. For plants beyond the seedling stage we use primarily a native loam based soil. Loam is a very common type of soil all around the world. It drains well, does not pack hard when dry and when wet it does not form into moldable balls like clay. Turn finding soil into an adventure, check out the soils around your area. Look at various soils when both wet and dry, dig around a bit with a shovel. When you find some good loam make up a batch of potting soil using loam with added natural grit. Repot a few plants and see what happens. This type of soil retains more water than commercial mixes, but with some practice you can learn how to water them in this different type of soil. Loam soils are very efficient at transferring nutrients to the roots, so you will need much less fertilizer in your feeding.

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