Oh What glories to share…the glorious Prickley Pear

Optunia Engelmanii otherwise known as the Prickly pear has come into bloom. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_4036 IMG_4012IMG_4011This has to be one of my favorite cacti, it gives of itself over and over. Some call it the weed of the desert, yet sadly I see alot of dead Prickly pear this year. I think it might have to do with the drought we have been suffering from. I am working on propagating my fine friends. It is quite easy to do so. You take a clean cutting of a pad. Then you need to let it sit for about a week or two. Then it will scab and it is ready to transplant into the ground. Just stick your trowel into the ground, move the dirt a bit and with leather gloves protecting your hands from the glocoids, and prickles and pat around it to make sure it is secure. It should root in about 1-3 weeks. Don’t water it until it has rooted to protect it from rot as the roots need to grow first to absorb the water. Oh and by the way if you do get thorns in your hands rub them with rocks it helps get the thorns out.

Now why you ask would you grow a desert weed. Well in the republic of Seed we take propagating and growing seriously and when we see a species having a hard time we like to just fill a few in for good measure. Besides look at these wonderful gifts of flowers. Do you want a sustainable flower arrangement? Just take a pad and cut it cleanly. Make sure it has blossoms, set in a vase that will allow it to sit half way up and do not add water. You are letting it callous standing up. For a more decorative look add rock to the bottom of the vase, set in the pad, and wait a few days. You won’t believe it but it will share the most beautiful blooms with you. Once it is done blooming it will usually be a bout a week or two and you are ready to transplant the prickly pear pad. What a gift right?

There is more.  This fine specimen will offer up fruit (tunas) soon after it blooms, sometime in May and June. This fruit makes a wonderful jam. The recipe follows: 15-30 tunas-skin and take thorns off with stones or a knife. You know the fruits are ripe when they are a dark, dark purple and sort of soft. Now get lemon or lime juice, powdered pectin, about a cup and a half of sugar ready. Mash the fruits, follow the directions on the pectin box, bring to a boil and add sugar stirring till the juice starts to get a jammy feel. Bottle up in sterile jars and let sit. Refrigerate for an unusual tasting highly nutritious jam.

Not only does it make tasty jams, but you can eat the fruits after you take off all the thorns. They are quite tasty.

Prickly pear also makes a fine landscape plant as you get wonderful flowers, fruits, and nice structure as they grow into groups, and at times even prickly pear trees. Sometimes the  pads look like Mickey mouse ears…Quite fun for the kids.

So before you call the prickly pear or any thing native to the desert a weed…. think about all the wonderful benefits they bring not only to us but to the wildlife , prickly pear feeds many species of wildlife, it benefits the land by keeping down the dust and dirt, and the beautifies the desert landscape. The republic of seed loves the prickly pear. I will show you how the transplants are doing in a later post. Until then…go plant some prickly pear pads, or at least enjoy the blooms.

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Plant remedies from the Kitchen!!

Plant Pest Remedies From Your Kitchen

cinnamon.jpgYou would be surprised how many household items (like cinnamon) can come to your aid when plants find themselves under attack from pests and disease.  Below is a list of ten such items to give you an idea of what can be used before resorting to store-bought chemicals or pesticides.

Have you used any of these ingredients with success?

  • Water — that’s right, just a thumb over the end of a hose and you have a powerful weapon against aphids and spider mites.  You can knock a lot away with just a strong spray of water.
  • Dish soap — a great additive to plant sprays, helping your concoctions adhere to leaves and insects.  A soap and water solution alone can be effective against aphids and other soft-bodied insects, causing their bodies to break down.
  • Citrus — it can repel and also break down soft-bodied insects.  Pour boiling water over grated lemon, orange or grapefruit rinds and let it steep overnight (1 pint of water over 1 whole fruit’s worth of rind).  Strain out the liquid into a spray bottle.
  • Vinegar — put a small amount of vinegar and sugar (or just use cider vinegar) in a jar next to your plants and aphids and fruit flies will be attracted, fall in, and drown.
  • Hot peppers — they contain capsaicin which causes insects to be ‘burned’.  Too strong of a concentration, though, and plant leaves can also be burned.  Combine 1 quart of water, a squirt of dish soap, and a tablespoon of cayenne pepper.
  • Ginger — contains capsaicin, just like hot peppers, and can also be used in the same way to make sprays, mixed with water and dish soap ( and sometimes canola oil) to irritate and smother pests.
  • Garlic — contains allicin, which confounds many insects’ sensory receptors.  You can chop up cloves with water in a blender, strain the bits out and then use this extract in a dilute form.
  • Baking soda — has fungicidal qualities.  Mix a few tablespoons in a quart of water, and use this as a spray against fungus on plants.  Reapply every few days until the fungus is gone.
  • Milk — mixed with equal parts water can be applied to tomatos, cucumbers, lettuce and other plants to help control mildew.
  • Cinnamon — If you see that your seedlings are being affected by damping off disease, you can sprinkle cinnamon down as a fungicide.  Damping off is when fungus proliferates in the damp seedling environment, attacking and killing the young stems and roots.

It is recommended that any sprays, especially ones with hot pepper and garlic or onions, be applied earlier in the morning, before the heat of the day and before the plants’ leaf pores open up.  Spraying later and during the heat of the day will increase the chance of you burning your plants.

Another good precaution is to try spraying only a test portion of the affected plant and see if it has any adverse effects.  If you do notice leaf burn, you should wash the area out with some water.

Straining your mixtures is extremely important for anything going into a spray bottle – any little bits will quickly clog the spray mechanism and make a mess.  When you are spraying garlic or hot pepper you definitely want to keep that off your hands as much as possible!

This is a post from Apartment therapy. I was looking up to see if cinnamon was a good fungicide and wha laa…a whole list graciously given by apartment therapy. Thank you.

OUCH-Cactus Prickles

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Okay,  I found this picture on the internet and it depicts exactly the pain those darn spines on a cactus feel like. Pain….So here is what you do about it, and I should know as the last few weekends I have been propagating cacti. For those pesky little glocoides from the prickly pear, or Optuia species I use my favorite duck tape. Yup-slap it on and rip it off. Ouch you say but it goes quick just like a waxing job. I wonder if they use duck tape when waxing-Ha.

Now for those big spines that get under your skin. Well, I hate to tell you but you have to wait it out with them. Hot water seems to help a bit, but really only time gets those suckers out. Eventually they work themselves out.

So your best bet is don’t get em to begin with, but really that is almost impossible working with cactus. I wear leather workers gloves, wrap the cactus in paper bags to transplant, and other than that grin and bear it.