The progress of seeds planted..

Well…..I have three-four varieties of plants(seeds) out of 12 that have actually made it.  Between the bugs in the greenhouse munching on the fresh green sprouts, to just plain ole not making it… is just frustrating. I can see why the mother plants have to throw out so many seeds in nature.  Then there is the care…In the desert I have to mist these guys twice a day every day-Its like having children again and then when you lose them-ugh..the pain….

I am thinking that with the investment of seed, and the percentage I am able to maybe bring to growth, that I just may plant them in the good earth outside, with a little root hormone, water and good soil around them and let the true mother do her work. I am not a very good surrogate…even though I try. I think I have to stay with cuttings and division as my means of propagation as I seem to have better luck there.  I ordered seed for pacypodiums, pachyuals, and cacti and as I said I have only the pachypodioum gaeyii, and pachypodium lameri, and my yuccas seeds from under my tree- still toughing it out with me. So I will keep you up to date. I bought the seeds from Cactusstore.com-those are the pachypodiums that are hanging on. The other seeds I bought well those are not faring too well as of yet or at all. The other seeds I got where from the Cactus and Succulent society-those have not sprouted at all so far-but most are cacti, and the rest I am going to let mother nature work with.

So for my seeding adventures it is into the ground they go. Where ever I see a seed pod I am trying to plant it…Lets see if they sprout imagesCAYXI0QXthat way.

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Surprise…Prickly pear pads are makin babies…

The prickly pear cactus have hatched..ha ha. The pads I planted about two to three weeks ago are adding new pads, and even some flower buds. I am so excited. My first endeavor to transplanting cuttings and it worked.Yippeeeee….See below037 039

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.

Seed Saving in Big Bend Texas

seed saving in the Big Bend

As the blossoms fall, and fruits swell and dry – the seed pods swell with bounty. This is the time of year to collect seeds. I have been able to collect seed from late May for wildflowers thru early March. Trees seem to seed from Late August thru early November.
When seed collecting bring along paper bags, some gardening gloves, glass jars, and some screens and paper towel to dry the seeds once collected. A very important note of advice. Ask permission of the landowner if you may be allowed to collect seed. Ninety eight percent of Texas is privately owned, so beware if you are on someone else’s property as you might not like the outcome.
When collecting seed look for the trees or shrubs that exhibit superior quality, and look strong and healthy, as they would be the best specimens to collect from.
It is in October and November that I am able to find an abundance of the precious desert tree seeds. Often I only collect a few seeds, disperse a few, and leave the rest on the tree for its own propagation. Let me remind you, that in the heat of the desert it is very hard to start seeds. If they don’t damp off, they are eaten by rodents and birds. The few that remain, I baby until they can stand on their own, usually in a year; they have grown their own roots and are ready to move out of the house so to say.
The Desert Willow is not only a beautiful shrub like tree it is also very hardy. It has long narrow green leaves and purple to pink showy trumpet type flowers that bloom around February/March and during the intermittent rains, at times. The best time to gather these seeds in is late summer early autumn when the bean shaped light coffee colored pods start to open. It is then that I collect their angel wing seeds. It is best to separate by hand, dry on a paper towel on a screen for a few days and then store in a glass jar in the refrigerator until you are ready to plant them. The seeds like to be planted soon after they leave the safety of the pod, so just keep this in mind while collecting. If you are dispersing seed just allow the winds to carry the seeds to their new destination, and make sure to leave a few around the tree itself. Desert Willow can also be grown from root cutting, and rooting new sprout growth, but wait until May, before you do this.
The Palo Verde is another Big Bend favorite with its bright yellow flowers that waft in the March winds. Its fragrant flower captures your heart. This green thorny tree has seed pods that look like brown pea pods, with no more than usually three or four seeds inside. They look like light brown coffee beans although a bit bigger. Gather the seeds in late summer or early autumn, and check them intently as they may carry beetle larva which might not be what you are looking for in your storage container as the months go on before planting. Examine the seeds, dry on screens with paper towel and then store the seeds in a glass jar and store in the refrigerator. The Palo Verde can also be grown from new growth cutting in late April to early May.

Some other trees and shrubs you may want to look for that follow the same seed saving measures are the Acacia, and the Mesquite trees. All of these trees are assimilated to our desert climate and heat so they are a wonderful introduction to seed saving and propagation. We will talk about seed starting, and root cuttings later on in the year. For now go gather and disperse some seed-but don’t forget to ask permission first. Happy Seed Saving.

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.

Spring Arid Gardening Check List

As the spring comes to an end….. I think of springs gardening chores imagesCAEL5NVJcalling me..Yes you can have a desert in the arid southwest. Where we get less than 9 inches of rain. Where the hot sun blisters you at 124 degrees during May June July and August. Where it seems it is summer for 8 months of the year….But still when you hear the bird calls, see even the faint wisp of color pop up from under a the shade of a rock. Yes..that is when it is all worth it. So I begin my spring clean up and chores to bring on more of the color, more of the fragrance, and allow myself to soak up the deserts sculptural beauty…

To Do : March, April, May:

clean up the stone circles that need clean up

mulch my trees, and gardening beds, add grit and top stones to the containers and beds

start my container fruit trees-the best in the desert I have found so far are Fig, olive, pomegranate, permission. I am trying as well this year a peach and a nectarine-in pots. They are not doing so well at this point from the winds shredding their leaves-all of them poor things. I may have resign myself that fruit in Terlingua is wishful thinking.

move some rocks and make rock garden, then plant wild flower seeds among the rocks before rains.

propagate my cactus, plant some cactus seeds to see if I can grow them from seed. Remember to wear leather gloves and bring Kraft paper to wrap the cacti in…unless you want the cacti prickles.

take some tree cuttings to see if I can grow more trees in the desert-I am attempting the hardy mesquite tree..right now it is in a small container with 1/2  top soil, 1/2 perlite, and grit from the desert.

plant yucca from our garden, and pachypodium  seeds-they are planted yucca in jiffy pots I do not recommend these as they dry out too quickly, and the pachypodium seeds in top soil and perlite with a plastic baggies.

water-once a week if dry.

start to harden off plants I kept in the greenhouse, these are now outside.

Start to rehab my side gardens.

Planted cactus cuttings on the side of the studio-they already have flower buds and new pads-yipee.

Ocotillo cuttings…we shall see how these do. They look a bit dreadful at this point.

Guyacon root cuttings, look about the same as the ocotillo-dreadful.

Divide up some of my Aloe plants and transplant the Kalonoche plants. Start some on the side of the house. They seem to be liking their new area, but I am scared it will be too hot in the summer. We shall see.

Lastly I want to buy and start some succulent cuttings, plant some Adenium seeds, finish planting my cacti seeds, and plant some San Pedro cacti as I love the flowers…Flowers in the desert..Yummy!

Happy Spring..In the desert May starts to heat up like an oven on fire..May your May be a bit gentler.