Easing into Collecting Cacti

By Dan Bodine

This little cactus produces more flowers than any other in the Casa Verde Gardens. It’s name? Would you believe Pudge? And the encroaching succulent coming in on the left? This could be a hint on my raw naming system. In Mexico folks call this crawler “Chisme” — Spanish for gossip — because of the way it spreads. (Desert Mts Enterprises photos)

By Dan Bodine

Yeah, I have a cactus garden, too — today’s landscaping thing, no? But three years into it hasn’t rattled off a lot to write home about. Maybe posting this will draw enough comments for me to either step it up and expand my thinking somehow, or turn it over — one way or another. Cold turkey!

No doubt my health and advanced age are factors keeping the excitement thermometer down in this new hobby. And some of it could be, indeed, that part about old dogs can’t learn new tricks!

Names of most common landscaping shrubs, flowers and trees in North Central Texas (D-FW area) where I grew up, I learned as a boy, i.e. — by working many years after school in a plant nursery. But were cacti in landscaping plans then? Uh…

Cactus is a plant, too, yes. But 60-65 years ago that region was heavily farm & ranch land — with prickly-pear cactus flaring throughout it like acne on teenagers.

Oh, there was more than one type of cactus then? Few people discussed the topic.

Now cacti and succulents together are the rage of the globe, and learning the names of these strange critters is more than a bit difficult to a flatlander. Thus in the mountainous desert I usually shift to my default naming position — e.g., what does it remind me of? The first thing that jumps in my mind?

I started the cacti collection like this 3-4 years ago now, I think, after attending an El Paso Garden Club sale one weekend.

And then, it turned out, (like thousands and thousands of others, no doubt) I fell victim — e.g., I HAD TO ASK, about an image I saw online somewhere. And thus I gained 3-4 more plants.

Where it ends? Who knows? These things are more serpentine than Mother-In-Law Tongues! (The plant, of course!)

Daughter Maiya Kareli, i.e. (to family, Kareli [goes by middle name, like Noemi and I]; to friends — her 1st name, Maiya) bought me a Cactus of Texas Field Guide last year, and it’s been helpful. But it’s limited to Texas.

So, as I go thru these few photos below of my little collection, be aware my personal naming system is at work. Don’t scream I’m desecrating or belittling in some way.

You want to know the real name of them? Type in “cactus photos of the southwest” in your search engine? And happy hunting for that one, identifying photo!

More-‘n-likely you’ll be hurdlin’ a Latin naming system whose different names on papyrus Cleopatra used to rotate daily with a little clip at the end of her backscratcher. Damn thing burnt out when she was 38 and supposedly she hadn’t even gone thru half of the alphabet yet!

Maybe some glorious day I’ll get more personal with these critters and actually learn what types of cacti they really are! And respect their history, too, etc., etc.! But don’t bet on it. I’d probably have to give up watching Sunday and Monday night football or sumpthin’!

Part of a cactus collection
WHO ELSE BUT ‘SLIM’? Listen, this cactus already has caused Noemi and I a “world of hurt” just protecting it from the wind! Maybe I can get other photos in here to show some other methods of keeping it standing, This is a mop handle, I think, Noemi attached to it. And you can’t propagate it using those blooms either. I actually planted one (It’s a cub, right?), and watched it as it withered away… to dust! Shhh…!

Nobody notices it!
“Y’all come!” Catnabber says. This little cactus gets little attention! But a few times I’ve noticed ornery nighttime cats around here have attempted to pass over it unnoticed, too, until they felt…”Whoops, what is that I’m hung up on?!” Either that or those tiny pieces of fur I’ve found on it just happened to be blowing in the wind and were nabbed by the Catnabber!
PUDGE with FLAPJACK REDS (bottom, supposedly a high-class prickly pear). Duh…?
These, as a group, are the Tres Amigos I got as cubs from a friend online. Of course I’ve lost all information on them. It was my understanding he lived in New Mexico, though. Below, I’ll show you the two on the right again. I just can’t remember the name I gave the little guy on the left. And if not mistaken, the front two will grow 4-6 ft. in height, too!
OK, the two upfront themselves. I’ve got a little Indian blood in me and sometimes I’ll lean on it a little — as in these two names. That’s the great Chief Quanah on the right, and his sidekick, Heapin’ Ugly Stick, on the left beside him.
Naming a cactus the way you see it!
Here’s Slim again, this time sprouting two of those big white blooms. The wind kept messin’ with ol’ Slim here this spring, tilting that brace-pole to various angles; and actually blew this weird-looking cactus loose from its mop stick (above) one night; and uprooted it — putting Slim flat on the ground — and a bare root sticking up in the air. Luckily I got to it the next morning and set it up; and fashioned a new holding system — actually what I think were someone’s wire, lawn cocktail glass holders at one time Noemi brought in from a garage sale. Anyway, they fit around Slim’s trunk sturdily, and then I anchored both to a makeshift fencepost of sorts. And presto Slim was flying high again! (All photos Desert Mts Enterprises)
Strange-looking pair!
Early Cool (l) and Fishhook: Who’re you calling “Fatty,” “Squatty”?

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Holding onto Nature by feeding garden thrashers

By Dan Bodine

A Southwest Curved Bill Thrasher: “What’s Up, Doc?!” (Image by cibomahto on Flickr – Flickr, CC BYSA2.0https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7004389)

First noticed Charlie with his long, curved beak in 2018, in February. I feed birds (maybe 30-40) in my backyard garden every morning. Have been, anyway. For 8-9 years. Not sure how long I’ll continue. As long as they stay clean, I guess. [More below on this] The birds are largely sparrows, pigeons, collar doves, and whitewings. Keep them fresh water, too.

Why?

Donno. Continue reading

New Reality nixes old turtle pond dream

Desert Plants: Looks like they’ll be a lot easier to maintain than that nagging turtle pond!

By Dan Bodine

 

When still chasing old dreams and being met by increased frustrations such as finance, health, or time constraints (that regularly dog old folks, i.e.), sometimes one needs simply to look hard at New Reality. Trim some fat off your to-do list. Finíte! I recently gave up on ever building a backyard turtle pond, i.e. Instead, bought some late-season plants and put in a needed flower bed. A warm winter is coming — Hey, they’ll be OK. My mind feels a lot lighter. Continue reading

Lime squeezings help reduce soil fungus in garden

Squeeze those limes! Any of you remember these old lead lime squeezers you use to find in bars and even restaurants. Just drop that rascal in the cup and squeeze away! This one had been in Noemi’s family for years and years. I put a little oil on it and it hummed away!

 

 

By Dan Bodine

 

Limes for soil fungus? Yes. They chased it away!

Or at least, that’s what I think happened. As crazy as it sounds.

I mean, I had a bad fungus problem on some of my plants (yellow/brown, dying leaves; root rot, i.e.) And mixing the squeezings with a little bit of water — and spraying it on the plants – has got me (I’m hoping) on the pathway out of the forest!

But first, let me level with you on something: I don’t know beans about soil.

Except that I’ve worked in it for many years – first as a plant nursery employee during a large chunk of my boyhood years; later as a yard/garden hobbyist during most of my adult life.

Throw in, too, I’ve written tons of news stories involving the soil during my 20-year career as a journalist – quoting, usually, either county ag agents or U.S. Soil Conservation Service professionals.

How much of it can I remember? Not much.

But soil, to me, is more than “rocket science” though!

If you haven’t learned this yet, let me offer a simple description: Its makeup — e.g., all the interactions going on inside it — is more complicated than any 5-year-old you’ll find playing in it.

Which is why, on curing plant problems, there are more home remedies out there than there are hairs on a cat’s back! (Yeah, forgive me. I just had to throw that in.)

My problems in El Paso, more ‘n likely, go back to my overwatering my plants. Showed up late last summer in the backyard.

Yeah, overwatering is a common mistake. Me, tooLovin’ ‘em to death! By drowning their roots.

“Mañana,” I’ll tell myself several times a week (at least), “I’m going to install an irrigation system and learn the proper amounts of water I need to be putting on these plants. At least then I can eliminate overwatering!”

Yeah, there are many of us in this boat. If you’re really into studying these problems, I’ll throw in this link for you.

And, too, I know when watering by hose you’re to gently and slowly let the water run onto the ground, near the plant, soaking the soil around it; and not splashing the plant leaves like old-school Aggies putting out a fire.

Pobresitos! No wonder these plants always catching some airborne disease! Pathogens are everywhere! Everywhere!

But having been alerted to the problems involved with watering — and actually being cognizant of them at the time you’re watering your plants — are (wait, this one is really going to surprise you)…two different things!

So, uh…Yes, like most people, I’ve probably helped bring on my garden’s soil fungus problem with improper waterings.

I noticed disease on some plants last fall. Leaves turning brown or yellow, falling off; velvet-looking splotches scattered about on the leaves — where you can almost see a minuscule army brigade mounting an attack!.

Little bit of web research led me to this unique (can’t be what everybody else does, right?) procedure of mixing lime squeezings with water, for both a spray and a drench.

Apply as spray to leaves, or pour into ground around base of plants as a drench — so roots can get a kick from it, too.

Here’s the specific paragraph I found describing the merit of it:

• Lime – Lime soil drench not only removes fungal infections, but also helps in decreasing the pH level of your soil. This particular soil drench is mainly useful for plants that are suffering from clubbed root fungal infection. Squeeze juice of 4 limes in a gallon of water and use it for watering plants. The same mixture can also be used as a spray for removing any other fungal infections on plant body.

Ok, did I follow directions to a “T”? No. I used 8-10 squeezings to a gallon.

Hey, there’s a lot of water in a gallon of water. You don’t want this mixture too thin! Not with desert fungus! Think about it. We’re always making adjustments in life, right! Blame it on the weather.

In the old days, one could pick cotton a whole day, and not drink more than a gallon of water from the jug you’d brought along, to keep walking straight! Lifesavers, they were!

So when did all this wasting water start, huh!? But that’s another story. Maybe I can whip one up on it later.

But here, we’re talking soil drench for plant fungus. So…Did the lime solution work? I’m saying yes! And it was noticeable in 4-5 days, too.

How often do you have to apply it?

I don’t know exactly. That, too, may be determined by the makeup of your soil.

Monthly, here in the desert?

I applied it in January, then left the plants alone. So I checked my honeysuckles (not an El Paso recommended plant, no) yesterday, for instance.

Have been watering them once a week though, during this time. February-April, they looked good. Now they’re showing some yellowing and brown leaves again. So I hit ‘em again with a throw-together.

Probably an application once a month in this warmer weather would be good advice, I’m reckoning.

I’ll welcome any comments. That story linked above mentions several other home remedies, by the way. But I went with limes.

I’ve suspected low pH for a long time here. A lot of caliche is mixed with the sand in my soil. And it’s chunk rocks, too! So I went for the fences!

Will advise you of results later.

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Reader Note: Pardon me for the long dry spell in not posting more. I’ve been fighting some health problems, yes. Doctors have advised me one of them, Dementia, isn’t going away soon.

So maybe I’ll even write about it here. Lots of us ol’ warriors are fighting this disease. But I’m determined to write some more — so maybe while I’m taking a break from gardening… Just don’t expect a lot though, ok?

This is the only site I have now. I’ve saved some stories from the others. Probably will rewrite them and run ’em again, here. Also expect some “along-the-way” war stories occasionally, too. As well as just general political ramblings.

If you haven’t subscribed yet and feel the urge to — There’s a box for your email address on top right.

And “salud to you, by the way. (To your health also!)

And, too, as always, thanks for being a reader.

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