There’s no need to fight the Mojave Desert environment when gardening. Instead, grow plants that will thrive. There are many desert shrubs, flowers and trees that make the Mojave Desert their home. Cactus, with their unexpected shapes and striking blooms, can be an enjoyable addition to desert landscaping. I recently participated in the Springs Preserve’s Cacti and Succulent Workshop with instructor Jeff Meckley. Here are the top tips I want to remember when I have time to plant new cacti in my wee desert garden.
1. Plot out your space and research the cactus so you don’t do something like plant a cactus that is absolutely incorrigible and bites in an entry way. It can be so tempting to buy one of the little cactus at the nursery. They are so cute. On the flip side, some of these cute little guys grow as tall as 6 ft. and develop trunks. Some are even known to jump at you and bite as they mature. Begin your research at the Southern Nevada Water Authority.
2. Cactus actually love to drink lots and lots of water if it’s available. They just don’t like swimming in it. Soil needs to have optimal drainage. Meckley recommended a mixture of 1/3 organic soil from a bag, 1/3 agricultural grade pumice (which should be at Star Nursery), and 1/3 coarse washed sand for potted cacti and succulents. For those planting into the ground, mix together 1/3 organic soil, 1/3 coarse washed sand, and 1/3 native soil. That’s simple enough and can make a happier environment for your garden cactus friends.
3. Some cactus don’t have visible spines. Instead, they have glochids, small dots that contain pricklies that you may never see. You only feel them after brushing against the cactus or a breeze blows some on your arm. While planting a cactus like this, spray it with soapy water to tame the invisible ninja spines.
4. Make sure the first aid kit is stocked when planting cactus. Wear safety glasses too.
5. Use metal tongs to handle smaller cactus when planting. Shovels, an old hose, burlap and helpful friends can get a larger specimen planted without injury to the planter or the cactus.
6. Buy a moisture meter to determine whether or not plants need more or less water. You probably don’t need to spend more than $10 to add one to your garden tools collection.
7. Have Superthrive handy. It gives your plants’ roots a jumpstart in their new home.
8. Use imaginative lighting arrangements and thoughtful cacti placement to create dramatic shadows in your landscape design.
9. When using drip irrigation, be sure that there are enough emitters around the cactus for even watering.
10. Take the drip irrigation class at the Springs Preserve. It’s free.