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Weather Proofing Plants

Storm Control

Did you know that all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti? A succulent is generally considered to be any plant that has the natural ability to store water in its body or roots. A true cactus is distinguished by the presence of areoles, small nubbin-like structures that grow over the body of the plant. Both cactus and succulents are members of the Crassulaceae family of plants. It's the non-prickly succulents we'll be focusing on here. My fondness for succulents has only developed recently when I potted up some old succulents more or less discarded in my garden. Planting them in one pot made them appear serene, quiet and beautiful. Then of course knowing I had ignored them for so long and they still looked great got me even more attached. They are somehow peaceful and this mood transferred to me. I hope you'll find them as appealing as I do. 


Growing succulents is simple because they require little care. They don't need a lot of attention because they are able to store water and protect themselves from harsh environments. This feature is great for Good Gardeners because that means once planted you can practically forget about them.

Partial shade to full sun is what most succulents want. They are happy either inside or outside. Outdoors, succulents are a beautiful addition to the landscape; some will even make it through a mild frost. 


Happily, you can keep watering to a minimum, as these babies like to dry out between their waterings. Too much water will certainly kill them due to their shallow root systems. If you like, feed succulents with a balanced fertilizer one time per month during summer. 


About the only thing to be very concerned about is proper soil. They need an extremely well draining medium which has the ability to hold lots of air. Below you will find a recipe for homemade succulent soil, but purchasing a store bought succulent mixture is just as efficient. 


Be creative when potting up containers or planting succulents in ground. 'Creative' here means perhaps mixing different varieties into one pot or bed, but it also means planting the same variety in one interesting vessel or in ground location. 


Heavy rain can ravage the garden, and although the worst of this first big storm may be over, it's now time to get ready for the next one.


Problems with drainage in areas of the garden are now obvious, so it's easy to tell where to direct the water during the next downpour. 


It's important to direct water flow from drain downspouts away from the foundation of the house and also away from roots of trees and shrubs that will suffer from lake-like conditions. 


Although January and February are traditionally Northern California's most rainy months, it may be time to consider turning off the automatic sprinkler system. Allow the weather to direct the Good Gardener when to turn the system on again. 


Despite all the rainwater don't forget to water container gardens under the eves. Collecting rainwater in large barrels to water these plants is a great idea. Rainwater is cost free and provides oxygenated, unchlorinated water, which is ideal for plants! 


You can make a simple rain barrel with a large plastic garbage can. Then purchase a plastic collapsible downspout extender from the hardware store. Attach the extender to the downspout on the side of the house and allow the rainwater to drain inside the garbage can. Keep a close watch on the garbage can/ rain barrel so that it does not overflow. When the rain has stopped cover the barrel so that it does not attract water-loving creatures. (Yuk!) 


Garden clean up after a big storm is important although not too much fun. Rake up leaves and haul away fallen branches. Leaving possibly diseased leaves on the ground can spread disease to other parts of the garden. 


Inspect trees for weak or broken limbs. Many trees prefer being pruned during their winter dormant season, but it's better to trim them now than to incur a problem during the next big storm. 


If you suspect fungus or black sooty mildew on plants, mix ivory soap with water and rinse the plant to rid it of this problem. (One teaspoon of ivory soap to one gallon of water.) 


Mulches are a good way to prevent erosion as well as creating a clean and beautiful look in garden beds. They also help to prevent mud from splashing on flowers, foliage, walls and on the trunks of plants. Mud left on the base of tree trunks and shrubs can cause rot. Clean it off. 


Selecting organic mulch, derived from once-living matter, is a good idea. The reason: as it breaks down and decomposes, the soil is improved, adding nutrients slowly over time. 


Tip potted plants on their sides to get rid of excess water that may have collected in their pots. Unfortunately, the wind may have already tipped your favorite container gardens over. Solution: place heavy rocks or bricks on top of the container to keep them stable and standing. 


Succulents do not tolerate both cold and water simultaneously. Their meaty tissues can turn to ice or mush. Although the cold is not quite upon us now, this could present a problem later in the season. Cut way the rotted area of the plant; then allow the good part of the plant to heal. If the bottom of the plant is rotted, carefully un-pot it and let it heal outside the pot for several days, then re-pot. 


Lastly, it's a great time to plant seeds of wildflowers. Seeds germinate more easily with the help of rain. However, the Good Gardener will most likely need to add additional water. Make sure to prepare the bed rigorously by riding it of weeds and grasses prior to planting.

My best,

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