Cactus, Cactuses, Cacti—It’s All Good


Cactus are good!

It’s time to get serious about cactus. Our drought conditions are likely to continue even with a strong El Niño. How will your garden look a year or two from now? Maybe it’s time to try a cactus or two? They love the hot weather and need little water. Many will even take the cold (around 15 to 20 degrees for a little bit.)

Why not start with one of my favorites—the Golden Barrel Cactus, also known as Echinocactus grusonii. It also has a fun nickname–mother-in-laws cushion!

The Golden Barrel is a spherical globe-shaped cactus from Mexico where it is currently both rare and endangered in the wild. However, it is the most popular in terms of numbers propagated per year of all succulents–which means this plant is easy to find and is relatively inexpensive.

The Golden Barrel has 35 symmetrical ribs that contrast with its vibrant yellow spines to give you year-round beauty. It can be a showpiece in any garden. Golden Barrels grow at a steady rate and can reach three feet and live around 30 years.

I’ve heard all the reasons you can’t have cactus—they’ll hurt kids and pets, they’re difficult to work with, they can’t take freezes, etc. Some of this is true, but I think it’s worth some extra planning to have them in my garden.

Keeping the pets and kiddies in mind, place your Barrels away from pathways and play areas. To be even safer, you can have them in pots.

As for planting and weeding them, here are a few tips: When planting a small to medium cactus of any type I use Styrofoam, the large pieces that protect delivery of your consumer goods. Just make sure the Styrofoam is thicker than the length of the spines. When you are done, just throw away the foam.

To plant larger Barrels, I use burlap. Wrap it, carry it, drag it and drop it in the hole. I dropped one down my driveway once and it had no damage! They are tough.

Something the Barrel does not like is too much water, or water filling the top. Plant at a slight angle so water does not accumulate in the top. And don’t over water!  Barrels usually don’t need to be watered more than once every two weeks in the summer.  When temperatures plummet, I use frost cloth to cover some of my cacti but not my Barrels.

To keep weeds out, the key is get to them early. I use long tweezers to pull out the weeds. On more serious weeds, I take a shovel and slightly lift it up to remove the enemy.

So give a Barrel a try. It will give your garden vibrant color for years and years!

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