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Read the Whole Label Before Using Chemicals

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Q: I didn’t read the whole label of the pre-emergent weed control that I put down in the flower bed. Is it true that I can’t plant anything from seed in that area?

A: Didn’t read the whole label? Naughty you. Yup, for the time being, you are out of luck when it comes to planting in that bed. Now go back and read the labels to see how far out you are for effective seed planting. The product label should give you a calendar of sorts to gauge things by. It could also inform you if there is a way to counteract the pre-emergent. That’ll be dependent on the product. You’ve learned a valuable lesson here: Read your labels. First, to be sure you are following the recommended application ratios. And second, to make sure this is this type of product that you want and need to use in that area. No harm, no foul, this time. You are lucky. Imagine if you’d applied a weed-and-feed fertilizer to your rose bed. Goodness, that’d be very bad indeed.

Q: At the garden fair you suggested last week, I purchased several cactuses. Will I be able to grow them in pots for this year?

A: There is no reason I know of why you shouldn’t be able to grow your newest treasures in pots, and there are couple of thoughts I have to make your project a successful one.

Cactuses don’t require really huge pots unless the cactus is large. Pick pots that drain, as a soggy cactus is an unhappy cactus. I’ve never had much luck with very shallow or short pots either. Deeper will be better. Set some broken pot shards over the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot to keep the potting soil from running out. Don’t forget saucers if you don’t want the space beneath the pots to be marred. Most saucerless pots will leave a combo mineral-fertilizer scorched-looking mark beneath them if left for any period of time. I would suggest too that you fill the saucer, under any cactus or succulent type planting, with small pebbles to keep the pot bottom from sitting in a puddle for any length of time.

Next, you’ll want to think about proper soil. Please don’t use any of the “moisture holding” soils available on the market now. There are “cactus soils” available, or you can simply create your own. In a bag of regular potting soil, add sand to the mix. A mixture of one-third sand to two-thirds soil should create a lovely fertile, yet draining, cactus mix.

Plant placement is, for the most part, a no-brainer. Sun, and lots of it, will be fine. Keeping your cactus creations on patios, wall tops, porches or in the middle of the yard will suffice. The only caution I can think of when growing cactuses would be not enough light — so keep them sunny. To check if it’s time to water, carefully poke your finger in the pot. If you don’t feel moisture, it’s time to water. In the beginning, you’ll want to keep the plantings a bit damper than usual, just to get your treasures acclimated. But soon, I’ll bet, you won’t need to water more than once every 10 days or so.

So have fun with your newest project and most of all, Happy Digging In!

— This article appeared on page 2 of the West Side Journal

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