Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Pests, prevention and cures.

If you are a succulent grower, then you I am sure to have been visited by some pests.   Aphids, Caterpillars, Scale and Mealy Bugs are my most common pests that I see.  This time of year you wont find too many scale, or mealy bugs outside, but if you are over-wintering your plants it is very possible that you have them.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure:  This old saying always made me laugh as a kid, but it makes sense in the prevention of pests.   Here are some great tips for preventing pest breakouts.

1.  Inspect often!   Look at growing points, buds, and stems for scale and mealy bugs.  These two types of pests are extremely hard to get rid of, so catching them soon is vital.   Separate infected plants immediately. I move them out of the greenhouse and put them outside in a sheltered place.  However if you are in an area where that is not feasible you may want to discard the plant.  If it is an easily replaced plant, chuck it!

2.  Spray safer soap when ever you see even the slightest hint of bugs.  Neem oil can also be beneficial, but it needs to be done often.   I try to do one or the other on a weekly basis as a preventative.   Soak plants that seem to have an infestation, above and under the leaves.  If you don't have a pump sprayer you might want to get one.

3.  Air circulation,  set up a fan in your plant area or greenhouse and open the doors as often as feasible. This can help with the pests and keep them from getting started.

4.  Water and fertilize carefully. I keep plants pretty dry in the winter, but in the warmer months water when the soil is dry to the touch, a stressed plant is like fast food to bugs.   I fertilize with dilute fertilizer (1/2 strength) about once a week in the summer or every third or fourth watering in the fall and winter.

5.  Keep it clean! Sweep and discard debris from bottom of greenhouse and off of tables.  Dilute bleach in a sprayer on the floor and tables before setting plants in for the cold season.

So, the ounce didn't work and you need the pound of cure....

Pesticides are extremely dangerous especially if they are concentrated.  Read labels carefully, wear appropriate clothing and safety gear.   Organic pesticides can be as bad or worse for you than the conventional non-organic ones. I always try to use the safest chemicals first then work up to the serious stuff.

This is the order that I usually work in;
Safer soap, or dish soap.
Hydrogen peroxide 1:1
Isopropyl alcohol (I use a q-tip and dot the buggies) some growers are using a dilution of IA, but I had a burning problem when I tried it 1:1.
Neem (but I try to hit everything with neem at least 2 times a month)
Azomax -expensive concentrated neem.
Don't Bug Me (a locally made  pyrethrin pesticide) There are I am sure some that are similar in your garden shop.  (treat as dangerous)
I have also tried Cinnamon oil and other organics.   A great place to find some organic, and powerful insecticides is your local grow shop  (everyone has those right??) Note!  Cinnamon oil is extremely irritating treat it with caution.

There are of course commercial non-organic pesticides, but if you are using the above materials and are vigilant, you shouldn't need anything else.   I will not be making any product recommendations as many of the commercial pesticides are dangerous to humans, pets, and other beneficial insects.   Before you make the jump to the big guns you need to know what the pest is that you are battling, and you need to know the correct concentration and have appropriate clothing and safety gear.   Please also research the product extensively.

Here are some pretty pictures, better than any icky buggies.

Remember that flowers are fast food for bugs and they need to be checked regularly for activity. Aphids reproduce extremely quickly, just one will be a hundred before you know it.  Ants will move aphids around and farm them for their waste products.   Use ant traps as well as any pest regime. 

Snails and slugs are another problem for another day.  My method is trapping them in plastic pots and collecting them every morning.  I also go out before I go to bed and pull them off my plants and throw them in the compost bin or the street.   I will go into them in more detail later. 

I hope you have a succulent day!   Only 27 days till spring. 
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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Junque Art, the art of upcycling. Part one.

Junque Art is a fun hobby of mine, I do not know who came up with the term, but I started using it sometime last year. Many people use upcycling, especially one of my favorite artists, Laura Eubanks, from Design for Serenity.  There are so many ordinary items that can become fun accessories to your garden.  Just remember to not overdo it, there is a fine line between whimsy and tackiness.  However you still must garden for your self, and not for others.  Have you read the book "Kiss my Aster?"  If not....get it now!

I have already posted about my succulent chair, but I thought I would give you a few other ideas that I have done.   I have many others planned, but sometimes it takes a while for something to come together.  You have to have just the right plants.  I like to tie in my plants with the object, or use some whimsy to make it fun.   I would love to hear about your junque art ideas and will be happy to add them into the blog.

Here is a stove that I planted for a Pastori Landscape client.  The stove is nothing real fancy, just a old stove that had to be removed from the clients cabin.   I threw out the idea of planting it if I could find the right plants.   The client loved the idea.

The red plant at the top is Crassula "Campfire"  it lives up to its name in this spot.   The plants in the grate are the native Sedum spathulifolium.  The logistics of the planting are as follows:
I made holes in the bottom of the stove with a screwdriver and a hammer, fortunately it was weak enough to give way.  I filled the bottom with coarse gravel and a ton of perlite.  I then filled the rest with well amended potting soil (lots of perlite)
I used green basket moss for the grate, and shoved the unrooted cuttings in with chopsticks, they had to be replanted again later to replace cuttings that did not thrive (about 10%)

I planted the campfire plant in the stovepipe and decided against planting in the burner area. I think it would have taken away from the visual impact. "Less is often more."

This picture was taken after it had a chance to grow in.

This is another planter done at the same location, it is not really Junque Planting, in its purest sense, but I adore the planting,   Do you see the school bell?  The huge piece of driftwood?  There was also a ton of incorporation of thousands, maybe millions of rocks that the owners of the house past and present had beach combed, from the nearby ocean.

I love the color of the bell echoed in the plants.  Rusty iron is such a natural material to pair with succulents. It contrasts beautifully with the blue-green and makes the yellow pop. I look for pieces of rusty metal at beaches, they can be really fun accents. 

The pink flowers in the middle and the white on the lower right are native Lewisia varieties.  They are native to Coastal California and Oregon. They like a little more shade in warm areas, but as this garden was a block from the ocean, they are perfectly happy.  Also in this planting are Aeoniums, Sedums, Sempervivums, Echeverias, and some non succulent companions.  This is one of my favorite planters and the day that I went up to take pictures of it, was absolutely perfect timing, as everything was in flower and looking as good as can be. 

Here is a broken teapot that I decided would make a cool wall planter.  Since it is tipped down, the spout serves as the drain for the planting, saving me the trouble of drilling a drain hole.  I water it by tipping it up horizontal, watering and holding in position for a while then tilting it back down to drain. 
That brings me to an important point.  Plantings MUST have drainage unless you are going to be ridiculously scientific on your watering.  Trust me, you don't want to fuss that much.  You can sometimes do an insert planter so you could easily remove the plant to water, but sometimes finding a match is difficult.  Here is a link to a friend's blog, called Sweetstuff's Sassy Succulents and how to drill pots.   She is amazing!  

Anything that holds potting soil, or can be made to hold it can be used to plant plants in.  Never doubt the ability of succulent cuttings to root and thrive in sphagnum moss.   Plants and moss can be glued on to flat surfaces and simply misted as they root.   Please take the time .look at the work of Laura Eubanks with Design for Serenity, she is a master of attaching succulents to objects. 

I used her ideas to make a fun pair of succulent creations, in my Rooster, Hen and chicks set.  It was my first attempt at gluing materials in. The brass chickens were hiding in a closet until I came up with an idea to use them.  The Rooster is packed with sphagnum moss that the succulents were glued to with a low temperature glue gun.   
I will post a sequel to this post, I have some more fun stagings to share.  I need to get my camera out to get some better images of my creations.

Have you tried upcycling?  What is your favorite thing to look for in garage sales and thrift stores?  Do you have any big plans for the next season?  I am itching to get going on my garden.

Here is my succulent chair.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Succulent Chair

I have been asked to talk about my succulent chair that I created last summer.   I found a broken, rusty chair in a thrift store for $5.00.   I cleaned it off and put a ton of coats of primer on the chair. Then I hit a quandary, what color to paint it?

 I reached out on facebook and got tons of ideas from my talented succulent artist friends.   I had decided to go with a peachy pink if I could find it.   What happened next was serendipitous, the store was out of peachy pink, but had lots of copper on sale. 

Success!   I adore this color and I could see succulents matching it well. 

Then I planted it, using a thick layer of sphagnum moss on the bottom, a "mountain" of amended potting soil in the middle then more moss on the top.   I nestled the plants through the moss and tucked it around the plants.   I had expected to have to hot-glue or wire the plants or moss in place, but everything just stayed where I put it. Here is the chair planted :

The finished product!   Here it is grown in a little more:

I have some more "broken" furniture and other such things for junque art in the future.  I can't wait for next season, so I can bring my chair out and spruce it up, it has survived the winter fine, it just isn't as happy as I would like. 
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Only forty more days till spring!