Help with cactus garden

blownz281(coastal zone 8b)August 21, 2012

Well we live a mile away from the beach in NC. Are yard is all sand. SO I figured all my cold hardy cacti should be good to go. I built the garden up against the house so It was out of the way of our kids. I rushed into it,dug about a foot deep to get all the grass roots. Worked the area really good,then added some free sand I got. All the cacti are doing good. But everytime it rains the area never drains very well. So something below the bed must be holding the water. I rushed into it thinking,ah I don't need to add and gravel :( . Now I have to dig out 30 cactus and raise the bed and add drainage. Now I have access to seashells and tons of oyster shells. Now can I use these for drainage,like you would do with gravel or rocks? Should I crush then smaller? Thanks

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chadec(N.C.7b)

I think adding something is a great idea. I always use gravel but shells should help if you get enough. I would break them into small pcs. Sand can be bad for retaining water also. So I would add course builders sand to improve drainage. you will need finer particals around the roots so not to leave them exposed during winter.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 7:53PM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

Living in ohio originally with all clay soil,I assumed the sand would drain the water quick enough. I can get TONS of oyster shells. Do they sell that at HD - Lowes? Is it expensive? Thanks

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:03PM
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chadec(N.C.7b)

I deal with clay soil here, no fun. I can get pea gravel and step 1 course sand from lowes or HD. That stuff is around 4$ per bag. I get a load of standard gravel for 20$ at our local much yard. I mix that with top soil to about 4" above grade. Since Im in a colder zone right off Pilot mountain I use pure pea gravel around the roots to keep them dry. The cacti can send roots down for water but will not survive sitting in it.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:17PM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

What I will do is dig all them out,put several inches of crushed shells down and add the sand your talking about and then pea gravel for the top. Local rock place across the street will fill large buckets of this really fine gritty stuff for driveways. $3.00 per bucket. If you are into saltwater fish tanks,the buckets I would have them fill would be old buckets salt came in. Most of mine are prickly pear and they will live in anything. Others I worry about,but they show no signs of stress. But cactus can look great on top,but underneath could be rotting.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:30PM
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chadec(N.C.7b)

You can check out Plant Delights nursery website. They have articles that Tony Advent wrote on planting cacti and agaves. This should be helpful since they are here in N.C.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 8:39AM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

We went there for the first time in July. Pretty cool,bought a Helens Hybrid Banana plant. I dug all the cacti out and found three that had some mushy areas on them and they started sending roots out above that. SO I'm happy I dug them up. This week we have and a few days before have been very rainy.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 5:50PM
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martenfisher(9a)

If you are in the south and are going to grow cactus in the ground where there is much sand I suggest finding a source for steinernema feltiae and treat the soil with them once a year to control root knot nematodes. They can devestate cactus in the south.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 9:56PM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

Thanks for the heads up. But we have never had any problems with growing them and Banana plants.

Chad do you have any pictures of your cactus?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 11:00AM
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chadec(N.C.7b)

I have several post with photos. You can use the search function and type my user name. That should give you a few recent post. I have been expanding one of my rock gardens so Im not ready to post new photos yet.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 8:37AM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

Looks good man. What are the barrel cactus types you have? They are pretty hard since you left them out. The yellow barrel you have is the same type I got from Lowes. Did yours stay in the ground all year? Walmart here just got a shipment of healthy $3.00 cold hardy barrels. I got some oyster shells layed them down and dump down a bunch more of sand,and I think clayish sand that was around the foundation of the house. I needed to raise the bed. Then the plan is to add more oysters,then some fine gravel or the builders sand stuff you mentioned. Then pea gravel on top.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 8:32PM
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chadec(N.C.7b)

My golden barrel cactus stay in the ground year round. I just cover them with a pot when it gets into the 20F range and when it rains. The biggest thing is to not let them get wet from Nov. to Mar.

Everything your doing sounds good. I would be sure to wash the shells. The new plants may not like the extra salt.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 9:30AM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

What type are the other round cacti you have? Yeah shells got rained on for a log time.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 11:04AM
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chadec(N.C.7b)

The golden barrel and golden ball cactus came from lowes. They are not hardy here but don't tell them. I have Echinocereus Triglochidiatus and Ferocactus Hamatacanthus. Both of which are hardy. I also have various other cacti that came from big box stores that should be hardy to 20F without protection.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 7:56PM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

Okay my Dad is going to bring down a trailer with very fine driveway gravel. The stuff that's loaded with shark teeth from a cory. Now how many inches of gravel do I need to mix with my sand. As that's the only soil I have right now. Might be some clay type stuff in there too by the color. He needs to know how much to get. As he lives a hour 17mins away. 180"L -50"W is the size of my garden. Trailer can fit a riding tractor John Deer no problem. If that gives you any idea on size.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 5:15PM
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chadec(N.C.7b)

Hard to say. I'd get at least a full scoop if possible. If its too much it will not hurt since your not worried about the cold.

What cacti do you have? I know opuntia humilis, cylindropuntia and agave americanas would do fine. I see them everywhere over there.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:15PM
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blownz281(coastal zone 8b)

Yeah I have them and many more. If you give me your email I can send you a picture or maybe post it here if I can figure it out?

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 4:11PM
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cactusmcharris

Chad,

But I have to be a Z5 cowboy - how do you keep the roots OK when the soil freezes for months on end? I know I have to get more Yuccas in the landscape (the city of Kamloops uses a few in lots of its public plantings), but I just don't think an Agave would make it while in immature form.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 4:47PM
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cactusmcharris

Make that a Z4/Z5 - some winters are colder than others, but in neither can I wear shorts on Christmas comfortably.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2012 at 4:48PM
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