Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January Gardening in the Desert Southwest

Don't hate me.

I spent Sunday afternoon with my hands in the dirt, the warm sun on my back, the plants juicy and ready to be embedded in their new homes. I know that it's freezing cold where you are.... so I offer this as a salve for your senses. There are places in the country where the sun shines and the ground is ready for new offerings. It just doesn't happen in Chicago or Foxboro or Bloomington right now. 

I'm sorry.

These plant feet were the first items of business.  
The huge container which once held the now dead fan palm managed to keep the hibiscus alive and almost well throughout our short but noticeable winter. Unfortunately, the weight of the soil and water had pushed the original feet deep into a crevasse.  I lifted the pot, all by myself thank you very much, and found a small grey spider with a black dot on her back. I recoiled.  She stayed still. I decided to ignore her as I settled the bigger feet under the pot's edges.
I added another snapdragon
and replenished the old soil with a mixture of Black Gold and perlite.
The perlite, little white balls of absorbent material, retains water in the pot. It is the single most important factor in successful container gardening in my yard here in Tucson.  It gets really really really hot here, in case you've forgotten, and when the summer winds blow the combination dries out the soil faster than anyplace else I've ever gardened.  The perlite keeps the June and July waterings down to two a day.

Combining the warm soil, fresh from Rillito Nursery, and the cool, smooth, round pellets of perlite was nearly orgasmic.  I eschewed my gardening gloves and went in bare-handed.  My nails were filthy, my heart was full.

You can see the perlite in this photo, which I took to demonstrate the berm I created in the pot.  I made a pie crust edge to keep the water from running over the sides; it was silly but effective and, most important of all, it was fun to do.
Standing up, after untangling the never-kink (ha!) hose, I noticed this:
Look at those two feet planted firmly on the ground, casting perfectly straight shadows. 
It's the little victories which brighten my day, even if I have to use a wheeled cart to move my equipment from pillar to post.
By the time I was finished deadheading and refurbishing the soil and adding another snap dragon or two, the remaining containers were as happy as I was.

Tomorrow I'll share what I'm doing in the courtyard.
Right now, I'm going outside again.


  1. Unfortunately the Polar Vortex is my friend. I was in Chicago until Monday night only to return to a mourning Foxboro and a new snow storm. Seeing the photos of your January gardening made me think of something my youngest child would say to me..."I'm so happy for you.." really though, happy to always see you keeping positive and happily busy.

    1. Am I to infer a small snarkiness in that response, FAMBB?? You cannot hide behind Anonymous; I feel you! And, please remember, I did start out by asking younot to hate me <3


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