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Category Archives: Garden Blog

This lineup of crassulas is stacked

There is so much to adore about succulents — we can’t even begin to count all the ways — but this week we want to highlight a crew of ornamentals that just can’t help but be showoffs: “stacked” crassulas. And we love them for that, their penchant for fancifulness: forms resembling spirals, pendants, pagodas, or just un-plain, goofy vertical.

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Have stretched-out succulents? Treat them to more light

Stretching generally has a positive connotation when it comes to us human beings, especially in the realm of physical fitness. Or when we get to splay out on the sand or poolside for some deserved chillaxation. With succulents, though, not so much. A stretched plant is a light-deprived plant. All that stretching robs the plant of its attractive, natural, compact form. Light deprivation also prevents plants from exhibiting their full chroma potential. Instead, leaves become pale and possibly yellowed, as if suffering from chlorosis.

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Succulents to keep you company during shady respites

It’s summer (news flash!) and sometimes we just want to hide. From the sun. That fiery sphere serves a noble purpose, of course, but occasional time apart is healthy. Our succulent pals, though, we always want close by…even when in shady-friendly spots.

Even if not necessarily lovers of deep shade, aeoniums can relate, as they are also susceptible to sunburns, as well as leaf curling, when overly exposed. They have a distinctive, daisy-like appearance. The leaves can vary in color from black to rose to green to yellow. The rosettes grow on the ends of stems that, depending on the variety, may be a quarter inch or more in diameter. We should all take a cue from these diversely hued succulents that like nothing more during summer than to chill. They perk up in winter to spring, when the weather is cooler and on the damper side.

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Brighten your landscape with shy-but-strong Echeveria ‘Lola’

The time for relishing the summer breeze as it brushes your face on a balmy Friday evening has arrived. While Seals & Crofts may have had a soft spot for jasmine, we can’t help but have eyes for a favorite succulent beauty of ours: Echeveria ‘Lola’.

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#nofilter living no ideal for most succulents — add a tree

Tree options for succulent gardens are many. We look at five:

Summer has arrived, which has us thinking of shade and the coming moments when we will be fleeing for cover from an oppressive sun.

At the same time, feeling compelled to seek refuge indoors is not particularly desirable. Do you have any cool or cool-ish zones in your succulent garden? Or, if not some majestic, light-blocking tree canopy, areas where more wispy specimens soften the sun’s impact for your fleshy leaved light lovers?

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BFFs for your succulents

Non-succulent companion plant options are numerous. Here are five:

One of the biggest garden design challenges is focusing your enthusiasm. Even if succulents and cacti are your #botanicaljam4lyfe, choices must be made. There are thousands of species on the planet, yet you only enjoy space for 75 plants. That means you’re probably going to plant 25 species at most, unless you have a hopeless case of the “onesies” and are determined to get your mitts on one of everything.

Plus you might want to make room for a few non-succulents. We here at Altman have soft spots for all kinds of plants and know just how beautiful a mixed landscape, abounding in rich colors and textures, can be.

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Five picks for heat-enduring, non-prickly succulents

Those who have found this particular outpost of succulent fandom are probably aware that succulents have their limits. For example, to decorate desert ground with any plant accurately answering to the name “succulent” is to expect or desire one very possible outcome: fried succulent. Personally, we much prefer going the “fried” route with cauliflower or chicken.

Cactus, agaves, and aloes, this post is not intended for you. (Now’s a good time to acknowledge that plants generally don’t answer when called upon.) With summer here soon, we thought it would be cool to highlight some needle- and sword-free specimens that should do pretty well in the hotter spots of the garden. To be clear, not desert hot — we’re not about to completely deep-fry our senses. We are referring to areas that experience temperatures of 90+ degrees Fahrenheit (32° Celsius) without much if any marine influence.

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Gardeners & Pests: not a love story

Dealing with destructive little ones doesn’t require a scorched-earth approach

Spotting pests making homes on your cacti, succulents, and shrubbery is never a delightful discovery. The more those little buggers thrive and multiply, the likelier it portends not-swell effects for your precious leaf babies plants. As much as we gardeners want to evict those gluttonous trespassers like yesterday, ideally the solution doesn’t lie in harsh, chemical-heavy measures. No. 1, it starts with ecologically minded gardening (namely, approximating your plants’ natural habitat as best as possible).

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In the ground versus containers

Ideally, it’s not an either/or predicament for succulent enthusiasts

Stick ’em in the ground or contain them to potted dwellings? Thankfully for those of us with dirt to spare, succulents are generally as flexible as they are fleshy (not to discount factors such as frost and excessive heat).

That flexibility, though — as much as succulent lovers appreciate the artful possibilities it affords — can have gardeners struggling to make choices. Because we’d rather you be outside getting your fingernails dirty than indoors furiously scribbling pros-and-cons lists, we’ve cobbled together a handful of considerations.

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Is Your Water Working for You?

Sanitation practices that keep your production environment clean can also improve irrigation quality. Debris from crop planting, residue from equipment and other forms of contamination should be removed before it gets into the water. Contaminants that enter water storage and distribution plumbing leave physical, chemical and biological residues. These residues can make your water unsanitary or “dirty.” Dirty water can impede irrigation, limit the efficacy of treatment and increase the risk of plant pathogens. Treatment control and monitoring water quality can help your water take shape for irrigation.

Water for irrigation should come from a reliable supply that can deliver a sufficient volume into the irrigation system. There, it’s treated, stored, distributed and applied to the crop. Throughout irrigation systems are control points that can be monitored and adjusted to improve water quality. With each treatment, the water should become more conditioned to be in better shape for irrigation. Irrigation should meet hydration and nutrition requirements of the crop, with low risk of disease.

Table 1. Irrigation with tap (potable) water only or tap water with 17-4-7 (N: P: K) at 200 ppm Nitrogen from ammonium nitrate. Applied free chlorine was 2.6 ppm and then measured available free chlorine five seconds later. The free chlorine demand was determined from: Applied – Available = Demand. The last row shows that when additional applied free chlorine of 26 ppm it provided a measured available free chlorine near zero. The free chlorine demand from fertilizer solutions that contain ammonium can be excessive and most of the chlorine was rapidly transformed into combined chlorine. The last row shows an averaged free chlorine demand of 4.3 ppm is typical of nursery and greenhouse irrigation.

About half of the water treatment technologies can provide reliable irrigation. Problems with scale and biofilm are prominent throughout most irrigation systems, resulting in limited flow through the irrigation system and clogged emitters. Crop health is often compromised from elevated alkalinity, salt buildup of waste ions and nutritional deficiencies. Practices that improve plant health and overall sanitation can help to decrease contaminants and improve efficacy of treatments. The treatment technologies available to improve water quality may be limited by poor physical, chemical and biological water quality.

• Chemical control of pH can be used to neutralize water alkalinity, decrease mineral deposits (scale) and increase plant-available nutrients. Nutrient management also relies on the electro-conductivity (EC) of the water. Monitoring these control points can provide information for the appropriate level of control needed for crop nutrition.

• Physical control of debris and particulates may require additional filtration and/or basins to separate suspended and settled solids. Monitoring at these points can identify problems before water distribution becomes impeded in the irrigation system.

• Biological control can be used to mitigate algae, bacteria, fungi and molds that cause biofilm in irrigation systems. Monitoring at points in the irrigation system can identify changes in biological conditions that result with inconsistencies in flow and potential to harbor pathogenic species.

• Disinfestant control can help to mitigate pathogens before they reach the crop. Monitoring the levels of active ingredients (AI) and the sanitizing strength, measured oxidation reduction potential (ORP) can be used determine potential for disinfestation of pathogens.

Disinfestation technologies are often installed as a response to a previous crop disease, suspected to be pathogens. Treatment systems can seem like a form of insurance to the buyers that the problem won’t happen again. There should be caution against a sense of complacency, as all treatment technologies have limitations and considerations for efficacy. There is no “one-size-fits-all” disinfestation technology. This is due to differences in water quality and combinations of treatments.

Figure 1. Ozone was applied at 1.5 ppm with each tank cycle of (x-axis) to water that contained fertilizer iron, chelated with EDDHA at different rates (0, 0.5, 2.5 and 5 ppm). Each fertilizer solution was ozonated until it reached the target oxidation reduction potential (ORP) of 650 to 750 mV (y-axis).

Residual concentration of sanitizing chemicals can be determined by the percent reduction from treatment dose to the residual that remains after time or distance. For example, sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in common household bleach, is a widely used to control waterborne pathogens and algae in irrigation water. Once added to water, sodium hypochlorite is converted to hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and the hypochlorite ion (ClO-). The balance is determined by the pH of the water; hypochlorous acid predominates in acidic pH (pH below 7), which is more effective for disinfestation than hypochlorite (pH above 7.5). The amount of hypochlorous acid can be measured as the free chlorine residual (ppm). This represents the chlorine available to disinfest plant pathogens, however, it decreases over time from reactions with organic matter, microorganisms, ammonium and other environmental factors.

Disinfestation monitoring when using chlorine should consider the form of chlorine, concentration and contact time. The concentration of chlorine can be monitored as free chlorine, chlorine dioxide and/or total chlorine. Research indicates control of Pythium and Phytophthora zoospores can be achieved in irrigation water with a measurable free chlorine level of 2.5 ppm at a pH of 6.5. This assumes that there was a minimum contact time of two to 10 minutes with free chlorine.

The disinfestation strength of oxidizers—such as free chlorine, chlorine dioxide and ozone—can also be estimated from the oxidation reduction potential (ORP). An ORP reading over 650 mV is used as guidelines to control human pathogens, such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella. For vegetable and fruit wash in postharvest processing, an ORP of 650 to 700 mV is recommended to kill bacterial contaminants. Effective disinfestation may be limited by a poor physical, chemical and biological water quality.

Similar mortality curves have been shown for Pythium zoospores at ORP of 780 mV provided by the dose of free chlorine at 0.5 to 2 ppm. At this rate with free chlorine, there have been few incidents of phytotoxicity in ornamental crops; therefore, the guideline is a measurable 2.5 ppm free chlorine at discharge points (risers or sprinklers) and pH 6. This will help mitigate zoospores of many Pythium and Phytophthora in irrigation water.

Treatments that we make to the water will interact with each other and can have unintended results. The possible reactions with disinfestation technologies and your fertilizer type, concentration and other water quality factors should be tested. Monitoring programs should be developed to evaluate disinfestation strength when using treatment technologies. Regular monitoring can help to determine effective treatment rates to help control water delivery, quality and pathogen disinfestation with lower risk for crop phytotoxicity, oxidation of equipment or other issues from excessive water treatment.

Develop an irrigation monitoring program to help determine an appropriate treatment technology and rate, based on if the disinfestant demands it from debris, microbes and chemicals. The time and money invested in monitoring will likely be returned from savings on chemical costs and improved plant health. GT

Dr. Dustin Meador is the Executive Director for the Center for Applied Horticultural Research in Vista, California.

Original Article by Dr. Dustin Meador
Originally published in Grower Talks magazine
May 2017
Used with permission.

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