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2014 garden project: Creating a succulent garden

Succulent gardens are a great project for beginning gardeners
Succulent gardens are a great project for beginning gardeners
Wikimedia Commons: stephen boisvert

Pinterest is a great place to find gardening ideas, and it gives you a place to store the ones you want to try someday. The Home Depot Garden Club has combed through the world of Pinterest and found a number of fun projects that can be taken from the boards to the garden in no time – this week: creating a succulent garden.

Succulents are the perfect plant for the beginning gardener – beauty without much responsibility. Set aside an afternoon, water them when you have a chance and use your new masterpiece throughout the home – and set it outside when the weather is nice.

Succulents need a lot of light, and the plants will reflect the amount they receive: jade plant leaves, for example, should be reddish on the edges – that tells us they’ve received plenty of light. For cacti, look for plants with symmetrical growth patterns, a good sign that the plants have been watered regularly.

To keep your succulent garden interesting, use a variety of shapes and heights. Buy soil specially formulated for desert-loving succulents and cacti. Add large pebbles or rocks to the base of the container to provide an area for drainage – for a polished look, add small pebbles on top of the finished product as a top dressing.

Fertilizers are tricky, but you can actually feed succulents and cacti every few months with a super-diluted tomato fertilizer to give your plants an extra boost.

What you need:

· Containers of various sizes

· A variety of cacti and succulents, in various colors, shapes and sizes

· 1 large bag of cactus, palm and citrus soil

· 2 small bags of large pebbles

· 1 small bag of small pebbles for top dressing

· 1 box of tomato plant food

Prepare the container and soil – make sure your containers have drainage holes, or put a layer of large pebbles in the base of the pot; the pebbles will break up the soil and help the water evaporate. You don’t want the soil in the base of the pot to make a damp environment for mold, mildew and root rot. Infrequent watering can help that as well

Planting – when you’re ready to start planting, move the soil around to create a hole large enough for the root ball of your plant. You need to loosen the roots of each plant, so just gently move it around. You don’t want to knock all the soil off the root ball, just enough so that the plant can re-establish itself in its new environment. Add the largest succulents to the middle of the pot, and leave space on each side and around the perimeter for smaller, more colorful plants.

Once the large succulents are planted, start adding smaller, more colorful elements. Play around with the placement and see what you like best. The cacti are definitely an eye-catching element of this container garden. Once all of the cacti and succulents have been planted, use a simple DIY tool to tamp the soil down – a dowel with a wine cork attached to the end. Make sure the soil is packed in tight around the plants, especially for top-heavy cacti that can fall over. The soil will settle over time as you water the plants, so by tamping it down you’re just trying to ensure that the soil is packed in nicely from the beginning.

Top-dressing – polish off the look of your container garden by topping it with small pebbles – the lighter color of the pebbles makes the colors of the succulents and cacti really pop. It also helps keep the soil from escaping onto your tabletop.

Information provided by the Home Depot Garden Club.

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