Monday, August 21, 2023

When you've gotta garden but the temp is triple digits

What to do when you can't spend another minute indoors, you've already watered everything, and the temp is headed to the triple digits (again)? Well, you divide an agave of course!

Temperatures in the 90's (headed to 100+) aren't when most plants want to be pulled from their containers and have their roots cut up, agaves though, they couldn't care less. This mass of agave-ness has been living in this container longer than I care to admit. 

My brother who lives in Phoenix, AZ, sent me several pups from his agaves years ago, I stuck one in this container and then proceeded to ignore it for years. Sure, I moved the pot into and out of the shade pavilion greenhouse each autumn. Then in the spring, I'd vow to do something about the increasing amount of plants in the pot. Of course since it was a task that didn't demand immediate attention I put it off...until pretty soon there I was, moving it again in the autumn. No more!

It was time to pull out and pot up the pups. My first attempt was successful. The soil was so loose and dry that I didn't even have to tip the pot and pull all the plants out. 

I got to thinking about the only other plant I'd ever removed from this pot, it was a variegated pup—very unusual since the mother agave is not variegated. I pulled that one before a visit to my brother, and took it to him as a gift. I'm not sure if it lives on or not.

Back to work. Pretty soon I had this assortment of spikes to show for my efforts...

...and only the main/mama plant remained.

Since I loved the container, but was no longer in love with the agave I went ahead and removed her too.

There were more roots than soil at this point, and she was busy making more babies.

Speaking of my brother's garden. You may have heard it's been hot in Phoenix? Yep, 31 consecutive days of 110 degrees Fahrenheit-plus, with nights "cooling off" into the 80's and 90's. That's tough on people and plants. His agaves in full sun are not happy, they're tough plants but they do have their limits. This clump was looking pretty sad back on August 5th...

It was even worse last week when he sent this photo...

I asked about the opuntia to the left of the agaves above. He inherited it with the house and it had been a beautiful, huge, purple-hued clump when I was last there in 2018. His reply; "it's sad, the pads are thin, it looks like it's been in an oven for a month at 115 degrees"... which is actually a pretty accurate description of what it's been thru.

These sad agaves are at another friend's house in Scottsdale, AZ. 

Here's another huge loss. This saguaro photo came from my brother, it's not in his garden but at an office building he was visiting. Unfortunately I hear talk that this is happening all around Phoenix and Tucson.

Over-watered saguaros in gardens and commercial landscapes are basically cooking from the inside during the heat. They can handle the heat in a drought, but they can't handle being watered like a garden plant and then having to endure the extreme temperatures.

Back to my garden now. Thinking about the variegated agave pup I mentioned I gave my brother sent me out to check on the random all-yellow pups from my variegated Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard' in our hell-strip.

They look great!

Speaking of our hell-strip, were you wondering what I was going to do with all the agave pups I just ended up with? I'm going to give them away in our Little Free Greenhouse...

Portland has many Little Free Libraries on the street, so when I saw an image online of a Little Free Greenhouse in another part of town I jokingly asked Andrew if he wanted to build one and, well, he did! It has a door so that I can put garden books and magazines in it in the rainy season, but he took the door off for the summer so it doesn't become unbearably hot in there. My hope is that it becomes a place for the entire neighborhood (not just me) to share plants, it was slow to get started but in the last week I've had a few folks leave starts from their garden, seeds, and even a few tomatillos.

Driving home the other day I passed a lady walking down the street with her dog and an agave in her hand, from the greenhouse. You know that put a smile on my face!

It's secured in the ground with a cement base and a metal post. This part of the hell-strip has a thick later of sedum which we cut thru to put in the greenhouse, I kept it and "planted" it on top on the cement, there is a thin layer of soil the roots were already growing in. Since the sedum keeps growing out across the sidewalk in places, I think it's going to do just fine here. Hopefully it will keep going to grow down the sides to start to cover the cement (which I "aged" by rubbing it with wet clay soil)...

Okay, enough rambling! Time to pot up those pups...

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  1. We're only supposed to get to 97° but it always goes above the projection. Luckily it looks like the days in the 90s are shrinking from four to two. Hard to do anything in this weather. But I admit I did some moving and planting because I had the time and energy. Sometimes it's about what's best for the gardener and not the plants.

    1. I imagine your recent rain makes moving and planting not quite as difficult on plants as it is here, where we haven't had rain since April. But I agree, sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do.

  2. Jeanne DeBenedetti KeyesAugust 21, 2023

    Wow. So sad about those saguaros. I wonder how long it took that one and so many others to get that big? Old growth! Love your free little greenhouse! Such a cool idea. Andrew sure does have a way with design and building such beautiful and useful structures.

    1. So many years! The saguaro losses are sad indeed. (and I am lucky to have such an able builder!)

  3. Kudos for dividing and transplanting. I too have been slowly making my way through my potted agaves and mangaves. It's a good thing these are really tough plants. I love the idea of the Free Greenhouse. What a cool way to distribute worthy plants and a boon to the whole neighbourhood.

    1. It's been fun to watch people stop and check out the offerings as they walk by the LFG, even better when they pick up something and walk away with their new plant.

  4. OMG, that saguaro is tragic! I hope last week's PNW heat dome is the last one you see this year. Your greenhouse is a great idea to distribute plants and encourage interest in gardening in the neighborhood.

    1. Looks like we are headed back to at least the mid-90's later this week. I don't mind that but would like to avoid another day of 108.

  5. OMG, you have a Little Free Greenhouse! That is the most wonderful thing. I want to drive by to see what's in it!

    The photos your brother sent are so awful, I didn't even take a good look at them. I've seen so many similar photos on FB. I don't know what I would do....

    So, what's your agave? I couldn't figure it out by looking at it. It looks vaguely weberi-ish.

    1. I've never known what that agave is, my brother didn't know either. I wish you lived nearby to help keep the LFG stocked with cool things!

  6. I don't want to live in a climate that does that to agaves! I need a little free greenhouse for rehoming all of the tender plants I can't stop myself from propagating when I should really be reducing.

    1. Yes you do! (and I agree about the climate, and to think I used to want to move to AZ...)

  7. The free greenhouse is a fantastic idea! Good for you for thinking of it, and Andrew for the implementation. Well done. It'd be fun to see if any unusual things pass through it...


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