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applestar
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Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care?

I have to admit that I don't grow many cacti/succulents though I do have *some*.

I kind of got turned off back in college days and post-graduation period: Graduating seniors tended to give me their dorm room plants and left me with all their prickly "babies". Then after graduating myself ( I needed to rent a U-haul trailer but that's another story :roll: ), I lived in a north facing apartment for a while and lost quite a few....

ANYWAY. Maybe I will start turning my attention back to these fascinating plants.

But remembering all those painful moments, I thought I'd start by asking what you all cacti/succulent aficionados consider ESSENTIAL tools? Feel free to add any innovative useful tools and ideas/techniques, too. :()
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applestar
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

A short comment --

My mom gave me an old vinyl shower curtain load (yeah a lot) of Eastern Prickly Cactus for the garden a couple of years ago. I found that the obvious wicked looking spines are nothing compared to the invisible hair like prickles (someone more familiar please supply the correct terminology). My heaviest cowhide gardening gloves were useless against them because they still picked up those prickles and LATER got on my bare skin when I was handling the gloves.

Kitchen NITRILE gloves were impenetrable and much more useful, and longer wrist and forearm coverage helped too.

Afterwards, I needed a pair of precision splinter removal tweezers and a lighted high magnification lens to remove most of the prickles, and a "drawing salve" for the ones that had burrowed into the skin beyond tweezer extraction.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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Rose bloom
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

Root hormone is helpful but not really necessary, though it DOES help.
No hay rosas sin espinas. There is no rose without thorns.

imafan26
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

Essential tools for cacti growing
Newspaper- I fold it into long strips and make a strap for holding the cactus
tweezers- for pulling out the spines from my fingers. Long tweezers for pulling out weeds from the pots
Long sleeved gloves.- Some spines still get through the gloves but it helps
long handled tongs- good for grabbing and picking up the cacti. It helps if the tongs are padded.
Clay pots. Where I am, I need for the pots to dry fast. My succulents are off the sprinkler system, hand watered and if it rains too long they need to be brought under cover.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

newfangl3d
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

If you don't like the prickles you could always stick with non-cacti succulents. I'm an indoor-only gardener (because I live in a flat) and I don't know how my cats would react to cacti, so I don't have any. There are hundreds of different types of succulents and it's fun to try and collect as many as you can.

Must-haves for succulents would be teracotta pots with drainage holes and well-draining soil.
Jenn

Sweyn
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

imafan26, the newspaper suggestion is a good one. I have used that to handle cacti. You can use a sheet of it, folded over so it is twice as thick. Then it can be used to pick up a plant, by hand.

You and newfangl3d are right about terracotta pots. They just have to be the unglazed kind. Having a hole in the bottom of them, is not always a necessity. I've used some that don't have one and they've been fine.

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Gary350
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

Here is a photo of the tools I use. Not shown, shovel and 5 gallon buckets. If you must have gloves buy some good leather welding gloves that cover your wrists too from a welding supply store. I don't use gloves they are basically worthless. Learn to use the grabbers not your fingers. Use 2 grabbers 1 in each hand. You also need a good pare of tweezers that work. I use 400 grit emery cloth or a diamond grit finger nail file to work on my tweezers so they will work. Tweezers directly from the factory are worthless on those hair needles. You also need a NEW sheet of 60 grit sand paper to remove needles that are too short for tweezers. Slide your finger across the broken off needle you can feel it several directions but when you slide your finger across it in one direction it is hard to feel. The hard to feel direction is the direction you slide the 60 grit sand paper across your finger or hand or arm. The sand paper will snag the needle and slide it out. If all else fails sand your finger in all 4 directions.

I try not to touch the cactus, "EVER", but I still get needles in me. Prickly pear are the worse they have 2 kinds of needles, long and sharp and extremely tiny microscopic hair needles. Those hair needles float around in the air and get all over you. Best thing to do it be sure your on the UP wind side of the cactus when you work with it or set up a fan to blow needle away from you.

Tiny cactus are easy to cut but when they get big they are just like cutting a tree. Cactus grow a hard wooden piece up the center and some cactus grow wooden ribs. I broke the handles out of my hedge trimmers trying to cut a 2.5" diameter San Pedro cactus it has a wooden piece in the center like a broom handle.

When you cut a large cactus don't let it fall. The outside skin damages easy. You need to hold the cactus with grabbers or rope. Some grabbers have sharp edges that will cut the cactus so inspect your grabbers before you buy them or use them.

Many cactus grow in segments the grabbers can be used to pull the segments around 90 degrees to make them brake off of the mother cactus plant.

Cactus that have no segments need to be cut. If the hedge trimmers will not do the job the hand saw will.

If you have a 6 foot long piece of cactus laying on the ground you can cut it up with the machete. Place the machete where you want the cut then hit the machete with a hammer.

If you see a cactus in the desert or mountains don't you dare try to whack a piece off with the machete. The impact will stir up a dust storm of microscopic needle that will itch you to death. Give the machete to someone you don't like, tell them to hit the cactus. LOL.

If you are putting cactus pieces in a 5 gallon bucket use a very long arm grabber. Putting stuff IN/OUT of the bucket stirs up the air in the bucket this blows out microscopic needles that will get all over your arms.

Image

I have cactus growing all over my yard, too many different kinds to list them all. They sure do make some beautiful flowers. Too many photos to list them here. 98% of my succulent have died, too often I forget to water them and being gone from home a 1 or 2 weeks at a time is not good for them either, flower pots need water every day. I gave away about 250 flower pots, as soon as I get the rest of my plants out of pots I will have another 100 pots to give away.

Sweyn
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

One tool that has been overlooked so far, is scissors. The big, sharp kind with sharp points. They are useful when succulents need to be pruned or, when I want to take a cutting.

I have used them on cacti and other kinds of succulent plants.

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ElizabethB
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

DITTO on the clay pots. I have succulents in a 24" clay pot saucer. Since it has no drainage it stays on the table under the patio. I used cactus soil and covered the soil between the plants with river rocks. Not necessary - just looks nice.

Excess water is the biggest problem. You have gotten great advice on tools all I can add is neglect.

Good luck
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Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

veeneck
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

I would totally avoid those prickly pear things. There are plenty of others that are nice looking and don't have those tiny little hooked needles. I have used all different kinds of pots but the ones with the built-in trays must be avoided. Also a shallow pot is better than a tall thin one, where water can get caught in the bottom and cause rot. Whatever pot it's in must drain quickly. Succulents tolerate more water and shade than cactus. Newspaper is good for moving or transplanting cactus and I always have tweezers on hand and a small stiff paintbrush to remove leaves or other debris that get caught in the plants.

imafan26
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

I handle my cacti as little as possible. But I also agree that the small spines are worse than the large thorns and a lot more painful. I never thought about using vinyl gloves, but that should work. I double glove and the small thorns still get through. I did put bandaids on my fingers before I donned the gloves and that actually did help a lot. The problem with double or thick gloves are that it is hard to get a good non-slip grip and barrel cactus are heavy.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

lakesRus84
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

As a recently amped up succulent gardener, I should begin this reply by saying that I started off on a bad note!!! Rotted the roots of everything I potted up at first, because I didn't quite understand the true meaning of "free draining" soil/potting mix..... that being said, I have some priceless advice to offer in that department, as I now own shelves and shelves, packed with THRIVING succulents.. Not SUFFERING! And I even managed to "re-root" most of the ones I tortured half to death in the beginning.....

I tried sand.... I mixed it with soil and perlite and all I got was something along the lines of concrete... concrete that looooooved holding water forever no less... I tried a bunch of things, but my plants kept going down hill..... it wasn't until I picked up a couple 40 lb. bags of this mysterious "gran-i-grit" substance I'd been seeing so much hub-ub about in the forums, that things started taking turn for the better.... and booooy is it better!!! The plants that I thought were goners just 2 weeks ago, with virtually NO ROOTS left on em, and a generally horrid overall look, now have roots out the Bing bang, and gorgeous, strong, healthy new growth all over the place...

Here in TN, I was able to buy (real cheap) 2 grades, 1 they call "STARTER grade Gran-I-Grit", which is like a very coarse grade sand/gravel, and the other they call "GROWER grade Gran-I-Grit" which is coarser and works along the lines as the "small rock gravel" component you need in your succulent mix... I mix a third regular potting soil, and a third of each of those, (oh and a couple handfuls of perlite to lighten it up) and that's where the magic happens apparently! THAT is the meaning of free draining, and THAT is a product I would never go without again! I wasn't able to accomplish that with any of the other suggested ingredients I was trying...

I hear that it may only be available in the southern states, but I hope not (for the rest of he world's sake), and deinitely don't quote me on it... just something I read, and hopefully not the truth! This product may also be sold as "decomposed granite" I believe..... Do yourself a favor, save yourself alotta headache and trouble, and pick some up, BEFORE you begin potting up succulents! Your plants will thank you and reward you!

The premaid succulent mixes you buy in the stores, DO NOT provide adequate drainage... Miracle Grow Cacti & Citrus soil was responsible for many of my plants issues in the beginning, and from what I hear, they're pretty much all like that..... So that's a wrap anyways... Start off with a free draining soil, that only contains 1/3 to 50% organic matter, and the rest GRAN-I-GRIT and chances are, your experience with succulents will be leaps and bounds better this time around! ;)

-Erika

lakesRus84
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

Oooohhh wait... Maybe I misunderstood your question... you meant tools in the literal sense, or overall? Either way..... free raining soil is a must and you NEED gran-I-Grit! ;)

Sweyn
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

lakesRus84 wrote: I tried sand.... I mixed it with soil and perlite and all I got was something along the lines of concrete... concrete that looooooved holding water forever no less...
-Erika
What kind of sand did you use? That should not happen if you use the coarse kind that also used for building work.

lakesRus84
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

I believed it was coarse sand, but I may have been wrong.... or must have been wrong rather.... and that's why the smallest size of gran-I-Grit I spoke of here, is probably more along the lines of what I was really supposed to be working with (grade/texture wise)... thank goodness I figured it out before I lost my plants!!!

imafan26
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

I agree with Elizabeth, succulents don't mind a little neglect. Full sun, a well drained media and pots that breathe. I do not over pot my succulents. It is the only way to keep them smaller longer. I have both cacti and succulents without thorns. My cats are indoors but I doubt a cat would make a bed in cacti anyway. Shelving is a good idea, but mine are outdoors so I just need a place with good sun and out of range of the sprinklers but still accessible with a garden hose.

A drill with a ceramic bit and a soldering iron I find very useful for putting extra holes in pots. Especially if you want to grow succulents in a recycled container or teacup. I don't like plastic pots, but some of my plants are in them so I use the soldering iron to put more holes in the pot. I also do the same for plastic pots that my orchids are in.
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Mr green
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

don't have much tips for tools really, other than cacti turns beautiful by neglect! And those prickly pears, torch those hairs with a burner, or over a gas stove or even a barbeque grill, and they will burn off, then you can handle them as you want. And they are the most lovely tasting fruit, specially the red variety.

I grow some different cacti, and most of them are shown love by neglecting their existense most of the time. I have seed sown Lophophora that i have in the same pots i germinated them in! That was soon 10 years ago. Tools are little needed in theese cases... ;)
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imafan26
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

I use cinder, #3 rocks or pea gravel for most of my succulents. I do have some in nursery pots but they have extra holes for drainage.
I cannot use scissors very much because my succulents are not that small for the most part. The small ones are not the problem. I have to thin the aloe twice a year and they are heavy and the sap is slimy and sticky. Cereus is the same way. I can cut them off where the sections are but they are too thick for a scissors. they like to go over the wall into the neighbor's yard. I use a hand saw on those. I can use loppers if I can get between them and they aren't that thick. With the aloe, sometimes, I just pull and take out wherever it breaks.

I have to sluggo the succulents because the slugs and snails don't care about the thorns, they still eat them.

Sometimes the cacti can get really tall, then it helps to put the pot in a cement pot or a bigger pot with the space filled with rocks to counter the weight of the top.

Rain tent helps. If it rains a lot I either have to to move the succulents or put up a temporary shelter to keep them drier.
I make a pvc frame and put a clear plexiglass over it. it keeps out the rain but lets the sun through. I can add plastic sheeting to the sides but I don't like to block the air, as long as the rain is not being driven by wind, the plexiglass keeps them dry enough. Plastic sheeting did not work as a roof because the water collected and collapsed the roof.

I have my succulents on a mini terrace of stacked hollow tiles. I have three tiers that keeps the plants dry and gives them maximum exposure to light. The tiers are pitched so they don't hang onto water either.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Greywolf
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Re: Essential and useful tools for cactus and succulent care

Cat Litter should be avoided, I think. It is essentially baked clay, that can break down and form that "BRICK-LIKE" soil mentioned above. Baking it forms it into pellets, but over time (and water absorption and release) they break down into guess what? CLAY once again, and that is like adding portland cement to your mix.

Kitty litter is also designed from the start to ABSORB MOISTURE... (not to mention smells) so those are two reasons it should be avoided, even if you find a brand with no chemical additives to make it smell springtime fresh or whatever - that could become a third reason.

We think of cat litter as being light weight coarse grainy stuff, but it doesn't stay that way long. Its effects are the opposite.

Some options I can think of if you find a good price for it are aquarium gravel (available in whatever your favorite colors are!) and lava sand, or lava gravel.

But the ultimate source of cactus soil is if you happen to be driving down interstate forty anywhere between california and oklahoma and have an empty tub or some lawn and garden bags with you
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