Secret to Amazing Zygocactus (Christmas Cactus)

Holiday time at our house means that we are going to have an explosion of colour from our Zygocactus – a.k.a. Christmas cactus. Before the details of how to grow them here on the Texas gulf coast, a little bit about these plants. These plants are native to Brasil, and are in the genus Schlumbergera. The ones you will get around here are cultivars of those native species in the Truncata group. The term Zygocactus comes from the shape of the flower which is of a different shape on the upper side, than the lower – zygomorphic.

Now the secret, I discovered accidentally –

Put your potted plant in deep shade – we keep ours under our enormous oak tree in the front of our house – and leave it there all year long. Don’t worry about heavy rains or wind, water a bit if it is looking particularly dry, and throw a little organic fertiliser in a couple of times a year. Ummm…that’s it. I would suggest you not move them around to different light conditions as they seem to be sensitive to sudden changes in growing conditions.

You may need to trim them a bit as they get rather leggy after a year or so. The best part of that is you can just jam the trimmings in a pot and most of them will root. After a couple of years you will have a new, full plant.

Christmas Cactus - and Rooted Cuttings. Blooms appeared last week.

Christmas Cactus - and Rooted Cuttings. Blooms appeared last week.

State of the Mid-November Garden

All set for the first weekend in a month that we have not had rain. The food garden is doing well with a enough lettuce for our first salad.

Leaf lettuce.

Leaf lettuce.


The shallots and onions are up and running. A few tomatoes are hanging in there after the pouring rain of the last few weeks. Some were damaged, but still salvageable, along with chili peppers, but the plants are still blooming and setting new fruit. Removed the ones too yucky to eat, and harvested about a dozen tomatoes and a couple of dozen chilies this past week. I am picking the tomatoes just as they begin to colour and ripening on the kitchen window sill, as the birds will spot them immediately after they turn red, and really tear into the fruit. My bok choi in the below photo is really getting some snail damage but I figure it is a small loss compared to what they are avoiding. The red mustard is looking very healthy but began to put up a flower spike which I pinched off.
Mid-Nov 2015 Garden

Mid-Nov 2015 Garden

Goldenrod

The weather is still dry but the temperatures are wonderful for gardening. Spent quite a bit of time irrigating the beds in the front of the house, and the vegetable garden. The tomatoes are hanging in there – my one bush is loaded with at least a dozen – and are quite large for an Early Girl variety. Lettuce and carrot seeds have sprouted and all of the greens that I purchased and put in the garden bed are doing swimmingly. Chili peppers are still outpacing my ability to consume them. I think a canning session is in my very near future.

A native flower I look forward to each year are the goldenrods, Solidago sp. I have managed to keep them restricted to where I want them but I am sure they would take up much more space if I let them. The variety that I have grows to about 7 feet tall with long spikes of yellow flowers, only in the fall. They are quite attractive now, after looking like very large weeds for much of the spring and summer. The bees and other pollinators are quite pleased as well and there is a lot of activity.

Goldenrods

Goldenrods

Honeybee on Goldenrod

Honeybee on Goldenrod

The “Fall” Garden

Well it is near 90 degrees, but it is…ahem…a “dry” heat. What a perfect day to plant the Fall salad garden! I cleaned up the first bed (10×5 Feet), pulling out a leftover bell pepper plant that was huge but from the look of the leaves was not going to be productive. I added enough leaf mould compost to level the entire bed and watered the whole bed thoroughly. I cheated a bit an put in a few store-bought plants I picked up at Enchanted Gardens yesterday.
Collards (Georgia), Pak Choi (Mei Qing Choi), and Mustard (Osaka Purple) shown here:

Misc Greens - Pak Choi, Mustard, Collard

Misc Greens - Pak Choi, Mustard, Collard


Picked up some lettuces as well, which I planted in the shade of the taller pepper plants to possibly increase the chances of survival in this heat:
Lettuce Plants - Romaine, Red Sails, Buttercrunch, Simplson Elite

Lettuce Plants - Romaine, Red Sails, Buttercrunch, Simplson Elite


Planted 3 short rows of carrot seeds, Red Cored Chantenay and Little Finger, and scattered a leaf lettuce mix between the carrots and around the blank spots in the bed. Also I decided I would go ahead and put in the perennial onions that I had in cold storage. Planted French Red Shallots, Yellow Potato Onions, Grey Griselle Shallots, and Egyptian Walking Onions.
Lastly added a little more support for my one spring-planted tomato that made it through the summer heat:
Spring-holdover Early Girl Tomato

Spring-holdover Early Girl Tomato


Now for a cold session ale and the easy chair…

Autumn…at last…

Fantastic weather this week for…well…almost anything! Nothing new on the brewing front as I was out of town for a week and did not get to the brew shop for ingredients. I did find a more local homebrew store that I didn’t realise was there until I discovered it on the way back from mulch run a couple weeks back. It is located on Hwy 90 near FM 359 in Richmond called, All About Brew. This will now be my go-to shop as I no longer have to trek all the way to DeFalco’s in Houston.

Although there was not any new brew in my fermenter that did not mean that beer was out of the picture this weekend. I persuaded the crew to join me at the Flying Saucer Beer Feast at Sugar Land Town Center. Tried way too many pumpkin beers ranging from insipid to fantastic. This is one of my favourite beer festivals as there is not a huge crowd, more beers than I could ever try in a day, with about 80 breweries represented.

The Crew at Flying Saucer Beer Feast in Sugar Land

The Crew at Flying Saucer Beer Feast in Sugar Land

Smart Pots and Compost Saks

I have begun using Smart Pots instead of plastic or ceramic flower pots around the yard.  They come in black and brown (as shown below), with and without handles. They are easy to fill and claim a number of benefits for the plants grown in them. I will only say that they are reasonably priced-enough that they are worth giving them a go. Take a look at their website linked above.

Compost Sak with prairie asters and a salvia.
Brown Smart Pot with prairie asters and a salvia.
I am also using one of the fabric bags that they manufacture for compost – the product is called the Compost Sak (same as Smart Pot link above). I use one for regular compost – a mix of a little of everything – and one for leaf mould compost only.

Compost Saks.
Compost Saks

Compost Sak with regular compost.
Compost Sak with my regular compost.

Stinkbugs!

Seems that Leaf-footed bugs or stinkbugs as some call them have made a move on my southern peas. They seem to prefer the zipper creams. After taking this photo I promptly picked off all that I could find and sent them to a timely death.

The large brown ones are adults and the small reddish-orange ones are juveniles. The small ones should not be confused with assassin bugs which are the same color to my eye, but are larger and solitary. The assassin bugs have been helping the ladybugs keep the aphids under control on the peas this summer.

Leaf-footed bugs on southern peas.

First Day of Fall?

Wow! Did fall blow into southern Texas and I didn’t realize it?

I am still harvesting my hot-weather loving southern peas and chilies by the handful but when I went out the back door with Smoky, Dusk (cats), and Jynx (dog) it was in the low 60s.

It was a great day for a trek to the garden supply stores.  Picked up a new hummingbird feeder at Southwest Fertilizer in Houston and hit Enchanted Gardens in Rosenberg to pick up a dozen bags of Nature’s Way double ground mulch. Even hauled my wife with me who picked out some succulents and miniatures for her fairy garden.

 

Chili Harvest

Harvested chilies from my garden today. Mix of Anaheim and Jalapenos.