Designing 'Test-beds' for dry-climate plants...

Cold hardy desert plants etc.

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Paul Ont
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Designing 'Test-beds' for dry-climate plants...

Post by Paul Ont »

Hey all,

I'm thinking about how I will find space to test a bunch of dry-climate plants in my cold, wet, USDA zone 4b/5a climate... I have a bunch of Opuntia hybrids and selections to trial (p.s. if you have extra seeds of any cacti or Yucca please let me know!), both my own and from Tim, as well as Yucca selections and hybrids (also my own and from Tim, thanks again Tim!). I've run out of space for selecting plants in my 'main' cactus bed, so I'm thinking of different ways that I can make beds specifically for testing smaller plants over the winter.

What I'm thinking is that I will make a couple of beds in the following manner: In the back field in a sunny location (I may chop some trees for this) I will remove the grass from 2, 15' x 10' or so locations. I will then construct wooden boxes around these locations (maybe from old boards, maybe fom the trees I chop). I can then pile rocks in the bottom of these boxes to improve drainage. Then, I can pour sand mixed wiht pea stone over the rocks to about 4" deep. If necessary I can then top these with pea stone as well to discourage weed establishment... What do you think? Is there a better way? I have only level ground left for this purpose, and I figure that even with sharp drainage these will have plenty of mositure for cacti and Yucca...

Any ideas or comments are appreciated.

For an idea of what I'm talking about: http://www.mnn.com/sites/default/files/ ... n-beds.jpg
Not my picture.
Last edited by Paul Ont on Tue Feb 25, 2014 10:51 am, edited 2 times in total.


canadianplant
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Post by canadianplant »

Hey paul

I dont have much experience doing this, but there was a suggestion in a book I read (the Edible forest gardening series). They were talking about working with poor draining soil (clay) or situations where there is a thin layer of soil with hardpan underneath. Basically you dig a "drain" underneath the plant about 2 inches wide and 2 or 3 feet deep (basically so you get past the restictive layer). You then fill the "drains" with gravel.

In your case maybe putting a few of these in the bed before you put your rock/gravel layer to ensure that water wont sit below the rocks. IF you do choose to use raised beds that would definitely make this easier.

You worried about the less hardy plants being so far above ground in the winter?
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Post by teebee »

canadianplant wrote:They were talking about working with poor draining soil (clay) or situations where there is a thin layer of soil with hardpan underneath. Basically you dig a "drain" underneath the plant about 2 inches wide and 2 or 3 feet deep (basically so you get past the restictive layer). You then fill the "drains" with gravel.
Essentially this is a modified version of the "french drain" I had to get one put in my back yard as I had a spring dumping biblical proportions of water in my back yard. Since I had it put in My back yard is very nice and dry... before my back yard was a swampy mess.
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Post by lucky1 »

Interesting topic.

Might be huge raindrops landing on plants with the remaining tree canopies, washing sand away.
If that's your only location, a translucent roof would probably be necessary.
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hardyjim
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Post by hardyjim »

4" would be ok for small barrels but you need deeper drainage for Yucca,Agave etc.
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Paul Ont
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Post by Paul Ont »

Hey Barb- There won't be any trees nearby, if there are any (Damned European buckthorn) I'll cut them down. These will be put in a field setting with full sun.

I think I will raise the beds perhaps 5-6" above the soil level to get the plant parts high and dry above the 'wet' soil. The wet soil is generally cracked and dry in summer and actually slopes to the southwest. I'm not even a little worried about the cold with these plants, the wet is much more of a concern.
Cameron_z6a_N.S.
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Post by Cameron_z6a_N.S. »

Paul, are you planning on covering the cacti during the winter?
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lucky1
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Post by lucky1 »

the wet is much more of a concern.
Sure would be nice to have all that free water that back East receives... :wink:

5-6 inches above the wet soil is perfect.
I'm still not keen about sand, it actually holds moisture (in a pot anyway).

Railway ties would hold the soil borders nicely.
Or lumber, like a short cold-frame.

The SW aspect is perfect, Paul.

How about a pic of all the currently potted stuff you want to put in there?

Barb
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Paul Ont
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Post by Paul Ont »

Cam- NO protection! I want to evaluate for hardiness, and I don't think that overhead protection will help me evaluate that:)

Barb- Yaaa, I could use a little more moisture in summer for Magnolia and Rhododendron growth, they get a little dry here come July and August.

I'll see if I can't get a picture of my seedlings. They're pretty small still!
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TimMAz6
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Post by TimMAz6 »

it sounds like a good plan Paul. I did the same thing when I moved from Rhode Island to Massachusetts. I removed the grass turf and it's roots. Purchased a 50/50 mix of sand/peastone and placed it on the bare soil. I then covered the 50/50 mix with 100% peastone so rain will not erode the sand. It's works fine. The biggest issues I have seen with my bed it to:

1. most sun as possible
2. slope the top of the surface, don't make a uniformly flat surface bed.

Good luck! PS, you'll need to make a test bed for large leaf Rhodo's too! Are you messing with any rex hybrids? I've started a bunch of rex and macabeanum hybrids......hopefully there will be a few hardy big leafers in them!
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lucky1
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Post by lucky1 »

Magnolia and Rhododendron growth, they get a little dry here come July and August
Leaf mulch, old and new, will work wonders.

Barb
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