From the producer: December 12, 2008

I can’t believe it, I really can’t!  The flowering Christmas cactus our neighbor Amelia and her daughter gave us last Christmas Eve is blooming like crazy. Here’s the first flower to open this year.

I’d never grown one, and was just sure I’d kill it by Valentine’s. It was coincidental that I was reading Doug Welsh’s Texas Garden Almanac, and there was a section on their care.

I put it in the front room window, where it gets bright light and actually some late afternoon hot blasts if I don’t pull down the blinds.  I’ve made sure not to over-water it, but not let it go bone dry, either. Generally, I water it once a week after sticking in my finger. Every now and I then I turn it, but not often. I didn’t do anything special about its light conditions this fall, but the front room is dark after Harvey goes to bed. (It was the only room to install his cage). This is beginner’s luck at its best!

Outside, the lesser goldfinches are back.

Last year we bought a big bag of Nyjer thistle seeds for them, but hardly a handful arrived. This year, flocks started arriving a month ago. Now we’re back to filling the feeders every day, and glad to do it!

Over the years, we’ve gotten two feeders to hang in the crepe myrtle so we can watch them from the den. Every fall we get a few more socks, too, since they’re such a finch favorite, but they just don’t last that long, especially if a squirrel hops on.

Last weekend I finished off the bulbs and threw in a few more lettuce seeds, since the transplants already bolted. I watered the rest of them with a seaweed mixture, but need to pick up a formula with fish emulsion and molasses.

Water is what everything wants most.  I deep-watered new transplants and the ones I recently moved.  With a sigh, I turned on the sprinkler system one night.  I hated to do it during waste-water averaging, but drought, high winds, and up-and-down temperatures are terribly stressful on plants.

This weekend, I’m finally going to move a few spiderworts to under the turks caps and do a little weeding and freeze cleanup.  That’s about it until I have a few days off during Christmas.

Speaking of:  if you have a Christmas tree, I got a press release this week about using Epsom Salt.  “Add one cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water as needed. Epsom Salt is highly soluble and is quickly absorbed. Magnesium and sulfur, the main components of Epsom Salt, help to restore essential nutrients to the tree. It can also help to extend needle retention and even boost the balsam evergreen scent.”

Here’s John Dromgoole’s recipe from Backyard Basics a few years ago.  Be cautious or omit the chelated iron since it will damage your floors if spilled.  You can also substitute a clear sugary soft drink for the corn syrup. Also, remember that we have many of John’s formulas online.  Click on his picture to see them all.

John Dromgoole’s
How to Make your Christmas Tree Last Longer

This recipe contains bleach, so be careful about getting it on a carpet or rug.
This recipe will NOT make your tree fire PROOF, but it will slow down the drying-out.

* 2 cups Karo Syrup
* 2 oz. liquid bleach
* 2 pinches Epsom salt
* 1/2 t. borax
* 1 tsp. chelated iron
* hot water


* Mix fireproofing materials.  Fill a 2-gallon bucket with hot water to within an inch of the top and add the ingredients.  Stir thoroughly.
* With a saw, make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk.  Cut off at least an inch.
* Stand the tree in this solution for 24 hours.
* Put the tree in its tree-stand and fill the well with the solution.
* Keep the rest of the solution in a container to replenish the tree-stand well every day.

How it works:

The Karo syrup provides the necessary sugar to allow the base of the tree to take up water.   The tree may take up 1/5 gallons of water over a two-week period.  Boron in the borax allows the tree to move the water and sugar out to every branch and needle in the tree.  Magnesium compounds in the Epsom salt and iron from the chelated iron provide essential components for the production of chlorophyll that will keep the tree green.  The bleach keeps mold from forming in your solution.  This procedure will help prevent the needles from dropping and will increase the natural fragrance of the tree.

Linda notes: You can also spray your tree with an anti-desiccant like Cloud Cover.  I’ve used this before with great success. And, I always keep Epsom Salt in the shed to add to my rose and Satsuma fertilizers.

Until next week, Linda