Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Many gardeners are interested in going green. For those who are wishing to adopt sustainable gardening practices, cacti and succulents are the ideal plants for these landscapes.
Going green is about less input when it comes to gardening, particularly with respect to fertilizers and garden chemicals. Fertilizers are an issue because the runoff ends up in streams and waterways. The same is true for garden chemicals of all sorts, including insecticides and pesticides.
Cacti and succulents require much less fertilizers than most other plants, which in turn means less fertilizer runoff.
In addition, these plants are generally less prone to attack from insects, diseases, and other pests. So this means you’ll use fewer pesticides in the garden.
For garden beds in full sun, sun-loving species of cacti and succulents are a perfect choice. Prolonged drought isn’t a problem for these plants. In addition, when the rains come, cacti and succulents quickly soak up the water so that there will be less runoff.
When gardeners are going green, they’re looking for native plants rather than exotic or introduced ones. Though there are a few exceptions, cacti are almost always native to America. In addition, there are many excellent succulents that are native to North America as well. In a few cases, some of the popular garden perennials are introductions. However these exhibit far fewer signs of being invasive than many of the notorious invaders, such as the Russian olive, Oriental bittersweet, and barberry.
Cacti and succulents are very suitable for sustainable gardens. These are very good for problem areas of the landscape where erosion and runoff might be problems. Examples include banks and other steep areas. This also applies to dry areas under the eaves of a house where rainfall usually doesn’t reach.
When going green, the best approach is to propagate your own cacti and succulents when possible. Many of these can be grown from seeds. Cactus poaching is becoming a serious problem in the Southwest in particular. Never collect plants from the wild or knowingly buy plants that have been collected. Buy from reputable garden centers and nurseries that propagate and grow their own cacti and succulents.