Sempervivum forum→It is time for atonement

Page 1 of 2 • 1 2
Views: 1149, Replies: 39 » Jump to the end
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Butterflies Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums
Bee Lover Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter
Image
tcstoehr
May 2, 2021 9:16 PM CST
Once upon a time I started a semp garden. I constructed rock-lined, raised beds filled with the local native Canby soil excavated from a corner of my yard. I acquired every semp I could get my hands on and planted them throughout my rockery expecting them to take hold and grow and look beautiful.
The results? Spectacular beyond my expectations. Every last one of them was the picture of health and could grace the pages of a Sempervivum journal. In fact a couple did end up in Kevin's recent semp book. (pages 15, 28, 69, 171 thanx Kevin!) As my semps prospered I believed that either I had the midas touch or that semps were totally trivial to grow. Here's a reasonably typical example:


This continued for a few years but eventually my semps fell upon hard times. Here is 'Pepito' today. (the center portion of the pic)
Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/0dc50b
This is below the average but at least it's still alive. I have a handful of name tags of cultivars that either bit the dust or I gave up on. I didn't give up on 'Pepito' because it is such a rare beauty.

So the question is... what the heck is going on?

Instead of blaming myself I used the weather as an excuse. The cold, wet winters do not make semps happy I was told and I do suppose that is true. So I blamed that. But that doesn't hold water cuz the first three years everything increased and prospered. And then there was the 'Purple Dazzler' affair. This semp started out awesome and slowly degraded like so many others. Many attempts were made to help this guy along in situ but its vigor continued downward. In desperation to save its life I moved it into a pot that I could move around and protect it from the nasty, wet winters. It immediately took off with furious growth. But far from protecting it, I neglected it and left it out for two straight winters. Did those nasty winters damage it? Not one little bit. So I have stopped blaming the weather.

'Purple Dazzler' did however offer a strong suggestion that soil was the real issue. The pot I had put it in was filled with a mixture of local soil, peat moss and compost. But then why had I had several years of great success in my semp garden with my local silty loam?

I think the common factor is air availability to the roots. The pot blend I used is light and fluffy and offers air penetration. And my semp garden soil was excavated and broken up, and so contained an abundance of air pockets of all sizes. But as time goes by this silty loam settles down and is very dense. The local vegetable farmers love it but they also do cover crops and regular discing, and they also use raised rows. I guess I could learn a thing or two from them.

Looking back at many new semp introductions into my declining semp garden, I have to confess to a cardinal sin. When planting offsets I would only open the soil just enough to insert the roots and expected that to work fine. And it sorta did and sorta didn't. I should have taken the opportunity to dig up as much soil as possible to make it easier for root expansion.

So... it is time for atonement. The root zone must be improved. Here is 'Pepito's new situation.
Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/b06968
I cleared the gravel away and dug down 8 inches and worked the soil before replanting. Only time will tell if 'Pepito' will return to glory. A dose of QuickStart couldn't hurt.

Another problem area was a NOID calcareum which I dearly loved. It prospered well and then declined like so many others. I tried several times to rejuvenate it with offsets taken from a separate planting and those all failed. I was again being lazy and not working the soil. So here again I've finally made the effort to work the soil down 8 inches to lighten it up. Here's the new planting and we'll see if this one takes off.
Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/5c2684

The real solution it seems would be to re-dig the entire semp garden. I really, really don't want to do that. I'm wondering if there's an easier way. I picked out a few cultivars that were looking a bit weak and tried an experiment on them. I took a small trowel and drove it into the soil all around each semp and "popped" the soil up. Kind of like using a broadfork but on a much smaller scale. It will likely do some root damage but will also introduce some air into the soil. I'm trying this on 'Starshine', 'Silverine' and 'Purple Dazzler'. I have pictures of the first two so I can compare later.
Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/b72a7e Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/c37c7e

I'm thinking if this works I can make it a yearly task to 'pop' the soil on the same day that I apply Quickstart in Spring. My guess is that it will improve the situation but never back to the glory days. I can live with that.

I'll try to remember to post updates here as I get results. It shouldn't be too long as I did all this at least two weeks ago.
Name: Sol Zimmerdahl
Portland, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Sempervivums Garden Art Container Gardener
Image
GeologicalForms
May 2, 2021 10:50 PM CST
Looking forward to your updates Tim!
Aeration, as you are probably aware is a big part of landscapers efforts to rejuvenate lawns, your efforts to open up the soil remind me of those fertilizer machines which plug little holes in the ground as they spread the nutrients.
The bonsai folks insist on using only large particle ingredients in their soils to keep the pores open and allow air transfer during watering. I read in a bonsai book that the air/soil around the roots becomes toxic as the roots digest nutrients, a porous soil allows for the area around the roots to be cleansed during watering, this could be important for semps to as they are also a slow growing plants (compared to things like vegetables and weeds). I've certainly found that they prefer open soil, the dense mud we have around here is no good for growing them, I tried growing my first "fancy" NoIDs in the native soil for three years before I picked up a book on hardy succulents to try and figure out why they weren't growing, when I dug them up to atone for my sin of using dense clay, the roots were in shockingly poor shape, stunted, gnarled and some were even being preyed upon by subterranean pests taking advantage of their weakened state. Never again will I subject sempervivum to such a tortured existence. Good fluffy soil is key. Very much hoping you're experiment pans out.
-Sol
Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Image
webesemps
May 2, 2021 10:54 PM CST
So , Tim with a little time spent solving soil aeration problems, back to the real time killer, pickleball?
[Last edited by webesemps - May 2, 2021 10:55 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2493052 (3)
Name: Julia
Washington State (Zone 7a)
Photo Contest Winner 2018 Garden Photography Region: Pacific Northwest Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Dog Lover Sempervivums Container Gardener Foliage Fan Greenhouse
Image
springcolor
May 2, 2021 11:10 PM CST
I've had this same problem with the sheep troughs I planted. Last summer I pulled the semps out, reworked the soil, adding pea gravel and pumice. Then replanted. They are thriving. My trouble was too much sand. I know better now.
Sempervivum for Sale
Name: Kevin Vaughn
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
JungleShadows
May 3, 2021 8:22 AM CST
Tim,

I think your analysis is correct. I have the best luck in my fairly fluffy premium perennial mix that seems never to really compact but even there the semps benefit from replanting to new soil every now and then.

I'm sure your garden will return to its former glory!

Kevin
Name: Karen
New Mexico (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Greenhouse
Sempervivums Bromeliad Adeniums Morning Glories Avid Green Pages Reviewer Brugmansias
Image
plantmanager
May 3, 2021 10:08 AM CST
Tim, I've seen the same thing at my place. I had a bed that was doing very well at 3 years old. Last summer it was glorious, and I was so happy with it. Now it looks terrible. We did have an extremely hard and cold winter, but they should have been ok. I will have to tear the whole thing up and re-do it. Sighing!
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!
Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
valleylynn
May 3, 2021 10:20 AM CST

Moderator

Great observations Tim. Love the photo documentation.
I had to do the same thing with my raised beds every couple of years. I usually did it later in the growing season when I would downsize colonies. I would take the entire colony up and rework the area for each colony. I would usually replant mostly young offset to keep the colonies strong.
I look back and realize that is what happened to my 'Purple Dazzler'. It grew so well for me the first 2 or 3 years, then started into decline. Thanks to your gift of a new start, it is doing beautiful in the new raised bed with it's fluffy new soil. Thank you Tim.
Something I will do different from now on is to do this work in the early spring, instead of late summer/early fall. In the spring they are at the peak of regenerating. Perfect time to redo soil. Thumbs up
I agree with Kevin, your garden will be the show place we have all come to love. Lovey dubby
Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
valleylynn
May 3, 2021 10:23 AM CST

Moderator

Karen, don't let it overwhelm you. Just do a tiny piece at a time. Sometimes that is the only way we can get it done. How do you eat/repair an elephant/semp colony, one bite/colony at a time. Big Grin
Name: Karen
New Mexico (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Region: Arizona Cactus and Succulents Plant Identifier Plays in the sandbox Greenhouse
Sempervivums Bromeliad Adeniums Morning Glories Avid Green Pages Reviewer Brugmansias
Image
plantmanager
May 3, 2021 11:00 AM CST
Thanks, Lynn. It is overwhelming at the moment. I will have to do it in small bites.
Handcrafted Coastal Inspired Art SeaMosaics!
Name: Chris
Ripon, Wisconsin
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Garden Ideas: Master Level Seller of Garden Stuff I sent a postcard to Randy!
Sempervivums Sedums Region: Wisconsin Hosted a Not-A-Raffle-Raffle Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Art
Image
goldfinch4
May 3, 2021 12:49 PM CST
Great observations Tim. For quite some time now every year I've been selecting a bunch of clumps and redoing the soil under them, thin out the clumps, and replant the healthiest ones. In the long run it seems to be working well!
Virginia (Fairfax) (Zone 6/7) (Zone 7a)
Sempervivums Sedums Region: Virginia Garden Photography Container Gardener Bookworm
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Houseplants Native Plants and Wildflowers Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Amaryllis
Image
sedumzz
May 3, 2021 12:53 PM CST
I can't believe I didnt recieve notifications for this thread! I am going ot have to catch up
Virginia (Fairfax) (Zone 6/7) (Zone 7a)
Sempervivums Sedums Region: Virginia Garden Photography Container Gardener Bookworm
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Houseplants Native Plants and Wildflowers Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Amaryllis
Image
sedumzz
May 3, 2021 12:58 PM CST
I use around 50-60% sand added to old garden soil (primarily used to be pure garden soil from like home depot, I had tomatoes and veggies that used up all the nutrients from the preiovs year). Soil over time compacts and gets less aerated so i hope that adding more sand, gravel, and mulch bits will help.

My semp/sedum bed (and old semp bed) consisted of around a foot to six inches of sandy mix and there was a thin layer of bark/leaves, and than below that was pretty much just regular garden soil with 10-20% sand. This way the semps get water when I am away from the garden during droughts, whereas they dont get total wet feet. I do end up changing the mix to 100% sandy mix after the plants get fully established. Most don't care though.

If anyone has ever had containers before for a long time such as a year or two without soil maitenence you may see that the soil level "drops", because the soil compacts. Adding chunky things like bark bits, gravel, and sand help it stay fluffy.

You should be able to recycle old dirt by adding fluffy helper ingredients, if your budget can only afford sand/gravel. You'd probably want to add a bit o' fertilizer too.
[Last edited by sedumzz - May 3, 2021 1:03 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2493518 (12)
Name: Melissa Hopper
St. Helens, Or (Zone 8a)
Semp addict horse junky dog flunky
Sempervivums Keeps Horses Dog Lover Critters Allowed Enjoys or suffers cold winters Garden Photography
Hummingbirder Region: Oregon
Image
MelissaHopper
May 3, 2021 4:07 PM CST
I have found this can apply to plants grow in containers which is all I do.

The first couple of years they go great but then they start to decline and I find myself redoing them.

Typically I just start a whole new container with fresh soil, tear up the old colony, replant a whole bunch of them in the new soil and replant some in small pots to sell.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Utah Bee Lover Garden Photography Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Photo Contest Winner: 2015
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Photo Contest Winner 2018 Photo Contest Winner 2019 Photo Contest Winner 2020
Image
dirtdorphins
May 3, 2021 9:14 PM CST
Interesting.... Thinking
Mpls (Zone 4b)
johnmonno
May 4, 2021 9:53 PM CST
This may be off topic but I'll give it a shot. The other day I was peeing in one of my large compost bins and I fell in. I begin thrashing around in a vain attempt to get out. The more I struggled the deeper I got. I must have turned the pile 5 times with all the commotion. And it was extremely hot as I added copious amounts of greens two days prior. I actually started to decompose. My calls for help went unnoticed (or maybe they were noticed but no one cared) until a good Samaritan pulled me out. He offered me a beer but I declined as that how I got in the predicament in the first place. Anyway, my question is, have any of you used compost in your semp beds that actually contains part of your own body as part of the composted materials ?
Name: Lynn
Oregon City, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
valleylynn
May 4, 2021 10:00 PM CST

Moderator

Compost might be way to rich for semps John, with or without the human body parts. Whistling
Name: Jo Ann
Washington State (Zone 7a)
Sempervivums
Image
ricos
May 5, 2021 4:01 AM CST
Compost is way too rich for Semps. in anything but a very small amount as a top dressing.
Tim this is a great thread.
The pot of Purple Dazzler went on a huge journey towards decline this past winter. It was not sitting in full rain so was not getting too wet. I decided to re pot it. When I got all the plants out the soil seemed to have shrunk and when I dumped it out it was like a concrete rock. The plants had almost no roots. But not to worry.....they are replanted in 3 5/8 pots and some in bigger pots and all are now doing well. I wonder if this plant is an especially heavy feeder for a Semp???
All soil in beds and especially containers needs to be replenished at least every 2 years and the native soil where you live Tim is very rich and heavy. Excellent for the Dahlias and nursery crops which grow so well there, but not good for Semps and other alpines. I use a mix of composted bark, coir and pumice. This is a free draining mix that the Semps. and sedums really love. It's close to what they have in their native habitats, (bits of rock, twigs & leaves that get stuck in crevices in the rocks of the Alps etc) Sand is for desert plants not alpines and if you were to add sand to your existing soil I am pretty sure you would have concrete since your natural soil contains some clay.
It would be a huge job to redo your entire riverbed all at once but taking it a bit at a time is do able. Even one plant at a time will get it done eventually and will result in less mess in your yard. Best of luck with your new project.
Virginia (Fairfax) (Zone 6/7) (Zone 7a)
Sempervivums Sedums Region: Virginia Garden Photography Container Gardener Bookworm
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Houseplants Native Plants and Wildflowers Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Amaryllis
Image
sedumzz
May 5, 2021 5:46 AM CST
Compost? Meh... i only have a small one that produces only enough for the veggies. (It is not big because other wise Max would roll around it Hilarious! )

Throwing dead leaves as a layer of dirt? Yea.

I have a layer to dead leaves around 6 inches under a sandy layer of dirt that keeps the soil moist and acts as long term fertilizer.

Jo Ann,
I agree. Sand alone is not good as a soil ammendment for semps. If you put only sand the soil becomes sort of like the texture of Gelato or fresh icecream. It is not airy. Adding gravel, pumice, or chunky mulch stuff (without dye) or perlite (not prefereed but it could work i guess) would fix that.
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Utah Bee Lover Garden Photography Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Photo Contest Winner: 2015
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Photo Contest Winner 2018 Photo Contest Winner 2019 Photo Contest Winner 2020
Image
dirtdorphins
May 5, 2021 6:46 AM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
Thanks John
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Butterflies Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums
Bee Lover Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter
Image
tcstoehr
May 6, 2021 6:46 PM CST
webesemps said:So , Tim with a little time spent solving soil aeration problems, back to the real time killer, pickleball?


Three hours a day and 5-7 days a week on the pickleball court does reduce time available for garden maintenance. Worse yet is the physical exhaustion. Last year I did let my semp garden get overrun with spurge, lambs ears, daisy and foxglove seeds by the millions. Under control now.

OK...time for a first glance. This is after 3 weeks I'm estimating.

Let's take a look at my rework of my NOID calcareum.
This one's a no-brainer. These offsets were transferred from a separate colony and are clearly establishing and growing and looking healthy. Previous attempts without rework failed miserably. I pretty much expected this result.
Thumb of 2021-05-06/tcstoehr/49f6a9

The second rework is of 'Pepito'. Not as obvious but the offsets were in pretty bad shape when I did this, and one of them even croaked. I'd say it's coming along slowly and I'm hopeful for a recovery. I can see improvement but more is needed.
Thumb of 2021-05-07/tcstoehr/32d190

Here is 'Starshine' that received a soil "lifting" by just pushing my trowel down in various places and popping the soil up, allowing air pockets. This is before and after. I'm gonna say there's some good improvement. Three weeks of spring weather and a dose of Quickstart might have helped, so I can't be too sure, but I am hopeful. I'll have to wait and see if a full recovery follows.
Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/b72a7e
Thumb of 2021-05-07/tcstoehr/717d93


'Silverine' was another stubborn performer. It also received a soil lift and seems to have benefited nicely. It could be for the other reasons I mentioned but at least I can say that it's headed in the right direction and I'm not destroying its root system too badly.
Thumb of 2021-05-03/tcstoehr/c37c7e
Thumb of 2021-05-07/tcstoehr/b31ae8

Here is 'Silver Song' and 'Purple Dazzler' which both received a soil lift. I forgot to take the "before" pictures but here's what they look like today. 'Silver Song' has been a slow performer but now has (I believe) added a bit of growth and definitely looks better than last year.
I can't tell if 'Purple Dazzler' has grown any bit it seems healthy and is throwing a solid set offsets.
Seems like these two are at least headed in the right direction.
Thumb of 2021-05-07/tcstoehr/8796f5
Thumb of 2021-05-07/tcstoehr/2b7139

Very soon I will be fertilizing the whole semp garden. I will give each and every semp a soil lifting. I'll take large group pictures for general comparison. Then wait and see.

This has me considering cultivars that I have given up in the past. I figured they were just wimpy so why bother with them. Maybe my wimpy maintenance efforts were the real problem. I recall the fabulous 'Lavender and Old Lace' which grew wonderfully but tanked badly in later years. Similarly 'Pacific Blue Ice'. I think I'll give them both another try but with a little more TLC.

Atonement has begun... resurrection to follow. Crossing Fingers!

Page 1 of 2 • 1 2

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Sempervivum forum
Only the members of the Members group may reply to this thread.

Member Login:

[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by sedumzz and is called "Drenched Floss Flower "

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.