Cacti from Seed / Mushroom problems in the garden
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Issue: May 24, 1999

Cacti from seed

Question:

I have many beautiful cacti in my rock garden. I have tried many times to plant the seeds, but I have never had any luck with planting cacti seeds. Is there anything special that needs to be done to make the seeds germinate?

Answer:

Cacti are usually propagated vegetatively from cuttings as it is more easily accomplished than growing them from seeds; however, it should be possible to grow the seeds as well.

If the seeds are well formed in the fruit, they should be alive and capable of growing. However, your cacti seeds will probably have dormancy factors within them to prevent their germination until environmental conditions are correct. This is very important to plants native to temperate, arid regions. The temperatures much be right; that is, the season should be proper, and there must be sufficient moisture for the seedling to grow sufficiently to survive the coming periods of insufficient water.

To overcome these dormancy factors it is probably necessary (I say "probably" because you didn't identify the species of cacti) to 1) scarify the seeds by scratching the seed coat with a small file or piece of sandpaper, then 2) soak the seed in several changes of water to leach away any chemicals which prevent germination, and finally 3) to stratify the seeds by storing them in moist vermiculite sealed in a plastic bag in a refrigerator for 6 to 8 weeks.

Once the seeds have been pre-treated in the manner described above, they may be planted in a moist, well-drained soil (potting soil mixed with sharp sand). Keep the seed moist in a brightly lighted, warm location until the seedlings appear. While the plants are small, do not let the soil dry, but do not water too often either.


Mushroom problems in the garden

Question:

How can I get rid of mushrooms that are growing in my garden? They are almost taking over the garden.

Answer:

It is interesting to receive a question from Canada that is relevant to New Mexico as well. Each year New Mexico County Extension Agents are asked this question: "How can I get rid of toadstools?"

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the answer is that you cannot get rid of the fungi that produce the mushrooms - however, we can do some things to limit mushroom production and manage the mushrooms themselves.

The fact that there are mushrooms indicates that there is a high level of organic matter in the garden. This organic matter is decomposing, releasing nutrients to the soil. This is good! The fungi producing the mushrooms are doing much of this decomposition and are a beneficial, and necessary, part of the environment. Once the organic matter has sufficiently decomposed (composted), the mushrooms will cease to appear. Be careful not to add too much uncomposted organic matter to the garden, rather compost this material before applying it to the garden. This will be of some help.

The other critical factor for formation of mushrooms in the garden is adequate water. Here in New Mexico, by limiting our irrigation and targeting water by use of drip irrigation to the specific area where water is needed, we can slow the growth of fungi in the soil and reduce the production of mushrooms.

For the existing mushrooms in your garden now, just rake them up and put them in the compost pile to decompose and produce good soil amendments for next year's garden. As new mushrooms appear, rake and compost.