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Monday, July 29, 2013

Barrel Cactus Too Big and Must Be Moved

Q. I have a golden barrel cactus that has grown to 3ft wide in a place that I cannot leave where it is. It's a beautiful specimen, but I have to remove it. Any ideas on how to move it?  The thorns are lethal.

A. Now is actually a good time to move cacti. They can be moved any time except during, and about two months before, winter weather sets in. Unlike many other types of plants they do well moved in the summer.

            When we have moved these sized cacti in the past they were easy to move, taking the relocation without a hitch. We used a lot of thick gloves and old carpet remnants. We dug a trench around the cactus with a pick about 12 to 18 inches from the plant to a depth of about one foot.

            We then watered the trench to loosen the soil a bit and make digging easier in that lousy soil. We then began under cutting the plant to loosen the soil and cut the roots. We stopped when the roots had mostly all been cut and the plant seemed easy to roll with leverage from a shovel.

            Laying the carpet remnant to the side of the plant we were able to free the cacti and roll it on to the carpet pad. We then placed the cactus in a shady spot to heal the cut roots for two to three days before we planted it again.

            Our hole was dug and amended with compost, phosphorus and large rocks removed. The hole was cleared so that it was larger than the root ball of the cactus.

            After that healing period we moved the cactus to its new location and gently rolled it into its new location.  We then placed the amended soil around the roots and watered it in to remove air pockets.

            We tried to get the cactus at the same depth as it was in its old location. After the soil had drained of water we came back and added more amended soil until it was at the same depth and watered it in again.

            Once planted at the right depth we then watered deeply around the cactus no more than once every two to three weeks in the summer heat. In the fall it dropped to once a month and the winter only once during the winter cold.

            The next spring we watered once a month and increased it to every two to three weeks during the summer heat until we saw signs of growth. We then had to make a decision whether we wanted to make it grow more or not.

            If we wanted it to grow, we kept it on the same watering routine and added nitrogen every few months. If not, we reduced the watering to twice or three times during the summer and once during the winter with no additional fertilizer. I hope this helps.

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