January 06, 2022

When Melissa put some of her succulents in the ground last year it was toward the end of summer.  That meant temperatures were still warm, but not too hot to risk killing the small plants before they could get set in the ground.  Our winter was initially a mild cold, but we knew it would eventually drop below freezing.  That is why we created the back porch greenhouse and placed cover cloth over the outside beds.  The greenhouse worked great, and even though it dropped to -20F (-29C) outside the plastic and space heater never allowed the temperature to drop below 26F (-3C).  The front beds did not fair so well, and we lost most of the uncovered hen and chick and several of the covered larger agaves.  As the temps began to drop again this year, we are hoping the outside plants will fare better.

When I looked online, I found there are thousands of varieties of succulents, but it is hard to identify the exact number of species.  In botany, succulents are “plants with parts that are thickened, fleshy, and engorged, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions.”  This characteristic is not used as a scientific definition of most succulents as it can often only be an accurate characteristic at the single species level.  Erin Marino, plant expert and director of brand marketing at The Sill explains, “succulent is an umbrella term that can be attributed to any plant that has evolved adaptations to survive arid conditions [and] does not refer to any specific family of plants.”  It is also possible for non-succulents to become succulents in response to changes in their climate conditions.  The site recommended growing succulents if you do not have a green thumb as they grow better without constant monitoring.  While that may be true with a single plant, it is not the case with over 300 of the little guys.

When we built the porch greenhouse and covered the front beds last year it was a labor-intensive task.  That does not mean it was hard, but it took a long time.  I measured and cut the plastic, figured out a way to attach it to the windows, and then set it in place.  I used gromets on the outside cloth to keep it from tearing.  This did not work and caused the mesh to tear in the wind.  This year setup went better.  The outside plastic went up quickly, and we only resealed one of the seven sheets we had kept from last year.  Melissa decided to move most of the outside hen and chick and repurpose them inside, so we only covered the bed under the Chinese Elm.   I omitted the gromets, reset the stakes to keep the cloth off the plants and along with Melissa’s help had the entire bed covered in less than 20 minutes.  This was not only quicker, but the results seem much better.

Thoughts:  In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary I found, “bet·ter (adjective) 1 : higher in quality, 2 : more skillful, 3 : more attractive, appealing, effective, useful, etc.”  As I compared this to our succulents and their care, it seemed to match all three usages.  The placement of the cloth on the front bed was done with higher quality by eliminating the gromets this year.  It was done more skillfully as we laid the cloth both faster and achieved more even coverage of the plants.  Finally, the result looks more compact and attractive than it did before.  We did better.  As we continue to struggle with the lasting effects of the pandemic we need to do better.  Better when it comes to caring for others.  Better with showing compassion for those with different understandings.  Better when it comes to supporting essential workers.  Better when it involves our children.  We just need to do better.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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