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IN THE GARDEN: Converting cacti into compost

Turn invasive cacti into a beneficial compost with molasses. iStock photo

This is really exciting. Many people have a problem with cacti in their pastures/yards and don’t want to use chemicals to kill them. The chemicals are more harmful to us than the cacti. Instead of using harmful chemicals, try molasses.

Scrape the cacti from the soil (leaving not a single piece behind; whatever is left will grow back) and place them in a pile. Spray the pile with molasses. In proper time, that pile becomes awesome compost.

This works with a small amount, or, for ranchers, it works for large amounts. Sure beats using chemicals, and when it is over, there is a product left to assist in restoring the land. The major cause of cactus invasion is, of course, overgrazing for many years.


Molasses can be applied to both gardens and lawns at the rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square-feet. Molasses can be purchased at nurseries and feed stores. It comes in 40- to 50-pound bags in crystal form, which can be applied at the same rate. If you use the dry crystalized form, it would be best to spray compost tea on top of the molasses. Molasses feeds and encourages the beneficial microbiological life in your soil.


With your morning coffee or tea in hand, go on a stroll in your garden. Do you see powdery mildew or black spots on your roses? Are your squashes showing signs of squash vine borers? Do your tomatoes have block spots on the end? These pests, diseases, and deficiencies are much easier to take care of in the early stages and often with simple and safe solutions. Milk is a great mild fungicide and, if used at the first signs of distress, might be all you need.


Once the veggies start really producing, remember to pick them small and tender. We do this for two reasons. First of all, they taste better, and second, they produce more when you pick them often.

If you haven’t transplanted or planted your salad vegetables or herb garden yet, here’s an idea. Plant them in an old wheelbarrow (bore several holes in the bottom for drainage). Then, you can simply wheel your garden to your kitchen or front door for a really fresh salad.


  1. Foliar-feed the fruit trees and other trees and shrubs.
  2. MULCH, MULCH, and more MULCH!
  3. Pull weeds. (Take advantage of the moist soil. It’s much easier to pull after and during the April showers.)
  4. Deadhead blooms from geraniums, pansies, snapdragons, stock, and calendulas. (Deadhead means to remove the spent blooms. This practice encourages the continuation of the blooms.)
  5. Check your watering system. (Hoses crack in the winter? Drip irrigation in working order? Ants in your spray nozzle?)
  6. Beneficial nematodes applied? (YES)

What’s your favorite vegetable? Fruit? Pollinator plant? Pollinator? Have a question about companion gardening? Perhaps you would like to know what trees do well in our area. We’d love to answer your questions in our upcoming columns.

Till next time, Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener: Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

"In the Garden" is written by father-daughter duo Bill and Martelle Luedecke and Bill Luedecke. Contact Martelle at 512-769-3179 or Contact Bill at 512-577-1463 or

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