Vacuuming the Sotols

Elsewhere February seems determined to be one for the record books. Added to worries for family and friends all over the country, there’s now anxiety for the gardens and their owners all over the world I’ve come to know through the Internet, through blogs. (Never another gardener to be found on our own street, we have to search the world to find each other.) Take the greatest care for your safety, please. Last night my mom described news reports of the building of enormous snowmen with traffic cones for noses, fire-breathing Godzillas made of snow. Mustering such amazing panache in the face of winter fully baring its teeth, we salute you!

Temps did drop down to 37 last night, no worry for any garden, and this Dasylirion longissimum, aka Mexican Grass Tree, Longleaf Sotol, Toothless Sotol, can handle temps to 15 F. Taxonomically, this sotol has recently left the Agavaceae and joined up with nolinas in the Ruscaceae. Taxonomists do nothing but break up families, the busy little home-wreckers. The leaves of the Desert Spoons have that widening at the base that gives them their common name. This base with the intricate cross-hatching of leaves is also where all the trash and debris builds up. (Never park a dasylirion in autumn under a deciduous tree.)


Like having a party when the house is clean, after a good vacuum, the sotol is ready for its closeup.
See the spoon-shaped swelling of the leaves where they meet the base? And notice how clean and free from debris it is?


Faster growing than a cycad, which isn’t saying much, I’ve had it for many years, though it’s never flowered. Unlike most agaves, which practice the religion of Monocarpism, this dasylirion will flower and live to tell the tale. This year I’ll begin stripping the lower leaves away from the base, allowing its distinctive caudex to shine.

Once the trunk starts to form, there’ll be less and less opportunity for debris to catch at the base. I don’t own much garden equipment, certainly nothing with a motor like a leaf blower, so had no bigger plan other than idly picking at the debris caught in the interstices with my fingers or using chopsticks, a safe if ineffective approach with this spineless sotol. Talk about futile. Yesterday a tire pump air compressor was suggested as a solution and, zut alors! the problem was solved. I also used the compressor to spritz a couple of nearby agaves suffering from the same problem. We might be incapable of building eccentric snowmen in February, but by god, we can keep the sotols vacuumed.

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4 Responses to Vacuuming the Sotols

  1. Pam/Digging says:

    I use a leaf blower to blow leaves and other debris out of my agaves and sotols. Glad the vacuum trick worked for you.

  2. Laguna Dirt says:

    the air compressor was very resourceful of you! the couple i posted about with the hacienda garden use long dentist’s pliers to preen all their prized cacti, succulents, etc. i actually do use one of those shop vacs sometimes on my backyard. i know, not very organic or pc, but highly effective, especially in those hard to reach spots.

  3. Les says:

    We are decidedly low tech here, and the only household device repurposed outdoors is a long bread knife. It makes quick work of ornamental grasses and liriope at cut back time. Please don’t tell the wife.

  4. Denise says:

    Pam, it occurred to me later that maybe a hairdryer works too, but I don’t own one of those either.
    LD, the resourcefulness was my husband’s, not mine. I did say it was “suggested.” I
    Les, I’ve grabbed one of those too — I won’t tell if you won’t!

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