Dracaena saved by "big mess" in the alley

>I was nearly forced to pay good money for rocks this week, but thanks to a neglected SDG & E worksite in my alley, I saved myself several dollars and saved the life of my plant.

My leggy 8-foot dracaena had long ago outgrown the tiny 14-inch terracotta pot in which it had been imprisoned for the past 15 years of its life, and it nearly died from the shock of sub-60 degree San Diego-style cold temperatures and morning fog brought on by early June gloom last month. Two weeks ago I finally moved it to a new home in a larger pot in the north corner of my living room. (Contrary to popular belief, dracaenas do take some effort, although once you get them settled, you can basically ignore them, and they actually appreciate that–the dracaena is a very independent plant).

The big problem is drainage–the plant (hardy and independent as it is) must not be allowed to sit submerged in runoff water in the bottom of the saucer or the roots will eventually rot, and in the meantime the plant will get too much water and the little foliage the plant has will slowly begin to turn brown and fall off.

I realized that I needed to find some pieces of junk to put into the bottom to hold up the plant, but I knew from years of experience in San Diego that I would never find any useful junk just lying around free for the taking that I might find useful. San Diego’s reputation as “America’s Finest City” is supported largely through the efforts of ordinary citizens enforcing order, keeping every square inch of ground spotless and free of trash. And now in my new posh neighborhood, even the dumpsters have locks on them to prevent the homeless from stealing the trash. But seriously, who in their right mind wants to pay good money for rocks and bricks and junk to throw into your potting soil?

Even the construction site across the street was no help. All the good junk had been whisked away immediately, and all that remains today are two tidy mounds of gravel, clumps of clay arranged neatly in a narrow row that runs alongside the bike path, and a parked bobcat, all safely sequestered behind a bright yellow ribbon of warning tape. . . .

Then I remembered a nice pile of concrete chunks in the alley that I had seen earlier in the week. According to reports from neighbors, the “big mess” is just typical of SDG & E workers who “will come and dig a big hole in the ground and then you never know when they will come back and clean it up.”

Neighborhood historian Evelyn Sturm noted that workers from SDG & E had indeed been working on the lines by 7:30 AM on Thursday morning, and they parked their vehicle in front of Roger’s parking spot and garage door, blocked the alley, and at lunch time dropped french fries and drips of ketchup onto the ground beneath the transformer drum and didn’t clean it up. “What kind of a person makes a big mess like that and doesn’t stop to clean up after himself? Its just like the people that won’t sweep the trash room, always waiting for someone else to do the work. Pretty soon we are going to have rats living there in the trash room,” Sturm remarked. According to Sturm, the workers left by 3:00 and she wasn’t surprised a bit, because you can never count on union workers to put in a full day of work.

Fortunately, the loose concrete worked perfectly for me, and I pilfered five good sized lumps from the dump site to to lay a foundation under the dracaena.


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