Do you like the idea of using household cleaners that are natural? I do.
 
Did you know that citrus has natural cleaning properties?
 
It does.
 
I just finished making up a batch of citrus cleaner and wrote about it in my latest Birds & Blooms blog post that you can read here…
 
 
 
So, if you have a tree filled with citrus, or even if you have to buy some at the grocery store – this cleaner is well worth it!
 
 

This past week, I was blessed with harvesting produce from two different gardens.


One was from one of my vegetable gardens…


About a 1/4 of my side vegetable garden is planted with cauliflower.  

Over the weekend, I was able to harvest my first cauliflower of the season.  

Now, I am aware that some of you may not care for cauliflower.  Personally, I like it raw but NOT when it is cooked.

I’ll share with you a little secret that I have used to get my kids to eat cauliflower…


I cut the tops of the florets off, dice it and then sprinkle it on top of our dinner salads.  It looks like grated cheese.  I also slice carrots, celery and cucumbers to add to our salads, which not only add great flavor to salads – they are also a great way to get more vegetables into my kids 😉

The cauliflower was so delicious – it tasted like butter – seriously.

The next harvest was of another kind and from a different garden…


On the family farm, my mother has a large grapefruit tree.  

Now, as anyone who has ever had a grapefruit tree can tell you – these trees are overly generous in the amount of fruit that they produce.


Luckily, my mother has 4 kids who are more then happy to help share with her bounty.

With my husband standing ready holding grocery bags, we picked some delicious fruit from the tree.

*While all the grapefruit looked ripe, some were not quite ready to be picked.  If they did not come off fairly easily when lightly pulled/twisted, then we left them alone.

If I am going to be perfectly honest with you, I do not like to eat grapefruit – at all.

But, I have another purpose in mind for my newly picked grapefruit – I am going to make a natural cleaner from it using vinegar.

I promise to blog about it soon, so hold onto some of your excess grapefruit or maybe offer to take some off of your neighbor’s grapefruit tree 🙂

What if you could create a small world in a container?


Have you ever seen one?  


If you have ever seen a terrarium, then you have.


Last week, as we arrived at the family farm for our weekly dinner gathering, I was greeted by the following sight when I entered the dining room…


The table had beautiful terrariums lined up in a row.

They were so beautiful and I wanted to share them with all of you, so I whipped out my cellphone to take some pictures for you.

Now you may wonder, whether or not my mother had spent a small fortune buying these beautiful arrangements.

Well, the answer is no.  She created them herself.


My mother has always had a special affinity for succulents and with her artistic eye, she creates stunning arrangements.


She creates tiny worlds using various succulents and arranging bits and pieces of things such as seashells, lichen, twigs, moss and pebbles.


These arrangements were prototypes that were to be photographed so she could use the pictures to apply for entry for a large holiday boutique held at a local church.


Two of these beautiful terrariums were then being taken to California as gifts for her sisters.

Last year, she made me a lovely terrarium…

Chopsticks are a great tool for placing items inside a terrarium.

Terrariums are quite expensive if you buy them at the store.  

But, you can create your own small living world yourself.  Believe it or not, my mother got all of her containers at the local Goodwill store.  

Pebbles and moss can always be purchased at the local craft store.  But, you can also gather many items for terrariums such as twigs, lichen, small rocks, etc. the next time you take a nature walk.

If you would like to learn how to create your own terrarium; I wrote a “how to” post for Birds & Blooms that you can see here.
WISHES FOR A VERY BLESSED CHRISTMAS
FROM 
MY GARDEN 
TO YOURS


*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*
Do you know what these are?
 
You may say that they are nothing more then little balls of mud and you would be partly right.  But, there is more then just mud included in these balls.
 
Known as seed balls, earth balls or seed bombs, they contain a mixture of clay, compost and seeds.
 
 
So now that you know what seed balls are, you may be wondering what do you do with seed balls and why would you want to make them?
 
Seed balls are an easy way to plant seeds in an area  with regular, unimproved soil.  The ‘ball’ part contains ingredients (clay & compost) that help the seeds within to start growing without having to dig a hole or improve the soil.


You simply throw the seed ball(s) on a bare area where you would like to see plants grow.

 

I saw these seed balls while attending the first annual Sustainability Festival that was held over this past weekend in downtown Phoenix.
I will talk more about the festival in a future post 🙂

 
Back to seed balls – the clay and compost mixture protect the seeds from being eaten or blown away until the time is right for the seeds to start sprouting – usually in response to rainfall and the right temperature.  
 
‘Seed bombing’ is becoming a common practice in many countries and is part of a movement called ‘Guerrilla Gardening‘, which uses seed balls to plant vegetation in empty lots (often without permission), that are often present in urban areas.
It is also used to plant seeds in bare areas on large pieces of property.  The seeds will stay safely inside their little ball until there is enough water provided by rainfall.  
 
 
I think that seed balls would make a fabulous gift for the person in your life whether they are a gardener or have a ‘black’ thumb.
 
They are easy to make.  The following directions are furnished by the Valley Permaculture Guild.
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 cup compost (you can buy a bag at your local nursery if you don’t make your own).
1/4 – 1/2 cup of seeds.
 
Mix together and add spoonfuls of water, stirring in between until the mixture sticks together.  Form into small balls and allow them to dry for a few days.  Store dry seed balls in a paper bag or cardboard box until you are ready to scatter them. The seed balls will sit until they receive enough moisture to soften the clay/compost mixture and allow them to sprout.
 
You can make them into fun shapes like the hearts, above.


For the Southwest, I recommend using wildflower seeds (California poppies, lupine, red flax), sunflowers, desert marigold, brittlebush, penstemon or globe mallow in your seed balls.
 
 
You can gift wrap your dried seed balls using half a toilet paper roll.  Place the seed ball inside and squeeze the ends closed.
 
 
Then wrap with a strip of colored paper and tape shut.
 
 
Using seed balls to revegetate bare areas has been in practice for many years in other countries such as Japan and is now becoming a popular trend in the United States.


*I don’t recommend throwing seed balls into areas that already have vegetation growing, such as natural areas because the new seeds can compete and overtake the native plants.


So what do you think?  Are seed balls a gardening trend that you can get into?  I enjoy making my own seed balls and teaching others how to make them too!
What can you do with a sprig of basil, a teaspoon of peppercorns and a lemon?

Hint: The answer doesn’t involve eating them.

I can’t wait for you to see what I do with these 3 items as well as some other interesting combinations.

I’ll post what wonderful things you can do with some simple, edible items on Monday.

**Sorry for the teaser, but it will be worth the wait  – I promise 🙂

I posted a photo of the uniquely-shaped pottery that I came across at a local nursery, yesterday on facebook and asked you to guess what they were used for.

This unglazed pottery was commonly used in arid regions long ago to store both food and water.  They are called ollas.  

Ollas are making a comeback in the garden – particularly in arid regions.  

Why?


Ollas are a great way to deep water plants.

They are buried so that only the top is exposed.  Water is added and slowly seeps through the walls of the olla, providing uniform moisture to plant’s roots.

The top of the soil remains dry, so that evaporation is limited and decreases problems with weeds because their roots can’t reach the moist soil underneath.

Ollas can be used in vegetable gardens, containers and among other plants in your garden that may not be attached to an irrigation system.

To use, simply take the lid off, and fill with water. Every few days, refill and then let the water slowly percolate into the soil.


There are companies now making ollas for the home gardener.  They are not cheap.  The ones above were going for $35.  
I would love to buy one, but they are not in my budget right now.  Maybe I can add one to my Christmas list?

You can make your own inexpensive olla using a plastic milk jug or 2-liter soda bottle, with small holes punched all around and then bury it.

OR, you can take two unglazed tera-cota pots and glue them together with silicone.  *Learn how to make both types of homemade versions, here.

I really like when the old-fashioned ways of doing things come back into style.  Technology is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t mean that the older ways of doing things is obsolete.

**For those of you who would like to purchase an olla, like the ones pictured above – they are available at local Summerwinds nurseries throughout the Phoenix area.

For those of you who live elsewhere, here is a link to the company who created the ollas in the photos above.

Is you home decorated for fall yet? I am still working on getting my house ready for the fall holidays.  


Normally, I am content to buy a single pumpkin and set it in the middle of my dining room table.  But, after seeing my mother’s beautiful fall centerpiece (above), I decided to try to do something a little more creative…


So, I decided to challenge myself to see what I could come up with for my own unique fall centerpiece by taking a visit to the produce section of my local supermarket.  I was determined to look beyond the normal fall offerings of pumpkins and Indian corn to see if I could be inspired. 


Surprisingly, I found quite a few vegetables and fruits that would look nice in a fall centerpiece.  So, armed with my cell phone camera, I started taking photos of some of my favorites…

Acorn Squash

Now, I don’t like to eat squash at all.  I still remember hiding the cooked squash in my napkin that my grandmother would try to get us to eat.

Spaghetti Squash

BUT, squash looks great when used as a fall decoration.

Butternut Squash

In fact, I have even seen Butternut squash decorated as a ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ with a ghost face colored in using black markers.

Artichoke

Okay, artichokes are another vegetable that I don’t like.  But, they look great in arrangements, so I bought one.

Pomegranates

Finally, I found something that I do like to eat AND decorate with – pomegranates.  I love their deep color, don’t you?

Oranges

Limes

Let’s not forget citrus, which is always beautiful no matter how you use it – whether in a bowl in the center of the table or as part of a larger arrangement.

Heirloom Tomatoes

I admit that heirloom tomatoes aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when creating a fall centerpiece.  But, their deep and rich colors would accent any centerpiece.  Tomatoes won’t last as long as the other produce I have profiled, so use for a few days and then eat them.

Mangoes

How about mangoes? 

Apples

Apples are great for decorating the tabletop.  I like to use them at Christmas time as well.

Red Pears

I don’t think I have ever noticed all of the different types of produce that my grocery store had before now.

I did come away with a few things that I will attempt to create a centerpiece out of.  I promise to share it with you later.

In the meantime, I did find myself captivated by the unusual pumpkin offerings at the store…


Aren’t they beautiful?

I selected one for my centerpiece.  When I got home, I excitedly showed it to my kids, who to my surprise, were not happy about it.  They asked, “Is this the pumpkin we are going to carve?”

I assured them that this pumpkin is for decoration only and will hopefully last until Thanksgiving.

I did promise them a ‘regular’ pumpkin for carving later on.

So, when you head to the supermarket this weekend, take a closer look at the produce aisle and see what you can use to create your own ‘natural’ fall centerpiece.


Earlier this month, I was visiting the garden of a homeowner while doing a consultation.  The landscape was in great shape with healthy shrubs and trees.  But, what kept catching my attention were the beautifully decorated blocks that made up the border.


The entire front landscape was bordered with uniquely decorated cement block, decorated with pieces of dishes, glass beads and more.

Every block was a unique creation.

While admiring the border, the homeowner told me that his wife had made this beautiful border using everyday items such as plastic food containers and cooking spray.

He offered to introduce her to me, so we headed into the house where I was greeted by more of her beautiful creations.


I love this welcome stone, don’t you?

Here is another decorated step stone…


I love the spiral pattern.


I was shown her workshop where she creates her works of art.  You can see the plastic food containers and some dishes ready to be broken into small pieces.


The dishes were purchased at the local dollar store and the glass beads came from the craft store.

I asked her how she made them, so that I could share it with you.


Supplies: Mortar mix, a bucket, a trowel, plastic food container in desired size, cooking spray, broken pieces of dishes and glass beads.


1. Mix the mortar mix in a bucket with water until you have the consistency of brownie batter.

2. Spray the food container with cooking spray.

3. Add the cement mixture to the container to the top and smooth out with the trowel.


4. Now for the fun part – add pieces of dishes and/or beads to create your design.  You could even use small pieces to spell out words.

5. Allow to dry for 48 hours.

6. Pop out and place in your garden!


You can buy plastic forms at your local craft store to create stepping stones, following the same steps above.

I thought it would be a fun way to create plant markers for the garden by using small food containers as forms.


I will undoubtedly be trying this in my own garden.

How about you?  Have you ever created your own step stones or border?

**************************

I have two exciting new items to share with you…

The first is that my daughter, Rachele, graduated from her Navy Seabee school today.

She texted me a photo of her wearing her “Seabee Greens” for the first time.  The Navy camouflage uniform is gray and blue, but when you are a “Seabee” you get to wear green.

I shared it on my facebook page if you would like to see it.

Rachele is coming home this weekend after 5 months away of training.  Then she will be off to Mississippi for a month for more schooling (Expeditionary Combat Skills).

The best news is that she is going to be stationed in CA, just a 1/2 hour away from where I grew up!

For my second bit of news, I will share with you next time, but I’ll give you a hint – it involves television cameras…

You’ll never guess what I made this Christmas tree out of…



A tomato cage, mini-white Christmas lights and a hair band is all that it took to create this festive Christmas tree.


I brought out my tomato cages and grabbed some Christmas lights and took the hair band out of my hair 😉

I used the hair band to wrap the top of the tomato cage.  Then all I had to do was to begin wrapping lights around the cage, starting from the bottom.


This is what it look like when I was finished.


I decided to use them in my vegetable gardens since I can see them from the house.


My son, Kai, had fun helping me get all the lights up and connected.

Before we connected the lights, Kai said “This is like the movie Christmas Vacation just before the plug in the lights.”


I must say that I am so happy with how they look.

I liked it so much that I did the same thing in my other vegetable garden…


Who knew that a tomato cage could turn into something so beautiful?

*********************

How about you?  
Have you ever transformed an everyday object into a holiday decoration?