I love decorating for fall and so I always grow some pumpkins in my garden.  
But, I must admit that I also use a few ‘faux’ pumpkins as well when I decorate.  
This year, I am very excited to be hosting our family’s annual Halloween party.  Mostly because we have the best neighborhood for trick-or-treating.
So, I have been trying to add to my Halloween decorations.  I visited our local craft store to buy a few extra ‘faux’ pumpkins and was shocked at how expensive they have become.  Even with a coupon, I left the store without buying any.
I went online to look at other options and maybe how to make a pumpkin.  After a bit of research – I decided to make paper mache pumpkins.
All it took was beach balls, twine, newspaper, flour, water, spray paint and a little piece of tree branch.

It all starts with a beach ball tied with twine.  You will need someone to help you hold the knot down with their finger as you tie it.
Gather 1-inch wide newspaper strips.
Prepare your paper-mache mix (1 part flour to 2 parts water).  It’s optional to add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to mask the ‘paper mache’ smell and 1 teaspoon salt which helps keep mold from forming on the paper mache.
 Mix together.  Add a single strip of newspaper to the paper-mache mixture and then gently wipe off the excess paper-mache mixture.
Apply strips to beach ball, overlapping.  Tear the strips to whatever size you need.
Allow to dry.  This will take longer in more humid areas.  I used a fan to help speed up the process.

Apply a total of 4 layers, allowing them to dry after applying each layer.

Paint with black spray paint and let dry.  This keeps the black and white colors of the newspaper from showing through the colored spray paint later.

Then spray paint with either orange or off-white paint.  (I used 2 coats).

Using a glue gun, glue a 1-inch piece of a tree branch for the stem. 



I am very happy with the results.

Although you can’t carve them – you can paint on a ‘jack-o-lantern’ face or just leave them plain.

It did take a couple of days to finish, factoring in the drying time.  Paper mache can be a bit messy, so I recommend wearing an apron and covering your work surface with plastic trash bags.

I hope you try it! 

**Update – I made these paper mache pumpkins four years ago and they still look great!

Feel free to ‘Pin’ the image above to your Pinterest!


Did you know that you can kill weeds with ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard?

Wouldn’t it be great to be
able to make your own ‘natural’ weed-killer that is organic and much
cheaper then buying weed-killers?

Well, here is all you need…

Believe it or not, vinegar, dish soap and a spray bottle are all you need to make an effective weed killer.  You have these things already, don’t you?
I had known that vinegar  and soap could kill weeds, but had never tried it before.  So, I set out to prove that it worked in my own garden. 
First, I took photos of a few of my weeds…
I must admit that it felt kind of funny taking pictures of ‘weeds’.  My neighbor thought so too 😉
I sprayed each weed with my vinegar and soap mixture and waited 24 hours.
Here are the results:

Pretty impressive, isn’t it?  I couldn’t even find the third weed – it had dried up so quickly.

So for those of you who like to know how vinegar and soap kills weeds, here is the scientific explanation:

The acetic acid in vinegar ‘sucks the water’ out of the weed while the dish soap helps to break down the outer coating of the plant, which helps the vinegar to penetrate.
*You can try using vinegar alone, but I didn’t get good results without using the soap.

So are you excited to try this for yourself?
Okay, here is how to make your own….
1-gallon of vinegar (5% acetic acid)
1 oz. dish detergent
1. Put in a plastic spray bottle and apply to plants on a sunny day.

That’s it!

Because this a non-selective weed-killer, it will kill anything it lands on – be careful not to get any on your plants, grass or trees since this mixture can hurt or kill them. 
**For tough weeds, regular white vinegar may not be strong enough.  In that case, you may want to use ‘horticultural vinegar’, which has a higher level of acetic acid (20%).  You can find this type of vinegar online, which is a popular, organic weed killer.


Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make your own ‘natural’ weed-killer?  It’s organic, cheap and easy to make from ingredients you already have at home. 

I’m sure you all have been waiting with baited breath for the second installment of how to grow and dry your own herbs….I know I have 😉

Clockwise from top left – Oregano, Basil, Sage, Purple Basil, Parsley and Thyme.

 Last time we talked about how to harvest and dry your herbsThe process is so easy – the ‘air’ does most of the work for you.

Once your herbs are nice and dry, it’s time to get the herbs ready for their containers.
Now, I will be the first to admit that dried herbs aren’t all that pretty.
Even though they aren’t all that attractive at this point, they are full of concentrated flavors that will help you create delicious food.
I bought inexpensive glass jars at IKEA for a $1 each in which to store my dried herbs.
Now it is time to get the dried leaves off, without the stems.

I found the easiest way to do this was to simply press the leaves between my fingers.  They came off easily, without too many stems falling in.

The few stems that fell in, were easy to pick out.  I then used my fingers to grind up my herbs to the desired size…

All there is to do at this point is to pour the herbs into my glass jars…

Jars of Oregano, Thyme and Oregano

My homegrown dried herbs are ready to use right away.  They also make great gifts.

Dried herbs should be stored in a dark, dry place (pantry or cupboard) and taste best when used within 6 months.


I hope your week is off to a good start.

I had two consults last week, which went very well.  In the summer, I don’t do too many consults because many people don’t want to spend a lot of time in the garden in the heat.  I actually enjoy this time of year because it is a bit of a break for me 🙂     
Do you love using herbs when you cook?  I do – especially basil and oregano. I also appreciate how easy they are to grow. 

I grow basil, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme in my garden.  To be honest, I don’t use a lot of fresh herbs and I really should.  I tend to use dried herbs instead.

While I do like to use dried herbs when I cook – I don’t like to pay $3+ dollars for a tiny container.  So, instead of buying dried herbs
at the grocery store – I make my own.  

It is very easy to dry herbs and they make great and inexpensive gifts. Herbs are best when they are air-dried – which is the method that retains their flavor best.  

Here is how I do it:


– I harvest my herbs, usually before they flower, for best flavor. In my herb container, there is basil, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme growing.  

– Pick your herbs in the morning and wash and dry them.  Discard any discolored leaves.  

– Using string or twine, tie your herbs into small bundles (this is especially important for basil, which as lots of moisture in its leaves).  Wrap the string a few times around each bundle to keep them from falling out as they dry.

Bundles of Oregano

Tie each bundle to a coat hanger.

Bundles of Oregano and Sage

 Herbs need to hung indoors to dry.  Hang them in an area out of
the sun in an area with good air circulation – I used our garage.  

You can hang them from a clothes rack that you use for drying your clothes, or you can tie them from almost anything.  Laying herbs on paper towels and placing them by a de-humidifier to dry is another method to dry herbs.

**To protect your herbs from dust, you can place paper lunch
bags over each bundle – to do this make a hole in the bottom of each lunch bag and thread the cotton string through it before attaching the string to whatever you are hanging your herbs from.  It is okay if the herbs stick out the bottom of the bag – it’s the top which need protection from dust.

Depending on where you live, drying herbs can take as little as a week in a dry climate up to 4 weeks in more humid climates.

Come back for “Part Two” to see how I how to crush and store dried herbs.

*If you are interested in growing herbs, learn how I planted my herb container here.

Lately, I have been collecting toilet paper rolls.  Now I know that may sound a bit weird to some of you, but I needed them for my garden.

So how on earth can toilet paper rolls help you in the garden?

Well, they are an inexpensive, environmentally friendly tool in which to start seeds indoors.

From upper right – bush beans, marigolds, Kentucky beans, cucumbers, sugar snap peas and spinach.
I thought this would be a good project to do with the kids, so we gathered our seeds.
We cut each toilet paper roll in half (you can use paper towel rolls and cut them into thirds for this too.)
We used a planting mix that had slow-release fertilizer already included and also had water-holding granules. I advise wetting the soil before adding it to your toilet paper rolls.
Now that we had everything, we were ready to start. The kids used tablespoons to ‘spoon’ the planting mix into each tube.
Then we lightly pressed down the planting mix and added more.
Now it was time to plant.
Then we used a spray bottle filled with water to thoroughly water each planted seed.
Now we had to create a ‘mini-greenhouse’ effect by covering our toilet paper rolls with clear plastic wrap with some holes in the top.  Then we placed them on top of the refrigerator, where it was warm enough to help them germinate.

Every day, we checked the moisture of each toilet paper roll and added more water if necessary.  

Once the seedlings germinated, we removed the plastic wrap permanently and placed our seedlings by our bright, sunny kitchen window.
We are keeping the soil moist, but not soggy.
Soon, we will be able to plant our seedlings (with their toilet paper rolls) in the vegetable garden.  The cardboard from the toilet paper rolls will disintegrate into the soil.
Of course, you can always use the ready-made plastic seeding trays, but I must admit that I like this method better 🙂

**Are you new to vegetable gardening in the desert?  We are fortunate that we can grow a large variety of vegetables, as well as fruit.  I invite you to click the ‘Shop’ tab where you’ll find some great information on growing vegetables.









Do you remember my post about my runaway gourd vine?

Well, I planted two birdhouse gourd seeds and a few months later, it was escaping my vegetable garden and was making a good attempt at taking over the lawn.

 In fact, every time my husband mowed our lawn, he had to cut back the gourd vines.

Every few days, I would peek around to see if there were any new gourds…

 By the time we harvested all of the gourds, we had a total of 17.

Now the vine is gone and I am having to let my gourds ‘cure’ in a cool, dry place. 

The experts say that putting them on a wooden pallet is a good place because it allows for air flow.

The problem is, is that I don’t have a pallet and it is against the law to ‘borrow’ one from the back of the store – people even get arrested for that according to a police officer friend of mine.

So, being the law-abiding citizen that I am, I asked my husband if he could make me a pallet.

You see, my husband enjoys woodworking and the entire third-car bay of our garage is his workshop.  So, my husband thought it would be a good project for my son, Kai, to work on.

So they got to work…

 First, they laid out the wood from some scraps we had.

 Then marked where to cut the wood.

 Then it was time for Kai to learn how the band saw worked and how to operate it safely.

Now the fun part….cutting the wood – with dad’s help.

Now it was time to nail the boards in place.

And then my new pallet was finished….

Here are a few of my gourds.  The rest I am using as a centerpiece on my dining room table and I also gave some to my mother.

I don’t who was prouder, me or my son….
Do you have a hummingbird feeder?
I have two.  One is the popular plastic variety, above, and the other is a beautiful glass one that my sister-in-law gave me for my birthday.
However, when I first opened the glass feeder, I couldn’t find the stopper and feeding tube.  So, I went online and ordered a single stopper/feeder tube.  
Imagine my surprise when I received the box in the mail and discovered that instead of just one stopper/feeder tube…..there were twelve.  I had evidently not read the fine print when I ordered them.  But, they were really inexpensive and I figured that I would use them someday.
Well, life has a way of getting busy and I forgot about the stopper/feeder tubes sitting in my closet until the other day.  I figured that there must be some way to make my own hummingbird feeder.
Okay, you might be thinking that I already have two and isn’t that enough?  My answer would be “NO” 😉
I am fortunate to live in an area where we have hummingbirds visiting all year long.  My plastic feeder is the most popular one with my little feathered friends and they occasionally visit my glass one.  But, I had the perfect place for my third feeder in mind….hanging from my Palo Verde tree in the back garden.
 And so, I collected the tools that I would require:

– a plastic water bottle

– wire

-homemade hummingbird nectar
1 part granulated (white) sugar to 4 parts water
(I use 1/4 cup sugar for every 1 cup of water)
Boil 1 cup of water and then add sugar and stir until dissolved.
Boil for 2 minutes and then let cool.
Fill your feeder
1 stopper/feeder tube
I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind wrapping the bottle with wire so that I could hang it from a tree.  In the meantime, I made the hummingbird nectar.
You can see how one piece of the wire is wrapped around the bottle and then another piece is used to hook onto the sides of the wrapped wire.  You will notice that the wire is quite basic and not ‘curled’ into decorative shapes.  I didn’t have the courage to ask my husband to do that – but you certainly could 😉
 It is important to not make any holes in the bottle since this interferes with the vacuum necessary to keep the nectar from leaking out.

I filled the water bottle all the way and then inserted the stopper/feeder tube and turned it over.  This action forms the vacuum that keeps all the water from leaking out.
You might notice that my nectar is not colored red.  It is not necessary and may even be harmful to hummingbirds.

You could decorate the bottle if you like and make the wire into decorative shapes using needle-nose pliers if you like.  Since the stopper/feeder tubes were so inexpensive, I think this would be a great project for a group of kids.   
I bought my stopper/feeder tubes on Amazon.
I admit that our little water bottle hummingbird feeder is rather simple, but within 24 hours of hanging it up….
 Believe it or not, rather plain feeder is the most popular one in my garden.  I have two hummingbirds visiting frequently during the day and then they take some time to perch up in the tree.
I hope you are all off to a great start this week.
I have a busy week planned.  I have a landscape consult today and a doctor’s visit, carpet cleaning, as well as planning my son’s birthday party later this week.  But in the midst of this busy week, my husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I will be leaving the kids home and go out for dinner and a movie.  Later we will go on a trip for a few days…..I can hardly wait 🙂
“Talk” to you soon!

Sometimes when I am driving around, I see a poorly pruned tree or shrub, and I just cringe.  It never ceases to amaze me the crazy ways that people take care of their plants.  Whenever I see plants like this, I whip out my camera and quickly take a photo and then drive away before the homeowner asks what I am doing.

Butchered Palo Brea Tree

I mean if they catch me taking a photo, I can’t very well tell them, “I am taking pictures of the horrible way you prune your trees ?” Can I?  Well, I probably could and should, but I am too chicken to confront people that way.  I have no problem confronting people about their horrible pruning if they have asked me over to do a consult on their landscaping.  I just like an invitation first before I tell people what they are doing wrong 😉

‘Topped’ Willow Acacia
Willow Acacia as it should look like.
Although, the primary purpose of this post is to entertain with photos of truly awful pruning disasters.  I just have to step up on my “high horse” for just a minute regarding one type of pruning that is widespread.  So please bear with me…
One of the most harmful types of pruning in regards to trees is called ‘topping’ the tree.  It removes a lot of the top growth.  This is usually done to shorten the tree and to preserve a view.  The topping is NOT good for the tree and accelerates more top growth.  The new branches are weakly attached and are much more liable to break, which can cause damage to what is underneath.  Also, topping trees greatly stress the tree which can make them susceptible to insect and certain environmental factors.  You can read more about topping trees here Tree Care.
Chilean Mesquite with a ‘kink’ in its trunk.

 ‘Poodle’ Olive Tree

 Okay, the vast majority of trees should not be prune into round shapes.
Palo Brea tree pruned into a ‘ball.’
Palo Brea tree as it should look.
A Blue Palo Verde tree that lost its head.

A few years ago we suffered a severe micro-burst during the summertime at the community where I was working.   The tree above snapped off in the high winds at a weak point in the trunk, which was weak due to improper pruning that was done a long time before the storm.

This is an Orange tree that has been pruned correctly.

The Citrus tree, above, has been pruned the right way, but I just had to include it in this post because it is so humorous.  Look closely (you can click on the photo to enlarge)…. the homeowner tied CDs to the tree to scare off the birds from eating the fruit.

Many people prune their Citrus trees up so that they look more like a ‘typical’ tree.  But what many people don’t know is that the lower branches produce the most fruit, the sweetest fruit and protects the trunk from sunburn.

Now for some truly awful examples of shrubs….remember the “cupcakes” from a previous post?

Little Leaf Cordia pruned into a ‘ball.’
In an earlier post, we covered the epidemic of pruning shrubs into the shapes of ‘cupcakes.’  Well, there is another epidemic in where people prune their shrubs into the shape of a ‘ball.’  We call this type of pruning, “Poodle-Pruning” because the shrubs resemble the ball shapes that poodles have when groomed.  Either way, ‘cupcakes’ or ‘poodle,’ neither are good for your shrubs and take away from their beauty.
Feathery Cassia shrubs with large areas of dead growth.

One of the results of repeated shearing of your shrubs into specific shapes (cupcakes or balls), results in areas of dead growth.  This is because sunlight cannot penetrate inside the shrub and it is constantly trying to replace the growth that is cut off constantly.  There is a cure, which I will cover in a spring time post, which is when corrective pruning should be done.

Thunder Cloud Sage, unpruned
Now I don’t recommend going to the other extreme, above, and not pruning.  Just do it correctly.  So, if you have any ‘cupcakes’ or ‘poodles’ in your landscape, do not panic!  I will cover the correct ways to prune many shrubs in the spring, which is the time that it should be done.
So, take care to prune properly, because you never know when I will come driving by with my camera….

I’m sure most of you know how much fun it can be to garden with your kids.  I remember my dad building each of us a raised planter where we could grow vegetables and flowers.  Today, my kids and I went to the store to buy flowers for their new garden.  You will NEVER guess what they are planting their flowers in…

Our first stop was our local nursery.  Each was allowed to pick out two six-packs of flowers.  The kids decided to each pick a different type of flower and then shared them.  My youngest daughter, Gracie, selected geraniums and blue petunias.
Ruthie went the fragrant route and selected stock, (beautiful and fragrant despite its ordinary name) and white alyssum.

Dianthus and snapdragons were Kai’s choice.

We finished making our selections and then got ready to go home and start planting.  The only question the kids had was – where were they going to plant their flowers?
How about their old kiddie pool?  You know – the ones that cost about $10 that your kids play in during the summer.  However, once summer is over, most people either throw out their pool or store it somewhere out of the way.  
Well, now you can use it as a planter for either flowers or shallow-rooted vegetables or herbs.
The process is easy, and your kids will have fun assisting you.
First, move the pool where you want the garden to be as it will be too heavy once you fill it with soil.  Then make multiple holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then fill with a mixture of potting mix.  Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer and now begin planting!
Gracie planted her first plant, a peach-colored geranium.


My teenage daughter, Rachele, was overseeing our progress while texting on her phone.
We finished!  The kids are so excited to see their flowers grow.  The garden will be a riot of different colors and has no sense of design, which is as it should be for a children’s flower garden.
This will be our ‘before’ picture.  We planted alyssum, dianthus, geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, and stock.
If you would like to try this at home and want the garden to become a more permanent part of the landscape, you can add a brick border or plant shrubs and perennials around the outside of the pool.