I am particularly enjoying this morning.  After spending 3 days in a hotel while our house filled with 30 high-powered fans and 2 de-humidifiers, it is finally dry.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay in our home during that time, but those fans produce a lot of heat and the interior temperatures of our house was 93 degrees.  Not to mention that fact that every we walked, we had to step over a fan.

My kitchen is also back into working order as well.  Now, we are waiting for the insurance company to send over a contractor to help repair the damage – new carpet, some cabinet repair, etc.

Okay, enough about the flood.  Now back to more important things.  Some of you may know my sister, Grace, who has her own blog.  She lives just five minutes away on Double S Farms along with my mother.

Grace is extremely creative and posts many DIY projects.  I thought that I would share a photo of one of her latest projects (for obvious reasons).

My granddaughter, Lily, is the model for my sister’s newest creation.

You can see how easy it is to create along with other Easter DIY projects.

DIY Bunny Applique

DIY Felt Bunny Ears

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I hope your week is going well so far.

We are making progress on our front garden renovation.  I will share soon!

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.

 
 
 

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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.

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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.