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Okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it October 1st just a few days ago? It’s hard to believe that November is already here. You know what that means – Christmas is just around the corner.

Last month was a busy one in the garden.  While there are not as many tasks to be done in November, there are still a few things to do.

Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Continue planting cold-tolerant trees, shrubs, and perennials.  These include Angelita Daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis), Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla), and Valentine Bush (Eremophila maculata).  All of these plants do well in full sun.

Wait until spring to tropical flowering plants such as Lantana, Bougainvillea, and Yellow Bells since these frost-tender young plants are more likely to suffer damage from winter temperatures.
 
Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
 
Other shrubs to consider planting now include Chaparral Sage (Salvia clevelandii) and Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). Each of these do well in an area that receives filtered sun.
Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia mexicana)
 
Mexican Honeysuckle is one of my favorites because it thrives in light shade, is frost-tolerant AND flowers much of the year.
 
Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri)
 
Perennials are a great way to add color to the landscape and Penstemons are some of my favorites.  Parry’s and Firecracker Penstemons are seen in many beautiful landscapes, but there is another that I love. Snapdragon Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri) is not often seen but is stunning. It grows up to 4 ft. tall blooms in spring and its flowers are fragrant.
 
It’s not always easy to find but is well worth the effort. Use it in an area that gets some relief from the afternoon sun.
 
‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’)
You may have seen this colorful ornamental grass blooming this fall. Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a lovely green, ornamental grass in spring and summer. Once cooler temperatures arrive, it undergoes a magical transformation.  Burgundy plumes appear in fall, turning this grass into a show-stopper.
 
‘Regal Mist’ in winter.
In winter, the burgundy plumes fade to an attractive wheat color.
 
 
There is still time to sow wildflower seed for a beautiful spring display. My favorites are California Poppies, California Blue Bells, and Red Flax.
 
My edible garden is usually filled with delicious things to eat in fall.
Herbs are easy to grow and most will thrive throughout the winter. The one exception is Basil, which will die once temperatures dip below freezing. Harvest your basil before the first frost arrives. You can dry it and put it into spice jars or freeze it into ice cubes.
 
 
Thin vegetable seedlings. This is easiest to do using scissors and snipping them off at the soil line so that you don’t disturb the roots of the remaining seedlings.
 
Check your seed packet to determine how far apart the seedlings should be.
 
 
Many vegetables can be planted in November. Leafy greens like bok choy, lettuce, kale, mustard greens, and Swiss chard can be added. Sow carrots and radishes.
 
 
I am so happy to be able to make salads from my own garden again instead of relying on a salad from a bag.
 
 
If you haven’t done so yet, this is the last month to plant garlic in your garden. It is easy to grow, and I grab a few heads of garlic from the grocery store to plant.
 
Broccoli and cauliflower transplants can still be added to the garden this month. Onions, peas, and turnips can also be planted in November.  
 
If you haven’t already done so, adjust your irrigation schedule to water less frequently then you did in the summer months. More plants die from over-watering than under-watering, even in the desert Southwest.
 
I find that monthly gardening task lists keep me on track in the garden. This book is a great resource for Arizona gardeners:
*What will you be doing in your garden this month?

Have you ever sprayed air-freshener in your home? Does it ever smell like the fragrance described on the can?

I must confess that I have used air-fresheners in the past, but I’ve never happy with how my house smelled afterward. To me, the fragrance is so ‘artificial’, and I also wonder if there are some ingredients in them that maybe aren’t good to inhale.

So, I was intrigued when I heard about ‘natural’ air fresheners made from plants – many of which I have in my garden.

 

Imagine your home filled with the natural fragrance of citrus paired with your favorite herbs drifting throughout – no overpowering, artificial fragrance, just subtle, refreshing scents.  

The combinations are endless, and the fragrance is released into the air by adding the contents and enough water to fill a small pot at least 1/2 – 3/4 full. Heat to boiling and then turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for a couple of hours. That’s it!

So are you as excited about creating your own ‘natural’ air fresheners as I am? 

Let’s get started with some ingredients that you can use for your unique fragrant combination(s):

All types of citrus are refreshing and can serve as the base of your air freshener.  I chose lemons, oranges and limes.  But, if you have a grapefruit tree that is overly generous with its fruit, they would work well too!

Now let’s grab some herbs from the garden or the grocery store).

Basil



Thyme

Mint

Rosemary and lavender would also work great, but I don’t have any growing in my garden.

I also use vanilla extract and peppercorns in my mixtures.

Here are a few that I made.

I love cooking (and eating) Italian food – even though I have no Italian ancestry that I know of.  

I used 1 sprig of basil, 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns and a few slices of lemon – it makes my home smell fresh as I imagine an Italian kitchen would smell like.

I add these ingredients to jars and fill them with water to the top. For this project, I used Ball mason jars.

I think it looks pretty, don’t you?

Of course, if you are going to use use them right away, skip the jar and add directly to a small pot.  Pour more water until it reaches 3/4 full, heat to boiling, lower the heat to low and enjoy for a few hours – KEEP an eye on the water level and add more as needed – DON’T let it dry out.

Here is another combination that I like.

A few slices of lime, 4 – 5 sprigs of thyme, a sprig of mint and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

You can make one air freshener at a time, or create a few and store them in the refrigerator for a week. You can freeze them for longer until ready to use – just make sure to freeze them in a freezer-safe container such as a wide-mouth jar.

Lastly, this is my favorite combination, and only has two ingredients.

Oranges and vanilla extract.

I sliced half an orange and added 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
The fragrance reminds me of orange cream – YUM!

You can also add cinnamon sticks or a few whole cloves to this mixture for a more spicy fragrance.

 


If you have ever stepped into a Williams & Sonoma store, they have their own natural air freshener recipe:

Lemon slices
Rosemary sprigs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

In addition to the ingredients I’ve used, here are some others that you can experiment with to create your own unique natural air freshener.

Citrus or apple peels, almond, coconut, or peppermint extract along with herbs like ginger, nutmeg, ground cinnamon, whole cloves, bay leaves, basil, sage, lavender, oregano, and rosemary.

So if you want to add a little freshness to your home, don’t waste your time spraying artificial fragrance through your home. You can create wonderful combinations of scents using items from your garden, refrigerator, and pantry.

I hope you enjoy making these natural air fresheners as much as I do!

Is your landscape style more free-form and natural or do you embrace a more modern, contemporary kind of garden with straight lines and right angles? On a recent visit to Austin, I had the opportunity to visit the home of landscape designer, B. Jane, which looks as if it came straight from the pages of a magazine with its resort-style design. If you had a garden like this, why leave home when you can vacation at home in a contemporary, low-maintenance garden?

The front of B.’s garden is graced by a large crepe myrtle, located between her two front windows, which help to frame her view from the house. The flat pads of a prickly pear cactus add rich texture contrast among the softer shapes of perennials.

An agave nestles between asparagus fern and silver ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea), which is a ground cover, which I saw throughout the gardens we toured in Austin. It is a type of Dichondra, and I liked it so much, that I brought some home and now have it growing in one of my large containers by the front entry. Silver ponyfoot creeps along the ground or can be used to trail over the sides of pots.

A live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) is planted in a circular section covered in decomposed granite. Asparagus fern adds softness around the outer edges, again, creating nice texture contrast.

Walking toward the backyard, I was quite taken with the square step stones and dark grey beach pebbles – this is a great look that is worth replicating.

As you can see from the potted plants on the patio table, simplicity reigns in this garden, which is filled with native or adapted plants that flourish with little fuss. Low-maintenance doesn’t mean that a garden is dull – often the truth is just the opposite as you will see as we continue on our tour.

A rectangular pool runs along the center of the backyard, and colorful balls reflect the colors used throughout the landscape, which is a brilliant way to draw attention to them. A ‘Sticks on Fire’ succulent (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) basks in the sun, which is a plant that does beautifully in hot, arid climates.

Now, we are at the point in the tour where I became seriously envious. This is B.’s office, which is separate from her house – she simply walks by her beautiful pool on her way to work in the morning and enjoys a glorious view of her garden while she works. Have I ever mentioned that I work in my dining room – that is, until my kids leave home and I get my own office (room).

A group of containers filled with a variety of plants including hibiscus, rosemary, and basil(yes, basil) adds interest to this corner by the pool.

Bamboo is used to help provide privacy from neighbors and shrub roses add a welcome pop of color.

Even the dog has its own space in B.’s garden with a patch of grass and his own fire hydrant!

Isn’t this a lovely seating area? I love the splash of red and the bamboo backdrop.

Just the perfect spot to sit with my friend, Teresa Odle, who blogs at “Gardening In a Drought” and also just happens to co-write with me and two other writers, for our new blog, “Southwest Gardening”.

I must admit that I am drawn more toward more naturalistic gardens, filled with curves and staggered plantings but, I love the contemporary lines of B. Jane’s garden and its resort-like vibe. You can find out more about B. Jane and her creations here.

Have you ever thought of fruits, herbs or even vegetables as ornamental plants?  

Often the characteristics that make edible plants appeal to our appetite, can also add beauty to the garden making edible plants a great choice for the garden as they can do double duty as ornamentals.

I am always struck by how edible plants are increasingly used to create beautiful garden spaces.

I’ve recently shared several of my favorite examples from my own garden as well as in during garden travels for Houzz.

I hope you are inspired to look at edible plants in a new light.

Do you like using fresh herbs when you cook?


I do.  But, I don’t like buying herbs from the store because they can be expensive and often aren’t very fresh looking.

 
Purple basil and chives
I enjoy growing herbs outdoors in my garden, but I also grow herbs indoors on my kitchen windowsill.
 
Whether you have a garden, a balcony or a windowsill, you can grow herbs inside.
 
 
Many people grow herbs indoors during the winter time, but you can grow them inside all year long.
 
So, are you ready to grow your own fresh herbs?
Let’s get started…
 
1. Select a place to put your potted herbs that has a sunny window. – 
A window that faces south is best, but east facing will also work.  West facing windows may be too hot in if you live in the desert, but you can experiment with it.  
Herbs need at least 4 – 5 hours of sun.


It’s important to note that herbs grown indoors won’t look as compact or lush as those grown outdoors, which is due to the fact that they don’t get as much sun indoors.
 
2. Choose plastic or glazed containers with holes for drainage.  
It’s best to avoid terra-cotta pots, which can dry out – especially during the winter when the air in our homes can be dry from heating. 
 
 
You can also use cans as recycled containers.  I have grown herbs in tomato cans as well as coffee cans.  
 
A row of cans with their labels removed, filled with herbs would add a real contemporary look to the kitchen, don’t you think?  
 
 
3. Use potting or planting mix.  
Avoid using potting soil, which is not formulated for containers and can become soggy.
4. Select what herbs you want to grow.
There are many different herbs that will grow well indoors, which include basil, chives, lemon balm, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. 
 
You can buy herb transplants from your favorite nursery or sometimes at the grocery store.



Another way to grow certain herbs is to start them from cuttings.


I ran out to the garden to grab two types of basil and some apple mint to show you how to do this.  
Basil and mint are both easy to start from cuttings.


Remove the leaves from the bottom as shown, above.  Place the cuttings in a glass of water so that most of the stem is submerged in water, but take care that no leaves are in the water.



Place in a window with bright, indirect sun.  Change the water every other day and watch for roots to develop.  Once roots have grown 1/2 – 1 inch, transplant each cutting into a container filled with potting mix and your are done!
I told you it was easy.

 

5. Water your potted herbs when the top of the soil feels dry.
Herbs don’t like soggy soil, so it’s best to allow the top of the soil to dry out before watering deeply until the water runs out the bottom.  
 
An easy to tell when it’s time to water is to stick your finger into the soil till you reach your first knuckle – slightly less than an inch.  If it feels barely moist, then it is time to water again.
 
6. Fertilize your herbs.
When plants are grown in pots, they need to be fertilized and herbs are no different.  You can apply organic fertilizer granules and work into the top inch of soil OR you can use an organic liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion.  
 
Follow directions on the granular fertilizer package when applying and guidelines for frequency.  In general, liquid fertilizer can be applied every 2 weeks.
 
Soon you will have fresh herbs close at hand and ready to use in your favorite dishes.I recently made herbs salts from my herbs, which is fun and easy to do.  The flavor that they add to food is just delicious!


Click the links below to learn how to make:


Basil Salt


Herb Salt


For more information on how to grow herbs and how to preserve them, click on the following links:


Preserve Herbs By Freezing Them Into Ice Cubes


Preserve Herbs By Drying Them

 
 
I have spent the past few weeks indoors whenever possible avoiding the desert heat.  While I do venture outdoors occasionally to do consults and take a weekly tour of the garden to make sure everything is okay.
 
We did lose a small tree and some branches during a fierce monsoon storm over the weekend, but I was grateful for the rain and the cool temperatures that followed.
 
Last week, I showed you some of my favorite plant photos.  This week, I would like to share with you some of my favorite DIY blog posts, most of which you can do inside.
One of my favorite DIY projects was creating natural air-fresheners.
 
I don’t know about you, but I do not like the heavy, artificial smells of air-freshener sprays – not to mention the idea of chemicals floating through the air.  So, the idea of making air-fresheners using  plants definitely appealed to me.
 
 
I hope you are inspired to make you own!

I don’t know about you, but I have enjoyed the wet weather of the past few days.  We almost received 3 inches of rain where I live in a period of 48 hours.  For those of you who do not live in the desert – that is considered A LOT of rain for us 😉


I spent Saturday morning dodging raindrops as I visited two different clients regarding their landscapes.  The rest of the day, I spent indoors just thinking of how much my garden is enjoying this rain.


You may not realize that rain water is much better for your plants then the water that comes from your hose or drip emitters.  Our water is somewhat ‘salty’, which is a result of its journey down the Colorado river and all the rock it passes by.


Plants do not like salt much and a heavy rain will help flush the salts away from the soil.


As the sun began to peek through the clouds this afternoon, I ventured out into the garden in order to harvest some lettuce and Swiss chard for our dinner.

A small sampling of today’s harvest.

It had been a while since I had taken a good look at my vegetable gardens and there was quite a bit more to harvest then I had expected.


I am rapidly falling in love with Swiss chard (yes, I said ‘love’).  

While I do not like cooked leafy greens, I have been surprised at how delicious raw Swiss chard is in salads.

It also adds a nice bit of color with its red and yellow veins.


Sugar snap peas are covering their vines, but it is hard to find them all since they blend in so well with the leaves.

I plan on serving them on our veggie tray Thanksgiving morning.

Right now, I have more radishes then I know what to do with.  But, we had 5, thinly sliced radishes in our salad.  In addition to thinly slicing them, I also quarter them so that my kids will eat them.


Two of my favorite types of leaf lettuce – Romaine and Black-Seeded Simpson.

I have had some problems with caterpillars eating my lettuce, so I will head out tomorrow with my spray bottle of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis).


Fall is the best time of year for all of my pepper plants.  While they can handle hot temperatures, they don’t flower during the height of summer.  

Once it begins to cool down in mid September, flowers appear again followed by peppers.

Sadly, once the first frost occurs, they will stop producing and will often die.  Last year, I was able to save my bell pepper plant by covering it when temps dipped below freezing.

I have a ton of bell peppers and jalapeños.  I will dice them up and place them in freezer bags so that I can enjoy them throughout the winter months.


I discovered that I had a lot of parsley growing and I only harvested about half of it.

While parsley will last through the winter months, my basil won’t survive the first frost.  So, I picked some basil too.


I plant to dry my basil and parsley.  Once dry, I will crush the leaves and put them into spice jars.

Drying herbs is easy and you can learn how to do it here.

The remainder of the fresh parsley that I have growing outdoors I will harvest on Thanksgiving to use as a garnish for a few of my favorite dishes.

While I spent part of this afternoon harvesting vegetables, I noticed that I still have not thinned out my carrot seedlings.  Oh, they will still grow if I don’t thin them, but what I will get in return are small carrots not worth eating.

So, I’ll grab a pair of scissors and head out into the garden and snip off the extra.

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

How about you?  

Have you put your garden to bed for the winter or do you still have things growing in it?

I’d love to hear what is happening in your garden…
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 🙂

If someone asked you what your favorite food was, what would you tell them?


My daughter, Gracie, would answer by saying “anything chocolate”.  

My husband would say “pizza”.

But my favorite food is a warm slice of sourdough bread with melted butter.  My idea of heaven is being surrounded with loaves of French bread and plenty of Irish butter without the carbs or calories 😉

Because I like to make things using produce from my garden, I decided to try making herb butter using the herbs that I grew and dried earlier this summer.


Just for fun, I decided to make my own butter using some leftover heavy whipping cream (did you know that if you beat heavy whipping cream long enough that you will get butter)?  

When we were kids, my mom would teach us how to make butter this way using her antique butter churn.  It was a lot of work, but it was fun.

Most of the time, I just use regular butter to make herb butter.


I beat the whip cream until it became thick and continued until it looked like this…


Your butter will start to solidify with a little buttermilk liquid left.


Drain the buttermilk and you are left with butter!  You can salt it to your taste at this point.

1. You will need a 1/2 cup of softened butter. (Store bought works just as well as butter you made yourself).

2. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite herb.  Dried basil, chives, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage or thyme work well for herb butter.  You can also use a 1/2 teaspoon of poultry or Italian seasoning instead if you like.

3. I also added 2 cloves of minced garlic, also from my garden, to the herb butter.

4. Mix it all together using a rubber spatula.


5. Place your butter mixture onto wax paper and begin to form it into a roll by folding over the wax paper and using your hands to mold the herb butter.


6. Twist the ends of the wax paper and place your herb butter into a plastic freezer bag.


7. Freeze until 2 hours before using.  You don’t have to use it all at once.  Simply cut off a few sections at a time.  

You can freeze herb butter up to 6 months.

So, get started now and preserve the taste of your summer herbs by making your own herb butter.  

Make some for yourself and give some away to friends.

I must say, that I was going to take a picture of my herb butter melting over a hot slice of sourdough bread.

But, I ate it before I remembered to take the picture….

**You can use your own herbs that you have dried or you can use herbs from the grocery store.  

To learn how to dry herbs, check out my earlier post – “How to Grow and Dry Your Own Herbs”

What herb(s) would you add to herb butter?
I love growing herbs in my garden and one of the reasons is that they thrive in our hot, dry summers with minimal fuss.  
 
I must admit that I sometimes forget to make use of my fresh herbs, or sometimes I have more than I need. Some frost-tender herbs like basil don’t grow in winter in my garden – so either I have too much in the summer and almost none at all in winter.
 
Well, no more! Did you know that you could freeze your fresh herbs so you could use them during the winter months?
 
I tried this with my chives earlier this summer and it was so easy to do.
 
Here is how to do it:
 
Choose your favorite herb…
 
 
 Wash them.
 
 
Chop them into the desired size.
 
 
I just love chives.
 
 
Place your chopped herbs into an ice cube tray, filling up each one about 3/4 of the way full.
 
 
Fill up with water, taking care to allow a little room for expansion since water expands when it freezes.
 
Put in your freezer for a few hours.
 
 
Once frozen, pop out your ‘herb cubes’ and put them in a freezer container or plastic container and store in your freezer.

 

 Now, whenever you need fresh herbs when you cook, add a few ice cubes to your favorite sauce.
 

**You can also freeze herbs into ice cubes using olive oil instead of water, if desired.

 
Another great way to preserve herbs is to dry them.I talked about how to do this in an earlier post –  “How to Grow and Dry Herbs”

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