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 Yesterday, I spent the morning on the family farm pruning apple trees.

It was a nice break from a very busy week of landscape consulting and I was looking forward to spending time with my mother, who resides on Double S Farms with my youngest sister and her family.


 The sun was rising up in the sky and the day promised warm temperatures in the upper 70’s with our unseasonably warm winter.

Now at this point, you may be noticing that the trees were already in flower and that we were getting to pruning them a bit late in the season.  Ideally fruit trees are pruned just before the buds begin to open.

But, even though we were pruning them late, it won’t make a huge difference and will improve the size and quality of our apple crop.


 You’ll notice that the apple trees are located behind a wire fence.  Well, there is a good reason for that…


 And their names are Sodapop and Johnny.

Soda is the daughter of our dog Missy, who passed away last year at the age of 13.

Johnny is a 3-legged doberman rescue dog who is so friendly and exuberant.

You see, the dogs love to eat the apples from the trees.  Especially Soda who does her best to reach them up high.  
You can read about Soda’s previous exploits here.

 The problem is that the seeds of apples contain small amounts of cyanide and if dogs consume too many, they can have problems.  So the fence is up, much to the dismay of Soda and Johnny.


Pruning trees is one of my favorite things to do and although as a certified arborist, I talk to my clients a lot about trees, I don’t prune their trees.  Instead I give them advice on how to prune them theirselves or refer them to a certified arborist company who does it for them.  So, my tree pruning is primarily focused on my own and my family’s.  

Armed with a pair of loppers, hand pruners and a pruning saw, I took a moment before beginning to smell the sweet fragrance of the apple blossoms.


In the midst of our pruning, my granddaughter, Lily, showed up.  She proved to be a good helper and moved the small branches into a pile.

We focused on cleaning out the interior branches, which are hard to get pick apples from.  In addition, we also pruned off some of the taller branches so that come apple-picking time, we could more easily reach them.  Once we finished, we had pruned away a quarter of the tree, which will allow it to focus its resources on growing the remaining flowers, which will turn into apples.
For info on how we have pruned fruit trees in the past, click here.


My mother took a few of the cut branches and brought them inside and put them in a vase where they will offer beauty and fragrance indoors for a few days.


Now it was time to turn our attention to the vegetable gardens.  My mother has two large, raised beds where she grows a variety of delicious vegetables.  

Lily wanted to feed the chickens some lettuce from the garden.


The resident chickens of Double S Farms, love lettuce.


Next, great-grandma needed Lily’s help to pick a cabbage from the garden.  It was huge!  I only wish that I liked cabbage.

I asked my mother how she uses it and she told me that she uses it in soups, but blends it ahead of time so no one knows that it is in there.


Lily wondered if the chickens would like cabbage and it turned out that they liked it better than the lettuce.


Before leaving the gardens, Lily had to pick a flower.  Like many little girls, she loves flowers and carries them around smelling their fragrance.

The white petunias belong to Finley, my nephew, who gets a small plot in the vegetable gardens to plant what he likes.

As we got ready to leave, I noticed a beautiful, little bouquet made up of petunias on the kitchen table.  Who knew that petunias could make such a sweet bouquet?

Visits to the family farm are always refreshing and it was great to enjoy a morning out in the sunshine gardening.

A few days ago, I received an unexpected gift.  This gift was a morning where I had no appointments, I didn’t have to babysit my granddaughter, the kids were in school and I was caught up with all of my garden writing.

So, what should I do with this gift of time?

I spent it in my garden, taking pictures of the plants that make me happy right now.

I’d love to share my favorites with you if you have a few minutes of time…

Pink Trumpet Vine (Podranea ricasoliana)

One of my favorite plants growing in my gardens is Pink Trumpet Vine.  It stands at the corner of one of my vegetable gardens.  It is in full bloom right now as you can see.  Gorgeous pink flowers appear in spring and fall.

It can grow as a vine, with support, or as an open, sprawling shrub, which is how I like to grow it.

Pink Trumpet Vine does suffer frost damage and has even been killed to the ground in winter, but quickly grows back.  It is hardy to zone 7.

Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco)

Bright-yellow flower spikes cover my Cascalote tree in fall.  I love this small tree for so many reasons.

It is slow-growing, so there is not a lot of pruning required.  I love the round leaves that stay on the tree all year unless we get a cold spell of temps in the low 20’s.

Best of all, are the yellow flowers that appear in fall when most plants are beginning to slow down.

*Cascalote are very thorny and I personally think that the thorns are very cool-looking as long as you don’t get pricked.  There is a new variety called ‘Smoothie’ that is thornless.

Queen’s Wreath Vine (Antigonon leptopus)



Despite my best attempts, my Queen’s Wreath Vine insists on growing up the trunk of my Cascalote tree instead of up on the nearby garden wall.


But, I love this vine no matter where it chooses to grow.  It has heart-shaped leaves and stunning pink flowers that appear in summer and fall.


This is a tough vine that can handle reflected heat and does not need support to grow upward.  In winter, it will die back to the ground, but grows back in spring.  Hardy to 20 degrees F, or zone 9 gardens.

Gold Lantana



I know that Lantana can seem like a rather boring plant to some – but I wouldn’t write it off, if I where you.


Lantana is not fussy and it’s hard to find a plant that will bloom more throughout the warm months of the year.  I have it growing up along my front entry and I really like how it looks.


Maintenance is simple – prune back to 6 inches once the danger of frost is over (early March in my garden), removing all frost damage.  Lightly prune back by 1/2 in August and that is all you need.


Lantana are frost-tender and hardy to 10 degrees (zone 7).



My side garden is filled with another vegetable garden, apple and peach trees, blackberry shrubs and herbs.


Because I do not like looking out at bare walls, I have Pink Trumpet Vine, Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans), ‘Summertime Blue’ (Eremophila x ‘Summertime Blue’) and Pink Emu Bush (Eremophila laanii) planted along the wall.


These large shrubs are pruned once a year and that is all they need because I have given them enough room to stretch out.  


While these flowering shrubs make my bare wall disappear, they also benefit my edible garden in the side yard.  First, they help absorb the heat that the walls re-radiate out, keeping temperatures down.  Secondly, they also attract pollinators which pollinate my vegetables, fruit trees and blackberries.


Hummingbirds and other feathered visitors like to take shelter in their branches and I get to watch from my kitchen window.



In this garden, the vegetables are still rather small. But there is a collection of broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, carrots and Swiss chard.



An newly-planted artichoke is growing nicely next to some young carrot seedlings.  This vegetable doesn’t just produce delicious artichokes – they are also quite ornamental.



Just one month after sowing radish seeds, I am harvesting radishes already.  



In the corner of my vegetable garden is a Mexican Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that I grew from seed.



They are irresistible to butterflies and bees like them too 🙂



I have a rusty watering can that I just love.  Every fall I fill it with flowering annuals that will last through spring.


I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the can and put a drip emitter next to the flowers.  Once temperatures heat up into the 90’s, it gets too hot for the roots to survive in the pot, so it sits empty during the summer.  But even empty, it adds a touch of whimsy to my garden.



In front of my vegetable garden sits my herb container garden.  Chives, parsley, sage and thyme are growing nicely.  I like to throw in some petunias for additional color.



This young peach tree was planted back in January and is doing very well.  


That little plant next to it is a volunteer basil plant.   It will die once our first frost appears, so I will harvest it soon.



In front of my other edible gardens sit three brightly-colored pots filled with an assortment of flowers and edible plants.


This one is filled with a jalapeño pepper plant, garlic, ornamental kale and cabbage, bacopa, petunias, violas and red nasturtiums. 



Along the back is a small trellis that has sugar snap  peas growing on it.  They are just beginning to flower.



This is my daughter, Ruthie’s, vegetable garden.  She has leaf lettuce, strawberries, carrots and garlic growing in her garden.



This is my youngest daughter, Gracie’s, garden which has celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, carrots, malabar spinach and radishes growing in it.


*One of my fondest childhood memories was of my dad giving me a raised garden in the backyard of our Southern California home.  I was allowed to grow whatever I wanted, which was usually vegetables, violas and cosmos.



Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day, allowing me to share my favorites in my fall garden.


What is growing in your garden right now?

Believe it or not, it is time to plant certain kinds of vegetables right now.  

Yes, I realize that it is August and it is hot and the last thing you probably want to do is have to plant seeds out in your vegetable garden.  


But, just keep telling yourself that by working a little bit now, you will reap the rewards of fresh vegetables in just a few months when the temperatures are cooler.

So what seeds can you plant now?  Here are some of my favorites….

Sweet Corn…
Yes, we can grow two crops of corn here in the desert – once in spring and in the fall.  Aren’t we lucky?
 
Cucumbers…
Mine are still going strong from the spring.  Mostly due to the shade cloth.  I am still getting cucumbers.  It is amazing what a difference shade cloth makes 🙂
Leaf Lettuce…
I think this is my favorite vegetable.  I love going out in the garden with scissors and clipping our dinner salad.
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There are also other vegetables that you can plant now from seed and they include:
Basil (okay, this is a herb, but I do grow it in my vegetable garden)
 Cabbage
Celery
Green Snap Beans
Head Lettuce
and 
Summer Squash

It’s important to remember to start these from seed when planting this time of year.  However, if you prefer using transplants, you will need to wait until fall to plant.
So, do you have any plans for planting vegetables soon?
I would love to hear what you will be growing 🙂
 

Last fall, I planted a flower garden with my children using their old, plastic swimming pool.  You can read more about “A Children’s Garden in an Unusual Place” if you like.  The flowers grew and the kids loved taking care of watering their new plants.  

My mother, (Pastor Farmer), had a few cabbage transplants that she had purchased for her vegetable garden left over and gave them to the kids.  So, we planted two cabbages in the flower garden.

Like most children, my 3 youngest children love to play outside.  One morning, my daughter ran in and told me to hurry outside “to see something really neat.”

What they had discovered was a little caterpillar on one of our transplanted cabbages.  It was so small that I had to put on my “old lady” reading glasses just to see him clearly.
The kids were so excited about their find that they were jumping up and down.  Isn’t it amazing at how the simple things bring such joy into a child’s life?
 
Here is the caterpillar, who the kids named “Wormy”.  I apologize for the out of focus picture, but it is the best one that I have of him.
My children moved a patio chair right next to the the garden so that they could observe their new pet closely.  For three weeks, they would hurry home from school and run outside to sit and watch him – (at least I think it is a him).   
Then in January, the rains came and one day, we could no longer see “Wormy”.  My fear was that maybe he had been washed away by the storm.  To be honest, the kids were not too upset because by that time, they had tired of watching him all of the time and had moved on to watching their new rose shrubs grow.  I am thankful that at least “Wormy” lives on in our pictures and I have another childhood story to share with my children when they grow up.
By the way, the Three Little Roses are doing well and I will post pictures soon.  There have actually been a few surprises.
I hope you are all having a great week!