Learning about the natural world and how it works is one of the joys of being a child. I was reminded of this fact the other day with my grandson, Eric. He came over for a visit after preschool and was so excited to show me a science experiment that they had done in class.

Clutched in his little hand was a plastic baggie with a moistened paper towel and a sprouted seed. Oh, he was so proud of his little seed and he couldn’t wait to plant it in my vegetable garden.


Such a tiny seed…

Do you remember doing this in school? I do! And the joy of planting a single seed was just one of the ‘sparks’ that ignited my passion and career in gardening.


We selected the best spot in the garden.



Eric dug a little hole and we carefully placed his seed in it.

Notice that the seed is located several inches away from a young bean plant. I did that on purpose, so if Eric’s little seedling doesn’t grow, he can ‘adopt’ the nearby bush bean.

Now, to pat down the soil.



Eric loves my little blue watering can



Watering in his little seedling.

Oh, I do hope that his little pea seed begins to grow. Eric has already spent a lot of time out in the garden with me and whether or not he follows in his grandma’s footsteps, he will always experience joy when spending time in the garden.

Have you ever successfully grown a seedling that you grew in school?

We’ve reached the final day of our garden gift lists and today, it’s all about kids.

Gifts with a garden theme aren’t just for adults; there is no better way to foster the curious spirit of children and lead them on a path of discovery about the natural world around them than the gift of a kid-sized kit with a garden theme. As a mom and grandma, I’ve enjoyed countless hours with young children as they learn about plants and insects. Here are some gift ideas for the young people in your life.

1. Root Viewer

Foster a love for vegetable gardening by showing kids what goes on beneath the soil. They plant a carrot, onion, and radish seeds and watch the roots develop at the same time that the leafy tops grow. Click here to learn more and purchase. 

2. Butterfly Garden

Join with your kids as you view the miracle of caterpillars transform into butterflies. All you need is inside this best-selling kit, except for the sugar water. I wrote about my experience of doing this with my kids. Needless to say, they loved it! Click here to order. 

3. Grow N’ Glow Terrarium

Terrariums are fun for both adults and kids alike, allowing them to view a self-contained world. I like that this kit has all you need to make your own while learning about plants and how they grow. My 6-year-old granddaughter, Lily, asked for this for Christmas. Click here to order. 

4. Mason Bee House

Imagine the delight of your kids when they see little mason bees making their home in this little bee house. Mason bees are important pollinators and don’t sting, making this a safe and fun gift. Click here to order. 

5. Little Diggers Garden Tool Set

Young children like to work alongside adults in the garden, so how about getting them their own set of kid-sized tools? Believe it or not, we bought this when my 32 and 23-year-old daughters were little, and they used them often. All of the tools lasted a long time. In fact, we still have the little shovel! Click here to order. 

The right garden gift for a child can foster a lifelong love of gardening, and you can be the one to begin them on this journey.

This concludes my Four Days of Garden Gifts. If you missed any of them, here they are – Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.


For those of you who have found yourselves in a new place without a clue how to care for your garden, this post is for you.

In my last post, we talked about six things to do before you make any changes to your landscape.  

Today, it’s time for the fun part – putting your personal stamp on your garden.

BEFORE: The front of the house had a continuous row of bearded iris, several peony bushes, and a rose.

To illustrate the steps, I will be using my daughter and her new home in Michigan as an example.  

1. Remove any unwanted plants.

For many people, this is the hardest step to take.  Quite a few have a problem with killing plants. 

My daughter didn’t particularly like bearded iris.  So I dug up most of them.
Let me help you with this big step:

– The outside of your home should reflect you and your tastes, as the interior does. 

– We eat plants (vegetables) every day without thinking twice about it.  

– In many cases, you are replacing old plants with new ones that you like much better.

It was a lot of work, but we got it done.
– You can try to give your unwanted plants away to friends, neighbors, or your landscaper may have a use for them.

2. Figure where you want to add new plants and how many you need.

Just because you have removed some plants, doesn’t mean that you need to replace all of them.  Empty space can be used to draw attention to the plants present and create a more streamlined design.

Measure the area where you want new plants to be added so that you don’t inadvertently purchase plants that are too large or small.

3. Decide what types of new plants you want and how many you will need.

If you’ve followed the guidelines that I outlined in Part 1, you will have a good idea of what plants you will want to add along with their requirements.

My daughter and her husband wanted roses, an apple tree, and lavender.

It goes without saying that you should select plants for a certain area, based on what exposure they require.  West and south-facing exposures are considered full sun.  North-facing is shady.  Eastern exposures can be tricky as they have both full sun and shade during parts of the day.  In those cases, choose plants that can take the sun and filtered shade for best results.

4. Take your list and shop for new plants.

After canvassing several local nurseries, we finally found the Mr. Lincoln rose we had been looking for.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is a good idea to form a relationship with your local nursery, who can be a wealth of helpful information.  

Take time to ask questions about specific plants that you are buying – nursery staff will often provide information on how to care for it along with other characteristics.

Sometimes, you just have to do a little impromptu pruning in the parking lot to get your new apple tree to fit into the car.

Although big box stores aren’t the best source for plant advice or whose plant stock is reliable hardy for that specific climate – they can be a good source for plants if you know what you are buying ahead of time and can’t find it anywhere else.

5. Dig holes 3X as wide as the root ball.

The soil in this part of Michigan has a LOT of rocks in it.
The majority of a plant’s roots spread outward into the top 18 inches of soil.  By digging the hole wider than the rootball, you are helping it to become established more quickly.

Get your kids involved – they will have fun while learning about nature at the same time.  (A recycled cardboard box makes a great temporary knee rest or place to sit).

**It’s important to note that the depth of the hole should be slightly shallower (a couple of inches) than the rootball.  Settling can occur after planting, and if plants are too deep, they can suffocate from a lack of oxygen.

6. Install new plants

This is perhaps the most rewarding part of adding your personal style to the garden.  

All you’ve done to this point comes to a head as you place the first plant that you chose yourself in your garden.

There are a few tricks to transplanting new plants successfully.  One of the hardest can be to remove the plant safely from its nursery container without damaging the roots.

For 5-gallon to 15-gallon size plants, a sharp pair of hand pruners, or loppers are invaluable.  Use them to make two cuts from the top to the base, about 1/3 of the circumference of the pot apart. 

Carefully fold down the cut section of the nursery pot and gently slide the plant into its hole.  

Press the soil firmly around the plant and water deeply.

7. Prune and maintain what you already have.

My third oldest daughter, pruning the lower branches of the dappled willow trees.

As we talked about in Part 1, learn about your current plants and what type of maintenance they require from the nursery and cooperative extension office.  They should be able to tell when and how much to prune certain plants.  Don’t know what type of plant you have?  Take a picture with your phone and take it to the nursery, who should be able to identify it for you.

Weed-filled, future vegetable garden

Remove any and all weeds.  

Don’t be afraid to have your family help you.

8. Whenever possible, get your kids involved in the garden.

If possible, give them their own small plot of land where they can grow anything they want.  *This can be a place to add some plants that you ripped out of other areas of the garden.

Provide them with kid-sized gardening tools such as gloves, hand shovel, and a watering can.

Let them pick out plants.  This will give your child a sense of ownership of their new house and garden, which can help decrease any homesickness for their old home.

While weeding the vegetable garden, my youngest daughter, and granddaughter found a tiny frog.

Gardening encourages your child to spend time in an outdoor classroom where they can run and play while discovering new things.

No matter where you live,  I hope that the following tips will help you create a garden the reflects your personality while adding beauty to your outdoor space.

One of the joys of gardening, is sharing it with others.

I have shared it with my kids and am now starting with my first grandchild, Lily.

Last week, we made a Valentine’s Day present for her mom and dad.

We started with a trip to the nursery…

We bought two types of flowers for a fragrant container – Stock and Alyssum.

I already had the pot, the potting soil and slow-release fertilizer – so we were good to go.

When I had planned to do this with Lily – I had counted on my husband being there to take pictures of us.  But, he had to leave at the last minute to take the dog to the vet (abscessed tooth – he’s okay now).

So, I had to take the photos myself, while making sure that Lily didn’t fall off the bench – hence the picture, above, of her sitting in my lap.

She seemed pretty steady on the picnic bench, so I let her sit by herself for a few seconds for this picture…

She did just great, but I did have to teach her not to pull the flowers off – I think that is first lesson that I have had to teach each of my kids.

When my daughter came over to pick her up later that day – Lily had a pretty container of flowers to give to her mom.

Lily is 15-months old and at a great age to start letting her accompanying me in the garden.

Next week, I think we will pull some carrots from the vegetable garden for her to take home.

My two oldest daughters, don’t have any special interest in gardening – although I did try my best.

My 15-year old daughter, Ruthie, loves the vegetable garden.  I hope that she will continue to enjoy gardening as she grows up.

How about you?  Do you like to garden with your kids or grandkids?

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.