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Springtime in the garden is my favorite time of year.

Cool-season flowers are still in bloom while summer-bloomers are getting started.  The garden is awash in colorful flowers, vegetables, young fruit AND a few bugs and suckers.

I have two areas in my backyard where I grow edible plants.  Today, I invite you to take a tour of the largest edible garden, which is located along the side of my house.

Apple trees – April 2014

At the back of the garden, are two apple trees that I planted last year.  

They have grown so quickly.  This is what they looked like last year…

Newly planted apple trees – February 2013

What a difference!
I’ll admit that this area looks rather barren.  There used to be flowering shrubs up along the wall, which we took out in order to plant edible plants.


Usually, you have to wait a few years before you apple trees will produce fruit, so I was very surprised to see small apples forming.


This is what they look like now.  The apples will ripen in June and I am all ready to make homemade applesauce, which tastes so much better then store-bought.  
I wrote a post about how to make applesauce, which you can view here.

Blackberry flowers

Against the wall, behind the apple trees, are a row of blackberry bushes.

One of my favorite childhood memories are those of the blackberry bushes we had growing in our backyard in Southern California.  We would try to pick all we could before our dog would eat them.

Blackberry bushes are surprisingly easy to grow and there are thornless varieties available.  Unfortunately, some of my blackberry bushes are not thornless 😉

They are covered with flowers and small fruit.  BUT, I also saw something else on my berries…


Orange/black bugs covered a few of my berries.

I hadn’t seen this type of bug before, so I got to work on researching what these were.  Turns out they are the juvenile form of stink bugs – not good.

Evidently, they are fairly resistant to organic pesticides.  You can pick them off and squish them.  


The chives, garlic, parsley, thyme and sage are doing very well in my herb container.  However, the purple petunia is beginning to fade due to warming temperatures.  So, I will pull it out soon.

Flowering Sage

I don’t add flowers to my herb container during the summer.  I usually let my herbs flower, like my basil and sage.


At the same time we planted our apple trees, I also added two peach trees.  I was surprised that this tree produced 19 small peaches just months after we planted it last year – that is not normal.  I used them along with peaches from my mother’s trees to make peach jam.

This year, the same tree has decided to put it energy into growing just 2 peaches – which is normal.  They are huge!  I love to look out my kitchen window and see the fruit slowly ripening.

While admiring the peaches on my tree, I noticed something that did NOT make me happy…


Can you see what the problem is?  SUCKERS!  And I don’t mean the sweet candy that your grandma used to give you.

Fruit trees are grafted onto rootstock and occasionally, the rootstock decides to send up its own branches.  They are called ‘suckers’ because the ‘suck’ up the nutrients that would otherwise got to your fruit tree.  

To learn how to recognize and get rid of suckers, click here.


Underneath my apple and peach trees, I have garlic growing.  Garlic is a very helpful plant.  In this case, it helps to repel borers, which are beetles that lay eggs on the bark.  After the eggs hatch, the larvae bore their way into the trunk of the tree, often killing it.


Small fruit is beginning to form on my orange tree.  Like other fruit trees, it can take a few years before producing substantial amounts of fruit.

Our orange tree has been in the ground for 2 years and we got three oranges last winter.  I was so excited that I wrote an entire post about it.


Looking toward the vegetable garden, my artichoke plant is busy.  It has 9 small artichokes growing.  

I have a confession to make…

I don’t like eating artichokes.

But, the plant itself is very attractive and is often grown as an ornamental because it is a perennial and lives for more then 1 year.

I do have plans for these artichokes though.

– I will cook a few for my husband, who loves them.

– I will dry a few for fall arrangements.

– And, I will allow some to bloom – the flowers are gorgeous!


The purple violas in my rusty, old watering can will soon fade as the heat rises.

I do not plant anything in it during the summer months because it is too hot.  The soil temperature in small containers, literally ‘cooks’ the roots of plants.  Stick with planting larger pots for the summer and let your smaller containers take a break.


At the beginning of this post, I showed you a picture of my edible, side garden from the opposite side, near the wall.

This is the other view, looking in.  Toward the left side, are two ‘Summertime Blue’ Eremophila shrubs.  

Can you guess the last time that they were pruned?

3 years ago!

I love these shrubs and their bright-green foliage and purple flowers.


Bell-shaped, lavender flowers appear spring through summer.  This is a great ‘fuss-free’ shrub for the garden.  It is hardy to 15 degrees and thrives in full sun.  A definite must for the southwest garden.  

For more information about ‘Summertime Blue’, click here.

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Well, that is what is happening in one area of my garden.  

I invite you to come back next time, when I will show you my other edible garden, which is in full flower.  *I will also share with you the rest of our adventure when we hosted three young girls for the weekend from the Ugandan Orphan’s Choir.


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?

Do you like to use fresh herbs when you cook?

What if you could just step outside your door and snip some herbs without having to go to the store?   
Have you seen how expensive fresh herbs are at the supermarket by the way?

A few days ago, when I taped some “How To” gardening segments, I was asked to do one on how to plant a container herb garden.   

This is the herb container garden that I created on-camera and I thought you might like to create your own.
 
Here is how to do it:
 
1. Place your container in an area that receives at least 6 hours of sun.
 
Basil
 2.  Fill your container with planting mix, which is sterile, has a light texture and is specially formulated for container plants.  It retains just the right amount of moisture for plants. Potting soil can become soggy.
3. Add a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, and work it into the top 2-inches of soil.
Oregano
4. Plant your herbs. Oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme are easiest to grow when you start out with transplants. Basil grows easily from seed, but can you also use transplants.
 
Sage
5. Water deeply. Do not wet the foliage when you water them as they prefer to stay dry.
Thyme
6. Herbs like to dry out between watering. To check when they need water, simply stick your finger down to 1-inch deep – if the soil is moist, don’t water. However, if it’s almost dry, then water deeply until water runs out the bottom drainage hole.
Purple Basil (Not the healthiest specimen, but it was the only one they had – it was over-watered at the nursery).
7.  Don’t add any additional fertilizer after planting.  Herbs don’t like extra fertilizer since it causes them to grow larger leaves with fewer oils, which is what gives them their flavor.
 
I am going to place my new herb container in front of my new vegetable garden.  
 
Later, I plan on drying some of my herbs, which I will share with you.