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Whenever I am not writing, you’ll often find me out in the field helping others learn how to grow and maintain their landscapes.


Usually most landscape consultations are fairly routine.  However, I sometimes see something truly unique.


Earlier this week, I saw something that is probably the most unexpected thing that I’ve ever encountered.


Here is how it unfolded…


I met with a very nice couple who had a new landscape installed a year ago.  While they were very happy with the design, they wanted to learn how to care for their plants and needed help with some problems with dead plant(s) and some failing to thrive. 

Other than a dead Valentine bush, some iron chlorosis, over fertilizing and a few plants growing in the wrong exposure – it was all fairly routine until I saw an unusual shrub off in the distance.


I must confess that I had no idea what the shrub was from this distance.  Now every once in a while, I am faced with a plant that I am not familiar with, but I was hopeful that as we got nearer, I would be able to figure it out.


As we got closer to the shrub, I still didn’t know what it was.  I’m starting to feel a bit uncomfortable because I have no idea what this shrub is.

It did have dark, dusty green foliage that started to turn red with cooler winter temperatures.

The homeowner had carefully staked it upright and it had an attractive vase shape growth habit.


At this point, the homeowner complained about a mesquite tree volunteer that was coming up at the base.

I took a closer look and discovered that the so called ‘mesquite tree’ was actually a Baja fairy duster – that was a MAJOR clue about the identity of this unusual shrub.

At this point, I looked closer at the leaves of the shrub, which did look rather familiar – just not on a shrub…


Does it look familiar to you?  

At this point, I knew what it was, but I couldn’t get my head around what this unusual shrub actually was.

Can you tell what it is yet?


The base was quite large and I could see the Baja Fairy Duster, to the left, trying to grow.

I told the homeowners that what they thought was a mesquite tree volunteer (basically a weed), was in fact the plant that was supposed to grow there.


So what was the ‘unusual shrub’ then?

Belive it or not, the shrub that the homeowners had carefully staked and fertilized over the past year was actually a WEED!

So what kind of weed was it?


That large shrub that was 4+ ft. high and 2 ft. wide was really a spotted spurge weed!

Can you believe it?

Spotted spurge is the bane of many gardeners and is a low-growing weed that spreads.  I hate this little weed.  I’ve spent hours battling this weed during my time as a horticulturist for golf courses and now in my own garden.


So how did the homeowners mistake this weed for a shrub?  Well, I suspect that the nursery container, with their actual shrub, had spurge already growing in it (not uncommon).  

The new shrub was quite small when first planted and the spurge, like most weeds, grew quickly – much more quickly than the shrub itself.

The poor little Baja fairy duster had little chance of growing afterward since weeds are famous for being vigorous growers and out compete other plants for water and nutrients.  

So what did the homeowners think, you may wonder?

Well, they were shocked, but then got a good laugh out of it.  The wife was having a lot of fun teasing her husband about his ‘unusual shrub’.

Have you ever seen an unusual plant that turned out to be a weed?  This one is definitely one for the books in my career.

**If you have problems with spurge, you can treat them with homemade weed killer that uses natural ingredients – vinegar and soap – that’s it.  

 

*This blog post contains affiliate link for a product that helps get rid of caterpillars. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

Fall is a busy time for me in the garden.  However, you will usually find me in other people’s gardens helping them achieve their goal of a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. I did manage to get my cool-season vegetable gardens planted.  I planted my favorites, which include carrots, cauliflower, garlic, a variety of leaf lettuces and radishes.

 
 
I included broccoli in my list of vegetables this year, despite the fact that I have yet to grow a healthy head of broccoli (the broccoli in the photo above is from my mother’s garden).
 
Every year, I grow beautiful cauliflower while my broccoli decides to produce very few flowering stalks.  At the end of the season when I look at my less than stellar broccoli harvest – I promise myself that I won’t try again.
 
But, after 6 months pass, I am always tempted to try again hoping that this year will be different.
 
With the exception of carrots and radishes, I planted all of my other vegetables from transplants.  Normally, I almost always use seed, (with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which do better when grown from transplants) but I knew that I wouldn’t have time to come out and thin excess plants later.
 
 
This smaller vegetable garden is closer to my kitchen and so I put in vegetables that I would harvest more frequently throughout the season in this area.  Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale all went in here.
 
The larger garden is a bit further away and so it was planted with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic and radishes, which are harvested once.
 
My artichoke plant from next year died back to the ground in the summer, (which is normal by the way) and is now growing again.



In addition to my artichoke, my bell pepper plant is also a holdover from last year’s garden.  Actually, it is 2 years old.  Although pepper plants can die from freezing temperatures, I protect mine when the temps dip below freezing, so they are qutie large and produce a lot of peppers much to the delight of my husband and children who like to eat the bell peppers raw.



I also dice them and freeze them for using in my favorite Mexican rice recipe.

I’ve already had to spray my leafy greens with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to deal with the caterpillars that had started to eat holes in the leaves.  It worked great, but I will need to reapply every once in a while. I use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.
 
 
Nasturtiums are coming up again from seed in the gardens.  I just let them go to seed each year and they always come back.  I use nasturtiums in my vegetable gardens because they repel bad bugs.  Besides, they look pretty, don’t you think?
 
 
Nasturtiums aren’t the only flowers in my vegetable gardens – marigolds are also great at keeping damaging insects at bay.  This year, I planted a marigold at the end of each row of vegetables.
 
I love how their orange flowers brighten up the garden in the middle of winter.
 
Marigolds and nasturtiums are just a few of the flowers who actually help vegetables.  For more information on other plants to include in your vegetable garden you can visit my previous post, “Even Vegetables Need Friends”.
 
 
I am having a problem in one of my vegetable gardens that began this past summer – spurge!  I have come to truly hate this creeping weed and it has decided to move from the nearby landscape areas into my vegetable garden.
 
It got pretty bad last summer and we ripped it all out.  To help combat it, we added 4 inches of compost/manure, which did help to smother some of the weeds.  But, some are still coming up.  So, I go out every week and spray them with my homemade weed killer, taking care not to spray my vegetables by accident.
 
You may see homemade weed killers that list salt as one of the ingredients.  DON’T add salt to weed killers – especially if you live in the desert Southwest.  Our soil and water already has a lot of salts in them and adding more is not good for your plants – in fact, too much salt can kill them.
 
Homemade weed killer made from vinegar and soap works just fine on most weeds, except for the really tough ones.
 
Have you planted a vegetable garden this year?  What are you growing?