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One of the many blessings of living in the desert Southwest is the ability to grow vegetables out in the garden all year long. Today, I thought that I would give you a peek into my winter vegetable garden.

Over the past couple years, my vegetable garden had become slightly messy with a mixture of herbs, vegetables, and flowers growing in disorganized masses. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a perfectionist – far from it. But, I realized that I am more likely to maintain and harvest my vegetables when they are neatly laid out in rows. 

So in August, I ripped out everything from the garden except for a new Spanish lavender plant.

Once September arrived, my husband helped me to replace a few of the wood sides that had gradually rotted. I was happy to note that they had lasted over five years.

We amended the soil with 2 parts of mushroom compost and 1 part aged steer manure. This was my first time using mushroom compost. I wish I could say that it was because I had read about how good it was, but the truth is that the store was out of my favorite brand of compost, and mushroom was what was available. So, we used it.

Blood and bone meal were then sprinkled to provide organic sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.

A new irrigation system was installed in the form of micro-soaker hoses. We bought a kit from our local big box store, which was easy to install. 

Now for the fun part, sowing seeds!

The folks at Botanical Interests provided me with seeds, free of charge, to try out in my garden. I’ve used their seed for years, and they have a large selection of flowers, herbs, and vegetable seed that is of the highest quality.

My favorite cool-season crops are leaf lettuce and kale. I’ve had great luck growing kale, with the same plants lasting for over two winter seasons.

The earliest crop that I’ve harvested were bush beans that I planted in September from seed. Botanical Interests suggested I grow ‘Jade’ and ‘Royal Burgundy’ varieties. Both were delicious, and I discovered that the purple color fades when roasted.

The mild winter has my basil thriving. A client gave me this unique variety of basil called, Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil. It is an heirloom variety, and it is growing beautifully.

Three-inch little heads of cauliflower are just beginning to form. For some reason, I don’t have much luck growing broccoli, but I do grow a mean cauliflower.

While I did reduce the number of flowers in the vegetable garden, I grew a brand-new variety of marigold from a seed called ‘Moonsong Marigold Deep Orange.’

My strawberry plants are beginning to flower and produce tiny fruits.

My avoidance of bagged salad greens is still in place as the garden is still producing plenty of leafy greens.

Finally, a peek into the future, with carrots growing vigorously. 

Do you grow vegetables? I highly recommend it. Even with the busyness of life and the stresses that it brings, it just melts away as I take a few minutes to walk through the garden observing new growth, some welcome surprises, and most importantly, the delicious flavors that it adds to our favorite dishes.

Disclosure: I was provided seed from the folks at Botanical Interests free of charge for my use and honest opinion.

I am always looking for new ways to make things from what I grow in my garden.


Fruit vinegars are an easy and fun way to use fruit you may have growing in the garden. 

What can you use fruit vinegars for?  I use them to create vinaigrettes, marinades and glazes, where they add delicious and unexpected flavor.


Making fruit vinegar is simple to do – all you need is the fruit of your choice (chopped) and white wine vinegar.  Fruits that can be used include apple, berries, peach, pear, plum and strawberries.

I recently made some strawberry vinegar that is so good, my husband has been making his own salads – it tastes that good.

The process is the same for whatever type of fruit you choose.  Are you ready?

1. Dice fruit into 1-inch size pieces.


2. Fill a glass jar 1/3 of the way full of copped fruit and then pour white wine vinegar until it reaches the top.


3. Store your fruit/vinegar jar in a cool, dark place such as a pantry for 4 weeks.

4. Once a week, shake the jars, to help mix up the contents.


After a month has passed, your fruit will have taken on a colorless appearance while the vinegar will have beautiful, color, which means lots of delicious flavor.


5. Place a strainer over a bowl and put a paper towel inside.  Pour out the contents of the jars.


6. Pour the strained liquid into a clean jar.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Congratulations!  You now have a jar filled with delicious fruit vinegar ready to use to flavor your favorite dishes.

You may wonder how I used my latest batch of strawberry vinegar.  Well, I have a top secret family recipe for salad dressing that my kids and husband love.  

It’s from my grandma, who coincidentally, was NOT a great cook – but she certainly made a delicious salad dressing.

I’m sure that she would be tickled pink to know that I am sharing it with all of you – just click the link below for the recipe.


I hope you decide to make some fruit vinegar too! In addition to strawberry vinegar, I also like to make it from peaches from our fruit trees – you can see how I made this earlier, here.

How about you?  What fruit would you choose to make vinegar from?


Do you love strawberries?


I do.  In fact, it’s my favorite type of fruit.  


One of my earliest memories is of the strawberry patch growing in my grandfather’s garden in Frankfurt, Germany.  

We would visit them once a year for a month when we were young while they lived there.  I remember pesky rabbits trying to steal some of the sweet strawberries and my grandfather’s ongoing battle to keep them out.

My hometown, in Southern California, was surrounded by strawberry fields.  When you drive down the 101 Highway through Ventura County, you could smell their delicious fragrance.


What’s even better than smelling the strawberries, is being able to stop by the small produce markets right next to the fields where you can buy large flats of strawberries straight from the field.


The strawberries are beautiful, unblemished and you can’t resist sampling one or two or even three before you make it back into your car.

While I love living in Arizona, I do miss the strawberry fields from my hometown.  However, now my second-oldest daughter, Rachele, lives close to the town where I grew up and so I get to visit the fields again and bring home huge flats of delicious, sweet strawberries.

In fact, earlier this week, I stopped by this small produce store and bought some strawberries and took them home and made 20 jars of strawberry jam.  I stayed up late last night, finishing up canning the strawberries and had some homemade strawberry jam on my toast this morning – yum!

So, why was I in California?


Well, I had a very important reason – my grandson, made his debut!

Of course, my husband and I were prepared to leave at any minute to drive out to California so that we could be there for our daughter when she went into labor, but the entire process didn’t go exactly as we had planned.

In fact, I ended up spending 8 days in California.

I’ll share more of our journey next time – it may be a two-parter 🙂
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?

Earlier this week, I shared with you the first garden on the Arcadia Edible Tour.  It was just wonderful to see the Sweet Life Garden in person.


However, we had to tear ourselves away from the first garden because there were more to see…



We stopped by Larry’s “Living the Dream Micro Farm”.  


Like many of the gardens we visited, Larry had chickens.

But, what really caught my attention was his row of trash can compost bins.


Each trash can was filled with compost in a different stage.  The trash cans are re-purposed by the City of Phoenix and are available to their residents for $5 a bin.  
Other cities offer free or inexpensive trash cans or compost bins.  Check your local city’s website under waste management to see what they offer.

Larry loved talking about his composting.  He primarily uses chicken manure, coffee ground and leaves.  It takes approximately 2 1/2 months from start to finish according to Larry.


Larry had huge tomato plants growing, heavily laden with fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit).


After leaving Larry’s garden, my mother asked to stop by Baker’s Nursery, which is her favorite place to buy vegetables.  Baker’s is the favorite nursery of locals and is located on 40th Street, South of Indian School Rd.


The problem with me going to a nursery as nice as Baker’s, is that I become like a child in a candy store.


I always come home with plants and seeds.  In this case, I bought more bush beans for my garden along with some perennial flowers and Angelita Daisy.

Back on tour, we saw some great examples of vegetables being grown.


Eggplant.


Aren’t these cucumber vines impressive?  The trellis is made up of rebar and wire mesh.

I think cucumber flowers are so pretty, don’t you?


I do love the bright colors of blanket flower, which attract pollinators to the vegetable garden.


I think vegetables are beautiful.


This may look like a green tomato – but it isn’t.  It’s a tomatillo.


Zucchini is so impressive in the vegetable garden. They grow so quickly and get so big.  I have them growing my garden too.  Now, I just have to get a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake so my kids will eat it 😉



I haven’t grown strawberries in my garden, although they are my favorite fruit.
I spent time in Germany as a child with my grandparents who had a huge strawberry garden and one of my favorite memories is chasing the rabbits away.

I may have to try growing some next year.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, we did see a beautiful lily pond…


And something quite unexpected…


That’s the thing with garden tours, you never know what you will see…


As you can tell, we were enjoying ourselves very much.


There was so much to see, that I still have one more post showing you some of our favorite parts of a few more gardens.


So come on back….you hear?