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Do you have a vegetable garden or have you thought of maybe starting one?


Four years ago, we planted our first vegetable garden.




The kids were eager to join in the fun and helped us install our new garden.

We created a raised vegetable garden that measured 7 x 8 feet for a total area of 56 square feet of space for vegetables.

Although I have grown vegetables as a child and again as a horticulture student – this was our first time growing vegetables on our own.

It has been an incredibly rewarding an learning experience.

After the first year, we enjoyed our little garden so much, that we added an extension…


Our garden was fenced to keep our dogs out.

It was so great having even more space to grow vegetables.  You can view how we built our vegetable beds, here.

Those of you who grow vegetables, probably won’t be surprised to hear that we took it even further.  We created an edible garden along the side of our backyard, complete with our largest raised bed and added fruit trees and berries.

But, back to our original vegetable garden.  This is the garden that I see from my family room window.  Besides growing vegetables, it is also where I have masses of flowers growing, which attract pollinators.


Hollyhocks grow year after year, with no help from me.  I planted hollyhock seeds 4 years ago and since then, they come every year.

The hollyhocks are located just outside of the raised bed and get enough water from the vegetable garden.

Every year, I am never certain what colors of hollyhock will come up.  Some years, I have had white, red, pale pink and magenta flowers.


This year, it is magenta.


Nasturtiums always play an important part in my spring vegetable garden.  They help to repel damaging insects from my vegetables AND they add beauty to my garden as well.

They usually come up from seed, beginning in February.


This is the last of my leaf lettuce for the season.  Hot temperatures will cause it to ‘bolt’ soon and make the leaves taste bitter.  In my garden, this usually occurs in mid-May.

The blue lobelia came up on their own from those planted the previous year.


Onions are beginning to flower and I will harvest them once the tops die back, which should be around late May, early June.

I like to dice my onions and freeze them for future use.


My garden also has an unlikely plant growing next to my carrots – Pink Wood Sorrel.  I received a cutting of this plant from a fellow-blogger from Oregon.  Surprisingly, it thrives in its corner in my vegetable garden.  

The flowers appear throughout spring and then the entire plant dies down in the summer before growing back in the fall.


Along the front of the extended vegetable garden, sit three containers filled with a combination of flowering plants, vegetables and herbs.  It is very easy to grow vegetables in pots and you can read how to here.


The newest addition to this area of the garden is a Meyer lemon tree.  I realize that it looks rather sad, but there are quite a few new leaves beginning to bud and a few, tiny lemon fruit beginning to form.

The chicken wire is a temporary barrier for the dogs.  Eventually, we will remove it.

We selected a Meyer lemon tree because it is slightly more cold-hardy then the ‘Eureka’ variety.    Meyer lemons are sweeter them other lemon varieties because they are not a true lemon – they are a cross between an orange and lemon tree.  As a result, they are slightly sweeter then your typical lemon.

The only downside to Meyer lemons compared with ‘Eureka’ is that they are thorny.


Strawberries, malabar spinach and garlic are also current residents in my first edible garden.

But, this time of year – my favorite plant in my edible garden isn’t edible – it is my 12-foot tall hollyhocks.

So, how about you?  Do you have an edible garden, or are you thinking of starting one?

Every year, without fail, my thoughts tend to stray away from the garden and begin to focus on the upcoming holidays.


I start to think about out how many people we will be hosting for our annual Thanksgiving feast along with a host of other things… 

Will I be roasting a whole turkey or try to get away with just cooking turkey breasts like we did last year?

Can I ask my oldest daughter into making the trip to Costco and braving the line for their famous pumpkin pie?

Is my mother-in-law up to making her famous stuffing this year or will my sister-in-law be able to help her?

Of course, there are quite a few other Thanksgiving matters on my mind, but I will spare you any further details 😉

Every year when these questions are foremost in my mind and rather far away from my garden, is when my Cascalote tree begins to undergo a beautiful transformation.  Although it is a nice-looking tree throughout the entire year – it gets all dressed up for fall and winter when yellow flowers cover the entire tree canopy.


I bought my Cascalote tree when I was a horticulture student in college.  We took a field trip to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum where they were having a plant sale.

I came back with a 5-gallon Cascalote that I first planted in a large container because we were still in the process of building our house.

Once we moved in, I planted it in our front yard.

That was over 14 years ago and it has grown into a beautiful tree.

You can read more about this uniquely Southwestern tree and why you may want to plant one in your own garden in my latest article for Houzz…

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I hope your week is off to a great start!

Can you tell what is wrong with this Mesquite tree?


This tree has mistletoe growing in it.

Can you see it?

It is hard to spot mistletoe when it first infects a tree.  I can spot it right away, but it takes some time to recognize it when it is small.

Here is a closer look…


Look for green growth that has a slightly different shape and texture then the tree leaves.

Here is a close up photo…


You can see where the mistletoe has attached to the tree branch.

Mistletoe is easier to spot in the winter, when many of the trees are leafless.

The types of trees that I see with mistletoe are mesquite, palo verde and sweet acacia.

Because mistletoe is a natural part of the desert ecosystem, there is debate about whether or not to remove it from trees.

Mistletoe does not kill your tree, but it can stress them because it steals nutrients from the tree.  This can leave the tree open to additional stresses that can kill it.

Mesquite tree heavily infested with mistletoe.

As a Certified Arborist, I recommend removing mistletoe infestations from trees in landscape settings.  You may not mind the mistletoe, but it is spread by birds and your neighbors may not be too happy when their trees start sprouting mistletoe.

In the natural desert, I would leave mistletoe alone because it is part of the natural ecosystem and its berries are a food source for birds.

This small mistletoe growing on a palo verde tree trunk cannot be completely removed.  But, you can break off the mistletoe easily and keep it from becoming more established as long as you remove any new growth as it occurs.

For more information on when it is possible to remove mistletoe completely, you can read my previous post – “Got Mistletoe?”

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Thank you all for your supportive comments regarding my son Kai and his recovery from his sixth hip surgery.

His recovery has been harder this time with the pain.  Also, he is a lot heavier then he was the last time.  We have to carry him from his bed to his wheelchair to the toilet.

Kai is know finished with his prescription meds which has helped ‘clear his head’ a little bit.  Ibuprofen is not as effective with the pain, but it is manageable.

This week, instead of our weekly dinner at the family farm – they came over to our house because it is hard to transport Kai.


It was fun seeing his young cousins play army men with Kai using his wheelchair as a battlefield.

Kai is enclosed in a ‘cloverleaf’ brace that covers his torso and both legs, which helps to immobilize his hip.  The blue braces on his lower legs are his AFO’s which he has to wear all the time.  They add strength to his lower legs and keep his feet straight (he has had surgeries on these areas as well in the past).

We are slowly settling into our new routine with caring for Kai while getting our other tasks done, like blogging 😉

I stepped outside, early this morning, and did a little pruning to our palo verde tree that was hanging too far over our front entry pathway.  It felt great just doing something normal.

I hope your summer is off to a good start and you are finding ways to keep cool 🙂


Wouldn’t it be great to have one basic tool that you could attach a different gardening power tools too?  I am so excited to show you this new product from the folks at Troy-Bilt who I have partnered with on this new campaign.

This may look like an ordinary string trimmer, but it is so much more…

 
 
Leave it to folks at TroyBilt to create a line of string trimmers that can be interchanged with a variety of gardening tools such as a cultivator and a pole chain saw (pictured above with the string trimmer attachment).
 
But TroyBilt didn’t stop there – they also created turbo leaf blower, lawn edger, hedge trimmer, broom and brush cutter attachments as well.

 
 
Earlier this year, I was asked to be a part of the ‘Saturday 6’, which is a group six of garden bloggers from around the country.  As part of TroyBilt’s Saturday 6, we have been asked to evaluate a number of their products and give our honest opinion about their performance.
 


I must admit that my favorite attachment has been my new cultivator.

Of course, my husband would differ and say that our new TroyBilt string trimmer is his favorite.

 
 
I have been waiting patiently (not really) to use the cultivator in my vegetable gardens since my TroyBilt equipment arrived in March.
 
But, I have had to wait until my lettuce was done for the season and then harvest my garlic before I could cultivate the soil.
 
Finally, the day arrived for my TrimmerPlus Add-On Cultivator to make its debut in my garden.
 
 
Before using the cultivator, I had to start it first.
 
 One complaint that I have with using power equipment is the pull-start.  It can be very hard for women to use a pull-start (me included).  In the past, I would call a crew member over to start equipment for me.  Since I don’t have a crew anymore, I often ask my husband to help me if I can’t start it myself.

 

Well, I don’t have to worry about pull-starts anymore, thanks to TroyBilt.

 

 

 

 

 

They have created the JumpStart, which is an electrical starter that easily starts most of their power equipment without using the pull-start.

 

 

 

 

 

All you need to do is to fit the JumpStart into a special portal…
 
 
And it starts up easily!  The JumpStart is battery powered and can be plugged in to re-charge.
 
The equipment does have a pull-start, so the JumpStart is optional.  I have had no problem using the pull-start of my favorite TroyBilt cultivator/string trimmer, but the JumpStart is easier to use.
 
Before cultivating my soil, I added compost, manure, blood and bone meal to my vegetable garden.  Now, I was ready to mix my amendments in.
 
 
The cultivator was lightweight, easy to use and tilled my soil perfectly without going too deep.
 

 
One of my vegetable gardens is rather narrow, which makes my new cultivator easy to use because it can work in narrow spaces.  Unlike larger tillers, this cultivator is perfect for smaller spaces and is easier to handle.
 
 
After I was finished tilling my vegetable gardens, there were some left over bits and pieces of plants that got caught up in the tines.  It was easy to remove them afterward by taking the tines off and cleaning them. 
 
In the past, tilling soil using a rake or shovel always took me a lot longer and I was a tired, hot, sweaty mess afterward with a sore back to boot.
With my new cultivator, I can till my soil quickly, without the negative side effects 😉
 
 
As a Certified Arborist, I am often instructing my clients how to prune and care for their trees.  While I don’t prune their trees for them, I do like to prune my own trees whenever possible.
 
 
I had a little pruning to perform for my Desert Willow, so the cultivator attachment came off and the TrimmerPlus Add-On Pole Chain Saw was attached (no tools are needed to add the different attachments).
 
 
This branch had suffered damage in a wind storm when part of it peeled off.  It left the branch weak, so it needed to be removed.  I started by pruning away the top part of the branch first.
 
The pole chain saw worked very well for me.  It comes with an additional extension pole for when you need to reach higher up (up to 11 feet), but I didn’t need it for this limb.  It is self-oiling, which keeps the bar and chain lubricated.
 
Using a pole chain saw saves you from having to climb a ladder to prune branches that are high up and it is lighter then using a regular chain saw.
 
 
My husband has been using our TroyBilt 4-Cycle Gas Straight Shaft String Trimmer for weeks now.  His initial impression was that it was more powerful then our old trimmer.  It also has a larger cutting width (18″) and as a result, edging our lawn goes more quickly.
 
 
There is no need to mix oil and gas – it runs on regular gasoline.  One of the most frustrating tasks when using a string trimmer is to having to refill the string – not a problem with TroyBilt’s string trimmer, which has the ‘Click N Trim’ Pro cutting head. You can simply thread the line through the eyelets and twist to wind up the line.  No more taking apart the cutting head.
 
The string trimmer can be started with the JumpStart, which I mentioned earlier.  But, the pull start is surprisingly easy to use due to the ‘Spring Assist Starting Technology’.
(I must admit that I like to use the pull-start, because I am thrilled with how easy it is to do with all my TroyBilt equipment, compared to the pull-starts of other equipment that I have used in the past).
 
Do you have a garage or shed full of garden equipment, with room for little else?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a string trimmer that can be used with a variety of attachments? 
 
Think of how much room you would save!
 
Okay, here is the part you have been waiting for…
 
**TROYBILT GIVEAWAY** 
for readers of my blog.
 
Would you like to have a TroyBilt string trimmer with your choice of attachment for your garden?
 
The wonderful folks at TroyBilt are giving away a their top-of-the-line TB6044 XP Straight Shaft String Trimmer.
 
 
Plus, your choice of one of the following attachments:
 
 
Now, if that isn’t enough, TroyBilt will also giveaway their JumpStart cordless engine starter to the winner along with the string trimmer, and choice of attachment.
 
1. To enter, simply leave me a comment with your choice of attachment.  (Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)
 
2. For a bonus entry, become a new follower of my blog,  ‘Like’ me on Facebook or ‘follow’ me on Twitter – (be sure to let me know in your comment).
 
Let your friends know about this great giveaway and I will select a random winner in one week!
**I am paid for my involvement with the Saturday 6 and the equipment, described above, was provided to me at no cost by TroyBilt, who wanted my honest opinion – good or bad.  I can honestly state that I am very impressed by the quality and design of their power equipment.

Most of my job as a horticulturist and garden writer is fun.  

But sometimes, I have to be the bearer of bad news.

Last week, I was called to a home where the homeowners were worried about one of their citrus trees.  Although I am a horticulturist, I am also a Certified Arborist, which can also be very helpful – especially when I am dealing with trees.

There was a large lemon tree in their front garden.  They were concerned because they had some branches dying back and wanted to know what the cause was.

So, I stopped by and took a look at the lemon tree.  At first glance, it looked fine – the homeowner had had the dead branches removed.

But, I had to look more closely, which meant getting close to the interior branches and the trunk.

What I saw in one of the remaining branches wasn’t good…

      
Can you see that the branch on the left is missing bark and is colored black?
What is this you may wonder?
Sooty Canker.
Sooty Canker is a fungal disease that infects many different species of trees including citrus.  It spreads through fungal spores.  The spores enter the tree through damaged areas on the branches or trunk, forming lesions and eventually causing the bark to peel off.
It is called ‘sooty canker’ because of the black color of the fungal spores.  The branches almost looked as if they have been scorched by fire.
In this case, the lemon tree had experienced severe frost damage 1 1/2 years ago.  Frost can cause splitting and other damage in the bark.  Sunburn damage can cause similar problems as wellThe fungal spores enter through these damaged areas and begin to grow.
If only branches are affected, they can be pruned 6 inches to 1 ft. below where you see evidence of the sooty canker.  Pruning tools must be disinfected with a 20% bleach solution to keep the disease from spreading between each pruning cut.
I was hopeful that I could tell the homeowners that all they had to do was to prune the affected branches.
But that was before I looked down at the trunk…
   
The entire trunk was infected with sooty canker.  Unfortunately, this almost certainly means that the tree will die.  
In this case, the tree should be removed to avoid spreading it to other trees.
I hated to tell the homeowners that they would have to have their tree taken out.  Especially after they told me how much fruit they had enjoyed over the years from this tree.
After I told them the fatal diagnosis of their lemon tree – I offered to look at their other four citrus trees.  I wanted to make sure that they weren’t infected as well.
Well, the good news was that their Meyer lemon tree was healthy.
The bad news was that their two orange trees and pommelo tree were all badly infected with sooty canker.  
Did I mention that I hate being the bearer of bad news?
I must say that the clients accepted the bad news very well.
In fact, they said that they had gotten tired of picking up dropped fruit AND that one of them couldn’t even eat citrus any more due to dietary constraints.
They will be removing their five infected citrus trees while keeping a close eye on their disease-free Meyer lemon tree.  At the first sign of a lesion, they will prune it away to help keep it safe from infection.
Guess what?   
They asked me to return in spring to design a new landscape area in place of their citrus trees.  I like being with people who see things as “a glass half-full”.  
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If you suspect that your tree has sooty canker – have a professional confirm the diagnosis and discuss with you the treatment options.  If the trunk is not affected, you may be able to save your tree. 
For more information, check out this link. 

Some of you may recall me telling you about a young tree that had suffered terrible frost damage during the winter of 2011.

The tree was located at Double S Farms, which is where my mother, my sister and her family live.

This Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo) tree had turned brown and ‘crispy’.  We waited until June to see if there would be any green growth to show us that it was alive.
The entire tree died, except for a little ‘sucker’ that started growing up from the base.
I wrote about this back then in, “Second Chance for a Frost-Damaged Tree”

My brother-in-law and I cut off the dead tree (the entire part we are holding in our hands in the photo above) and staked up the tiny sucker, hoping that it would grow…


And now, just 14 months after we removed the frost-damaged tree, this is what the single sucker has grown up too…
Posing by the tree with my sister’s new 3-legged dog, Johnny.
It is hard to believe that just over a year ago, there was nothing but a single tiny branch growing from the base of the tree that had been killed by frost.
The majority of the time, people simply dig up their frost-damaged tree and start over with a new tree.
I recommend waiting a few months to see if there is any part of the tree that is still alive.  Often, they will grow a few small branches from the base, even if the rest of the tree is totally dead.
Select a single small branch and remove the dead tree and the other small branches – you want to concentrate your energy on a single branch (sucker) to grow into a new tree.
You may be wondering, isn’t it easier to just start over and plant a new tree?
The answer is “no” for a few reasons:
1. It is wasting your money buying a new tree that you may not need.
2. Save yourself the extra labor of having to dig up your old tree and plant a new one.
3. Your little branch (sucker) will grow faster then a new tree will.  The reason for this is that it already has a large established root system from the original tree. A new tree does not have a large root system and has to spend a lot of time to grow roots.  Until a tree has a good root system, the top will not grow as quickly as a tree that already has established roots.

**And so, next winter (I realize it is hard to think of winter in the middle of August), if your tree is unfortunate enough to suffer extensive frost damage – don’t remove it right away.  
You may be able to save it and have a beautiful “new” tree in its place.