Monday, November 30, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

My to-do list is short this week, not because there is no work to get done in my yard (there is a lot!), but I have a sore throat. This picture shows a silver sage plant that is in a large pot on my back patio. A shrub has overgrown the pot, but the sage makes the best of it. Yes, the sage does look kind of droopy--I haven't been watering it! When I realized my mistake, I soaked it good and it was happy once again. This is a reminder for you to water the pots in your garden. The garden soil (in the ground) may appear moist, but the pots depend on us to keep them watered--at least until the rains start. Yard sprinklers need to be adjusted to water once a week, unless there is rain, of course.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vegetables at the Garden of the Sun

I was at the Garden of the Sun (the Master Gardener demonstration garden) Wednesday to finish up some required hours, so I took my camera and got some pictures of what's growing in their vegetable gardens. This picture shows cole crops, and some bok choi.

This lettuce mix looks really happy, growing nice and green.

Here are more cole vegetables, probably planted later than the first picture's crop.

This shows a nice mix of vegetables that grow well during our winters.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Protect Frost-Tender Plants

From The Fresno Bee, November 26, 2009:

By Elinor Teague

Our first frost of the year was right on schedule. The average first frost date here in the Central Valley is Nov. 15; some low-lying valley areas experienced freezing temperatures on Nov. 16 this year.

In our dry, arid, desert climate, we can expect frost on winter nights when we can see the stars. Rain clouds that cover the stars and the fog that follows the rain here in the Valley act as heat-retaining blankets that prevent the Earth's surface heat from dissipating into the upper atmosphere so that temperatures drop below freezing.

Identifying those plants in the garden that are frost-tender and knowing at what temperatures they will suffer severe or irreversible damage helps us plan protective measures. Tropical plants such as canna [my cannas were nipped by the frost, see picture], elephant ears, hibiscus and some varieties of bougainvillea will be severely injured or killed when temperatures remain near freezing (32 degrees) for hours.

If the weather report indicates that early morning temperatures will hover around the freezing mark, cover tropical plants with frost blankets, burlap, or old towels before going to bed. Plastic sheeting does not provide frost protection.

Subtropical plants such as Australian ferns, some succulents (Jade plant) and avocado trees should survive a near-freezing night with minimal damage and can tolerate short periods of freezing or below-freezing.

Cover subtropical plants or use UL outdoor-related twinkle lights to keep them warm when temperatures are to fall below 32 degrees. Always remove any covering during the day. Irrigate the soil around frost-tender plants for a day or two.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, November 26, 2009:

Handmade gifts crafted, baked or preserved from the garden are a delight to give and receive.

Tasks--Mow cool-weather lawns, raising the mower blades for overseeded lawns.
Pruning--Shape trees and shrubs, except for spring flowering varieties.
Fertilizing--Fertilize cool-season annuals, perennials and vegetables with a light high-nitrogen or organic fertilizer.
Planting--As outdoor garden activity slows, use the time to transfer some design ideas to paper; cabbage, garlic; almond, apple, apricot trees; snapdragon (Antirrhinum), calendula, chrysanthemum paludosum.
Things to Ponder--Feed the birds.

[There's more than one way to feed birds! For more pictures of Abigail Alfano hand feeding humming birds, go here!].

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Turkey slow roasting,
It's aroma fills the house;
Empty chairs, waiting.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Planting by the Stars

Monday-Tuesday--Capricorn–#1 planting root crops; 2nd best planting above ground crops and transplanting

Wednesday-Thursday--Aquarius–not good planting root crops; very good planting above ground crops (but not seeds, they will rot)

Friday-Sunday--Pisces–2nd best planting root crops; #1 planting above ground crops and transplanting above ground crops, trees, bushes, vines; good to weed

Monday-Tuesday--Aries–very good planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops or transplant

Elinor Teague's Column

[From The Fresno Bee, Nov. 19, 2009]

Weed Treatment Starts With Weed Identification

Field madder [first picture], sticky chickweed [second picture], annual sowthistle [third picture] and cutleaf geranium [fourth picture]--weed names that are not well-known to many gardeners. Are these weeds rare, unusual and hard to find? Why, no--I plucked all four out of the planting beds along the front walkway just last week. The soil in those beds is usually cultivated with a wiggle hoe on a regular basis and is heavily planted with seasonal annuals and perennials. The beds are also covered with a 3-inch layer of mulch. However, the soil has not been cultivated since I planted spring-blooming bulbs and annuals a few weeks ago, and there isn't a trace of last year's mulch left. With cooler temperatures and a little rain last week, the beds quickly filled in with a bright green cover crop of weeds.

Weed treatment begins with weed identification. I recognized sticky chickweed, a winter annual weed, but was unsure of the names and growth habit of the other three weeds. The Web site for University of California at Davis ( provides an easily followed key or chart for identifying weeds commonly found in California gardens and turfgrass. The illustrations in the key led me through leaf types, leaf positions and stem shapes to fin photos of weeds fitting the description.

So why spend time trying to identify the weeds in the garden? why not just spray the weeds with a glyphosate heribicide that kills all types of weeds and be done with them? Herbicides lose some of their effectiveness as temperatures cool below 60 degrees.

And, although, labels for some herbicides state that rainfall or irrigation will not effect their performance after 10 minutes, it's never a good idea to use herbicides when there is any chance of the chemical being washed into our water supply.

In areas that are heavily planted, such as my walkway beds, spray drift may damage or kill nearby plants and also damage bulb leaf tips that are just now sprouting through the soil surface.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Garden Checklist

After leaf drop, apply dormant oil spray for stone fruit trees and almonds to prevent peach leaf curl.

Tasks--stake trees planted in windy areas.
Pruning--prune shrubs and trees to shape--pruning junipers during cool weather prevents sunburn.
Fertilizing--feed cool-weather plants and vegetables.
Planting--if you wish to transplant trees in the fall, it is best to wait until December or January when deciduous and evergreen trees are dormant; dianthus; tulip, Watsonia, grass nut (Trieleia); strawberry; primrose (Primula polyantha), pansy (Viola); camellia.
Things to Ponder--calendula petals (fresh or dried) can be used as a substitute for saffron to color rice or flavor soups and stews. [The picture is of calendula flowers. They come in yellows and oranges, grow all winter, and self-seed easily, although they are not invasive].

Dormant oil spray is also used to cover and suffocate overwintering insects, such as aphids, mites, and scale. You can find dormant oil sprays at hardware stores, although some are toxic. There are less toxic sprays that use more natural ingredients. Dormant oil is used on trees and roses after leaf drop and pruning.

This is one non-toxic spray can be made and used on stone fruit trees, almonds and roses. This would be effective to cover the insects, but not for peach leaf curl:

1 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp. liquid soap
1 gallon of water

Mix the oil and soap thoroughly, then slowly add the water, stirring as you go--the soap helps the water and oil mix together. Pour into a clean garden sprayer, then spray the tree completely. One gallon of mix for one tree [probably a full-sized fruit tree]. Shake the container frequently while spraying. [From: Care2].

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I planted these asparagus plants early last spring on the south side of my house. They are starting to turn yellow and then will turn brown. It's time to cut them down to ground level once they turn brown. Asparagus is a heavy feeder, and if you want to have lots of asparagus to eat next spring, you need to feed them this winter. I will lay down a thick layer of composted manure where the foliage was cut off, and then mulch heavily around the plants. This will keep the soil nice, the weeds out, and feed the earth worms and asparagus roots.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pink Flamingos

Have you ever gotten up in the morning and found that someone or a group of people had thrown toilet paper all over your yard, covering grass, plants and trees? One year we got up to find that some kids, friends of our sons, had stuck a couple hundred white plastic forks in our lawn! A few days ago we found that someone or group had put a bunch of pink plastic flamingos in a neighbor's lawn! What a site that was! I suspect that this was done with love, to show our neighbors that they are special people, which they really are! [If you want to see more detail, you can click on the picture to make it bigger].

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Garden

This is how my winter garden looks today--I know, not very impressive! But, I will be getting some edibles soon! From front to back, center: chives, parsley; right side: lettuce, chard. Under the black covers: garlic, sugar peas. Something is always better than nothing! What's growing in YOUR garden??

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tangerine Tree

My tangerines are starting to color nicely, and there are a lot of them. They will be ready to eat about February. Next spring I will cover the tree when it blooms so that I will have seedless tangerines next time!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, November 12, 2009, edited:

Topping Trees Cuts Their Canopy and Their Life Span---Elinor Teague

"Topping trees does not control the size of a tree. In fact, topping trees by cutting branches across their width destroys their natural shape and creates an unsightly growth spurt of tangled, weak branches that will need more frequent cutting."

Topping stresses trees, and their life span is shortened severely. Within seven years of this type of pruning, the tree will need to be replaced.

New forms of bad pruning are starting to become more evident. Many trees are being overly thinned and secondary branches are being stripped away, sometimes leaving branches that look like a lion's tail. This removes most of the tree's canopy, which was providing the tree trunk with shade to prevent bark sunburn, and to keep the trunk cool. By removing so much foliage, the tree cannot get "enough food to sustain growth." This causes the branches to sprout lots of sucker branches along the remaining branches and down the trunk. Never remove more than one-third of a tree canopy at any one time.

Pruning redwoods, an evergreen, like a deciduous tree is disastrous. Redwood trees have a dense branch structure to completely shade and cool the interior. "The downward-growing branches also collect mist and fog droplets in their cool native climates, allowing the water to drip slowly down to the shallow root system that lies underneath the canopy." Dead branches need to be removed, but heavy thinning is not good.

Southern magnolias are tolerant of our summer heat and produce so many flowers and seed pods that they can break branches. Magnolias can have careful branch reduction and some thinning which may help prevent limb breakage. The bark needs to be shaded as it is very susceptible to sunburn.

"Ortho's 'All About Pruning' is a well-illustrated pruning guide that can help educate a homeowner on good pruning practices. If you are hiring the pruning to be done, make sure they are "a licensed, bonded certified arborist" (and be sure to check their references).


Garden Checklist:

Deep-water trees and shrubs as needed.

Tasks--protect subtropical plants.
Pruning--leaf fall is the time to start pruning--except for apricots and olives, which should have been done in August.
Fertilizing--feed cool-weather plants and vegetables.
Planting--dianthus; grape hyacinth (Muscari), narcissus, peony (Paeonia); spinach from seed; forget-me-not (Myosotis), Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule); azalea.
Things to ponder--dig up dahlia and begonia tubers and gladiolus corms, trim dead stems or leaves and store in a cool, dry place.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Yesterday's post got me to thinking about mulch. It does more than just keep weeds from sprouting. It helps prevent soil erosion and increases water absorbency. Raindrops fall at 20 mph, and if they directly hit the soil, the soil particles will separate. The silt will clog the soil line and the water will, for the most part, run off instead of sinking in. When there is a heavy rain on bare soil, the run-off water can carry away topsoil, too. Wind erodes bare soil, as we have seen in our Valley. When we get a strong wind, visibility is like when we have heavy fog. That dust is the topsoil that has become airborne.

I have seen pictures of old farms, that show the little dugout house that originally was below ground level. After many years of farming and erosion, where nothing was added back to the soil, the farmer steps down from his front door to the soil level.

Mulch helps the soil retain all of the moisture it receives, there no run-off at all, and it drains down quickly. The soil is not exposed, so there is no wind erosion. Because the soil stays moist, earthworms flourish (other organisms, too). The mulch slowly breaks down feeding the earthworms and the plants. When the earthworms consume the mulch they turn it into a rich fertilizer that plants thrive on. All of this is an easy way to have a bountiful vegetable garden!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mike's Seven Garden Secrets

I belong to the Seed Savers Exchange, and they send out four publications a year. In the 2009 Harvest Edition, Mike McGrath shared his "Seven Secrets of Successful Organic Gardeners." Mike was an editor for Organic Gardening magazine, so he knows what he's talking about! Here's his list:

1. Use raised beds.
2. Do not till.
3. Feed the soil.
4. Invite pest-eating life into the garden.
5. Use mulch to prevent weeds.
6. Water wisely.
7. And, lastly, have fun.

About the mulch, Mike says that if all you use are leaves, that's all you need to feed the soil.

Now is a great time to gather leaves! If you see a neighbor raking leaves and putting them into bags, grab those bags and dump the leaves on your garden! That's what I did a few years ago (but now our community has recycle garden bins). The leaves are great and do keep annual weeds from sprouting; they also feed the earthworms, which mix up and fertilize your soil.

Mike's seven secrets is what I have been doing all along, and he's right--it makes for a successful garden!

Seed Savers Exchange is a huge group of people, mostly regular gardeners, that save their garden seeds and then share them with other members. All of these seeds are open pollinated, and many are heirlooms. The yearbook comes out in early spring and has all of the seeds listed--13,263 different varieties, and 20,733 total listings in 2009. Some of these seeds are rare; and you can find seeds from all over the world. If it's variety you want, this is the place to find it! If you want to learn more about Seed Savers Exchange, go here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

For my to-do list, I am going to go out and thin my Valencia oranges. Citrus trees sometimes get in the habit of giving their all one year and resting the next. This year I have a heavy crop, so I will thin them out and hope for a crop next year, too. This is not the time to fertilize or prune citrus--that would give them a growth spurt that would get zapped when we have a freeze--so resist the urge to shape your trees.

Once the leaves have dropped off of deciduous trees, trees that shed their leaves in the winter, you can prune them. This includes fruit trees (except apricot trees which are pruned in the summer). This pruning can be done any time between leaf drop and budding in the spring, although you don't want to wait too long!

Roses here in the Valley don't usually drop their leaves, but need to have them stripped, or pulled off, in winter, so they can rest for a bit. You can also prune roses at that time, or wait a little while. For the past several years I have been attending college, so I have been stripping the leaves off of my roses and pruning them during winter break (or Christmas vacation). Often we have such mild winters that the roses will start leafing out before the pruning gets done in December! Just watch your plants, and if you see they are leafing out before you get to them, go ahead and prune them right away. After the roses are pruned, give them a generous dose of organic fertilizer--that will give them a boost in the spring and you will have gorgeous blooms!


Planting by the Stars--

Monday: Cancer–# planting root crops, above ground crops, and transplants
Tuesday-Thursday: Leo–not good for planting or transplanting; good to weed, make seed beds
Friday-Sunday: Virgo–not good for planting or transplanting, good to weed

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bad Bugs . . . or Good?

Here are the last of my Disneyland pictures--giant bugs in the garden! These are located in A Bug's Land. They are people-size and look like they could do some garden damage!

The first one looks like a huge caterpillar that is eating giant candy corn.

This second bug looks like he means business. I wouldn't want to find him in my garden!


Very often when I am working in my garden I see brown or black beetles scurrying here and there. I disturb their lives when I am planting or pulling weeds. Early on I thought they were beneficial, although it took years before I found out they actually are.

Ground Beetles--Good bugs (from Everything About Ground Beetles)

Ground Beetle, common name for swift-running, often carnivorous beetles. More than 20,000 species are known, of which more than 2500 are found in North America. Ground beetles are worldwide in distribution and live under rocks or in moist or sandy soil, from which they get their name. Many ground beetles do not fly. On these forms the hind wings are generally atrophied and the wing covers fused along the midline. The slender legs are well developed for swift running. These beetles are most often unmarked black or brown; several species have wing cases that are striped or bordered with metallic blue, green, or bronze. The head of a ground beetle is narrower than its body; long, thin, threadlike antennae jut out from the sides of the head. The mouthparts are adapted for crushing and eating insects, worms, and snails. The largest ground beetles are 2.5 cm (1 in) or more in length. The larvae of ground beetles have well-developed legs and mouthparts, are carnivorous, and live and pupate underground.

Ground beetles are agriculturally important because they destroy such harmful insects as the potato beetle, browntail moth, gypsy moth, cutworm, cankerworm, June beetle, and plum curculio. Few ground beetles are considered harmful; some species feed on seeds, corn, and strawberries.

Scientific classification--Ground beetles make up the family Carabidae of the order Coleoptera.

You can see pictures of ground beetles here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Garden Checklist

From The Fresno Bee, November 5, 2009 (edited):

Garden Checklist:

Mow cool-weather lawns.

Tasks--check and improve drainage around plants in low areas.
Pruning--dispose of diseased wood by discarding in trash or burning immediately.
Fertilizing--feed cool-weather plants and vegetables.
Planting--sow wildflowers or grasses on hillsides to prevent erosion in heavy rains; Canterbury bell (Campanula medium), Hyacinthus orientalis, toadflax (Linaria maroccana) (see picture), stock (Matthiola incana; from seed: peas, radishes; Rhododendron.
Things to ponder--do not use lime sulfur spray on apricots or walnuts.

Disneyland Gardens, part 2

Yesterday, Natalie left a comment, which I will address here.

Natalie: "I was just there [Disneyland] last weekend, and noticed all of the rosemary by the Peter Pan ride. I thought, 'How interesting. There's herbs.' I wonder how often they change the plants? Everything always looks so fresh."

Gard'n Judy: About thirty years ago I bought an Ortho book on flowers that talked about the gardens at Disneyland. If I remember right, I believe they re-planted their gardens five times a year, at the change of seasons. With summer so long, maybe they put in new flowers a couple of times that season. What makes such a big impact is the large stretches of a single flower type or a single color. I tried that for a couple of years with a bed in my yard and I had many compliments. The space was not real big, but it was a lot of work because it took a lot of flowers!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Disneyland Gardens

My husband likes to go to Disneyland to ride the rides--I go to see the gardens! The gardens I am most interested in are the herbs and vegetables! Have you ever noticed them? Mostly the gardens are full of beautiful flowers, but a few have edibles. The first picture had just been planted and shows lettuce, ornamental cabbage and some herbs. It will be pretty once it has filled out.

This bed is full of herbs and ornamental peppers. Towards the top of the picture were some artichoke plants (tall, spiky gray-green leaves).

This was an interesting little corner of sage and oregano stripes.

Of course, the whole park was done up in Halloween colors, with pumpkins and banners all over the place. This flower bed is part of the theme.

Over in the California Adventure side of the park, there was a large display of giant candy corn. This picture shows how the Candy "Corn" grows. I thought it was funny how the "seed packet" displays the corn in a husk growing in one direction and the corn plants have the "corn" growing in another direction!

This is a picture of Candy Corn "Squash" plants--I bet a lot more kids would eat this kind of "squash"! There was also Candy Corn "Tomatoes", Candy Corn "Carrots", and Candy Corn "Grapes".

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Container Gardens

The first three pictures are of containers at Disneyland; the last three pictures are of containers at an open mall in Anaheim, CA.

I saw container gardens everywhere I went on my vacation. It showed me that they are useful any place. This first picture shows a container that almost mirrors the plant, at least in basic shape.

This container shows how a fairly tall plant can make an impact. The flowers at the bast of the plant show that you don't always have to have something draping the sides of the pot.

This container had a pine tree in it, which is something you don't see too often. Many of the containers at Disneyland looked like strange combinations of plants, almost like they used leftover plants and just tossed them into pots.

The next two containers were at the entrance of a store at a mall, one on each side of the doors. One picture shows the middle and draping layers, and the second one shows how tall the container palm trees are.

These containers were really interesting--they were about six feet high! They were very dramatic and made quite a statement.

Containers come in any size and price you might want. Plant material is anything you want to put into the container! See what colors, shapes, and growing patterns of plants you can combine! Send me a picture of your container gardens and I will post them!

Monday, November 2, 2009

My To-Do List . . .

OK, I'm back, the laundry is done, and most things are caught up from our vacation. The weather was perfect and we had a good time at Disneyland.

This morning I went to the Garden of the Sun where a group of Master Gardeners gather each month to try to answer garden questions, and identify plant problems and insects. I found this beetle a few weeks ago, but couldn't find any information on it in my books or online. No one at the meeting knew what it was, either. The beetle was the size of a lady bug, but green with black and white spots. If anyone knows what it is, please tell me!


Planting by the stars:

Monday-Tuesday--Aries–very good planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops or transplant
Wednesday-Friday--Taurus–#1 planting root crops; not good planting above ground crops; good for all transplants
Saturday-Sunday--Gemini–2nd best planting root crops, above ground crops, and transplants


If you haven't had time to plant your fall garden, there is still a little time left, but not much. Lettuce, radishes, peas, green onions, spinach, garlic, onion sets, shallots, and carrots can be planted by seed. These may not produce before winter sets in, but you may get an early spring crop. The price of seeds is cheap--it doesn't hurt to try!