Heat and Water

First, the heat.

Our forecasted high for today is 100F (38C).  It’s going to be hot again tomorrow and Friday before cooling down for the weekend.  I have both the temperament and the complexion for the British Aisles, so this weather puts me out of sorts. Mouse agrees.

Mouse Trying to Cool Off

Mouse Trying to Cool Off

My lettuce looks a bit on the wilted side, but the rest of the garden crops are enjoying the summer.  (Oh wait, it’s still spring…it’s hard to tell anymore).  The pumpkin seedlings are up, the raspberries  are flourishing and the tomatoes are yelling, ‘look ma, I’ve grown!’

sprouting pumpkins

Sprouting Pumpkins

tomatoes and raspberries

Tomatoes and Raspberries Enjoy the heat

Unfortunately we’re in the middle of a terrible drought.  Above-average temperatures further evaporate our low reservoirs. Dry grasses increase fire risk.

Which brings me to water.

I met with Cheri Garza of San Jose Water Company for a household water audit. She really knows her business, and taught me a lot. Outdoors, she inspected the hose bibbs, our irrigation system, the irrigation schedule and the water main.  She tested for leaks and watering efficiency, then measured the square footage of our lawn.  She liked the sidewalk strip conversion (we removed the lawn and capped several sprinkler heads.  She said a lot of water goes to waste in the strip.

Indoors, she checked faucets, showers and toilets in each bathroom, then checked the kitchen faucet, dishwasher and washing machine.

On the plus side, our indoor water usage is efficient.  All the faucets, toilets and showers use 2 gallons per minute or less.  I do minimal hand-washing , which is less efficient than a fully loaded dishwasher and the same for clothes washing.  The down side is that it will be harder to reduce when mandatory rationing sets in.

Outdoors, however, there are many ways to improve our water efficiency.  San Jose Water is offering partial rebates and we qualify for all three.  They allow you one year from the date of the audit to complete the projects.  Originally they rebated seventy-five cents per square foot.  They’ve increased that amount through September to $2 per square foot if you replace water-thirsty lawn with approved native and drought tolerant plantings.

The second rebate offers up to $5 per sprinkler head.  Our sprinklers are only four years old, but the new and  improved Rainbird U-Series uses up to 30% less water.

The third rebate went into effect in January and applies to a graywater system.  Water savings amounts to 17 gallons per person, per day, or on average 14,565 gallons per household per year. I need to do my research on this, but on the surface, I love it.  You divert graywater from your washing machine and use it to water non-edible landscaping.

graywater system

Water Wise Group graywater/greywater system

Here are a few general tips for water savings outdoors:

  • Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water landscaping.
  • Water in the morning, to reduce evaporation
  • In California, turn off your irrigation system completely in December until mid-March.
  • Water your lawn for three to seven minutes, three to four days a week.
  • Go Native! Attract birds and beneficial insects and at the same time conserve water

To save water indoors:

  • Shower for ten minutes or less
  • Don’t flush at night
  • Run full loads of dishes and laundry
  • Replace out of date toilets with 1.28 gpf

It’s a lot of information to digest, but I’m excited at the possibilities.

If you have more tips, please share them in the comments below.

What do Trugs and Raspberries Have in Common?

Absolutely nothing!

Does this every happen to you?  You go into the store for one thing, then leave with something else? I popped into Home Depot today looking for another ‘Trug,’ the light but strong, flexible buckets known as Tubtrugs®. They are really handy in the garden.  I bought one a few years ago, and although they say the handles are ‘super strong,’ one of the handles on mine broke.  No matter.  I turned it into a worm bin. When I went looking for a replacement at the end of the season, they only had the smaller size.

Today I wandered around the store for a while, then asked for help from two associates. They had never heard of them before. As I readied to leave empty-handed I saw these:

Early Heritage Raspberries

Early Heritage Raspberries

Mmmmm…raspberries. The containers alone intrigued me along with the price.  $6.98 for an entire shrub of raspberries!!!  Holy cow.  I’ll take two, please. I thought all raspberries grew as vines until Boomdee mentioned growing them as shrubs.  Low and behold, there they were.  We really enjoyed eating berries off the vine last summer, so I figured the more the merrier.

I’m still in the market for a Tubtrug, but I left the store in a good mood anyway. Did anything interesting making it into your shopping cart this week?

Organic Flower Essence Therapy: Soothe Your Cares Away

My friend Sheryl is a talented artist and the creator of Mama Love, a line of organic flower essence aromatherapy.  Anyone who’s walked through the garden on a warm spring day can appreciate the power of the flower. Lavender calms the mind and relieves stress and tension. It’s a favorite among midwives and birth doulas. Rose oil is frequently recommended by aromatherapists for its antidepressant and mood-boosting properties. I think nature provides what we need and has done so throughout time. We’ve lost site of that in recent years. It’s good to see a trend toward the basics.

Using the Flower Essence

I like adding a few drops of Mama Love oil to a hot bath, along with a cup of Epsom salts. The combination soothes and relaxes. You can dab them on like perfume as well.  They’re subtle so they don’t overwhelm the people around you. Have you ever had to politely hold your breath in an elevator to keep from being overwhelmed by someone’s cologne?  No fun.

Mama Love Flower Essence Aromatherapy

Mama Love Flower Essence Aromatherapy

What is Flower Essence Therapy?

According to Sheryl’s site, it’s “a system of healing developed by well-respected immunologist and homeopathic medical doctor Edward Bach. Working with a wide variety of patients just after World War I he came to the conclusion that a person’s emotional well-being and mental attitude had more to do with health and healing than any medicine he could offer. He eventually left his thriving London practice to move to the country to develop safe herbal homeopathics that addressed the most common emotional problems and their symptoms. His now world-famous Bach Flower Remedies were the result.”

Check out Sheryl’s shop on Etsy, where she also sells flower-inspired art work and greeting cards. She’s a cat person (like me!) This is her darling and opinionated cat, Chloe.**

Sheryl's Cat Chloe

Sheryl’s Cat Chloe

**To be honest, I think most cats are darling and opinionated.

Earth laughs in flowers. -Ralph Waldo Emerson


Garden Planting Pots Get a New Lease on Life

If you’re a gardener, you tend to amass garden pots.  They’re a bit like coat hangers or stray socks: they have a way of multiplying when your not looking.  Occasionally I’ve had luck returning the thin plastic cell packs to local nurseries, but lately, not so much.  The good news is that more and more pots are recyclable.

If I can’t return or recycle, than I try to re-purpose.

Here are a few ideas.

When planting shallow-rooted annuals in a large planter, use a small, inverted pot in the center to reduce the amount of needed soil.  If the roots aren’t deep, no need to waste your potting mix. Additionally, the inverted pot reduces water and soil runoff while lightening the weight of the pot (see below).

Ready to pot cyclamen

Ready to pot Cyclamen

Inverted Pot

Inverted Pot

Potted Cyclamen

Potted Cyclamen

Sometimes the spare pot is pretty, deserving a new lease on life.  I received this shiny gem with a bulb one Christmas.  After transplanting the bulb outside, I re-used the pot near our garden fountain. I keep a small scrub brush in the pot for a quick fountain clean-up. In the summer months I add a pair of shears so they are always on hand.

Shiny pot with brush

Shiny pot with brush

When I cover our patio set for the winter, I use a large, sturdy plastic pot to elevate the cover’s center. It keeps the rain from pooling and aids with run off.

Patio Furniture cover

Patio furniture cover

I grow cat grass for my sister’s kitty in a couple of small plastic pots. As soon as I give her a pot of grass, I start a new one. When her batch of grass dies off, she returns the pot and we start again. We’ve been passing the same few pots back and forth for months.

KT Eating Kitty Greens

KT Eating Kitty Greens

Other Practical Uses

Small pots are great for starting plant cuttings or seedlings indoors. Larger pots are great for sharing divided plants. If you have broken clay or ceramic pots, break them carefully into small pieces and use them to cover the hole in a large pot.

Let your imagination be your guide.

What creative ways have you reused a garden pot?

Winter Garden: Above and Below

winter seed packetsI’m branching out this year.  Now that we have raised planting beds and a gravel and stone walkway, winter gardening holds more appeal.  Year one I planted fava beans as a cover crop, digging the plants back into the soil to add nitrogen.  Year two I planted broccoli.  I bought seeds, but waited too long to plant them, so I planted six starter plants instead.  Two survived and produced a few yummy florets, but it bolted early and that was that.

I’m hoping the old saw “three’s a charm” is true, and that year three will be a roaring success.  Here’s what I’m planting.

Above-ground vegetables include:

Lettuce Leaf Red Velvet

Botanical Interests ® Lactuca sativa.  The seed packet promises “wine-red leaves that are sweet and tender and will make any salad memorable.”  Red-leaf lettuce is delicious and brightens up a salad.  It will be such fun to grow my own.

Early Green Broccoli

The Seeds of Change® tag line is “goodness from the ground up.”  I love that! We all enjoy broccoli, which is to say, three of us really like it and one of us reluctantly agrees it’s not half bad. Let’s hope we have a better year.

Below-ground vegetables include:

Radish Crimson Giant

My eyesight has officially failed me. I thought I was buying beets. These “crimson beauties” were my sister’s favorite growing up. Now my oldest son is a big fan.  Here’s hoping garden beets taste just as sweet as the ones that come in a can!  Here’s hoping, too that I can still find a pack in the garden center.  Apparently we’re also growing radishes!  Now that is embarrassing.

Chives Common

I prefer the Latin name Allium schoenoprasum.  I’m not sure I can pronounce it but it sounds far less demeaning than the moniker “common.”  The Botanical Interests seed packet says “heirloom, with beautiful edible flowers and delicate onion flavored foliage.”  It also says “very easy to grow.”  Count me in!

I’m off to get my nails dirty.  If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, are you planting a winter garden?  Garden tips appreciated.


Tumbling Composter: Some Assembly Required


As I excitedly ordered my tumbling composter, I failed to read the inevitable fine print. You know…some assembly required. I kept a watchful eye for the UPS driver, ready to pounce on that box. My kitchen scraps were taking on an odoriferous scent and still the composter didn’t come.

I eventually dumped the scraps in a bucket in the garage, and covered them with potting soil. It’s funny but two weeks ago I would have tossed those scraps or ground them up in the garbage disposal.  Now the scraps had a real purpose. My garden was counting on me.

UPS At Last

The day my husband, and resident handyman left for a business trip, the box arrived. I came home that afternoon to a damaged box on the porch, with one of the parts sticking out of the side. Oh-oh.  I was afraid to open it. The good news: no harm done. The bad news: so many parts. I was facing eight panels, two end pieces, six leg pieces and a bag with 56 washers and screws. I unpacked all the pieces, then left the room.

damaged box

Lindy sits on the directions

Lindy didn’t think she could help, either.

My son, in his sweet and gentle way, asked me if I would be moving it as it was blocking his path to the living room. Okay. I can do this. I fumbled around with my husbands various tools, found what I hoped would work and got down to the business of building a composter.  It went together beautifully, and was over half done when I called it a day.  I finished assembling it with my son’s help on Thursday. At last the fun could begin.

compost assembly instructions

Some assembly required

assembled tumbling composter


I had a bucket of “brown” from the pumpkin patch ready to go and a decent sized bucket of “green” to go with it. Into the bin they went.  I closed the door, gave it a spin, and smiled. Who knew rotted apples and dead leaves could bring about such happiness?

Do you compost too?

The Compost Recipe

I’ve seen several variations on the mix, but here are the suggestions from tumblingcomposters.com:

The composting process works best by mixing moist greens (nitrogen rich) with dry browns (carbon rich) in a ratio of approximately 2 parts greens to 1 part browns.

Greens are:

  • kitchen scraps
  • grass clippings
  • garden and house plants

Browns are:

  • leaves
  • straw or hay
  • saw dust
  • twigs

Do not compost:

  • meats/fats/bones
  • dairy products
  • trash/plastic
  • wood ashes
  • invasive plants or weeds

Serves several plants.