Category Archives: Thoughts on Gardening

Well that looks kind of sad

It is hard to tell in this picture, but my two tomato plants in my new raised beds finally fell over. I put in these supports and as they grew large in size and toppled over they took the supports with them.

I will be looking for better solutions for next year but thankfully even though these tomato plants are not very easy on the eyes, they are still producing and taste delicious!

A trunk full of plants

my trunk is filled with plants for the front yard from Evergreen Nursuery

After much planning I now have all our plants for the front yard! Actually this excludes the raised beds in front of the house where I want to put roses but for the main section we have it. I went Evergreen Nursery, a wholesale nursery that also sells to the public, and I bought the smaller sized plants (that were nearly a 1/4 of the price). At the nursery customers drive around and load their cars with plants and then pay at the exit. It is a bit time consuming to find exactly what you need but worth the price. Personally I really enjoy perusing the aisles looking at plants so the experience was fun.

This time I brought my sunset western gardening book as a handy reference as well and I was glad I was able to have that to make smart decisions.

Here is what I got.
7 pink Muhley Grass
9 red yucca
4 red bottle brus
h “little john”
4 small succulents
5 yellow flowers.

Gravel Patio in the Front Yard


We finally got everything ready to add gravel to the little patio in the front yard. I went to the rock yard to get some samples. Originally we wanted to put DG or decomposed granite but I have heard that they scratch the floor and I don’t really want to need with that.

Our criteria is that it needs to match the rock I the faux dry creek bed that came from our yard, be smooth as to not scratch our floors and not be crazy expensive.


We estimated that for our space we had about135 sq feet to cover, which ends up being about a half yard of gravel. The four samples that you see above range from $125/yard up to $700/yard. We have chosen the 3/8″ salt rock that we could buy in bulk (lower right corner) as opposed to bags which can be on the higher end.


Here ow what it looked like with landscape fabric on before.

Here is what it looks like all filled in!

Palo Verde – Desert Museum

It is almost hard to tell in the image above, but we have a tree in the front yard! I chose a desert tree that I won’t have to water once it is established. It is a Palo Verde, they grow naturally in Arizona and I think parts of Texas. It has delicate fern like leaves and pretty and plentiful yellow flowers. When I visited Palm Springs I saws lot of them and since our house has a bit of Palm Springs modern vibe I thought it would work nicely.

The desert museum variety is nice because it blossom most of the year and does not have thorns like other varieties. It was difficult to locate the tree in a San Diego nursery. I predict that 10 years down the line this won’t be so.


Here are two examples of mature Palo Verde trees. I took these last fall and there are no flowers, but you get an idea of how nicely they fill out.



Here is my friend Nancy as we wait for our table at cheeky’s for brunch. This is actually the patio bar for the Alcazar hotel.

Aloes in bloom

It is hard not to notice aloes in bloom everywhere I’m Southern California this time of year. It seems that most of the year these structural plants are quite unassuming but when they bloom they can easily triple in size and boast bright, showy blooms that almost look other worldly. It is a winter treat (I use the term winter loosely as for the past month we haven’t gotten rain and the temperature has been averaging 75 degrees).


My new rain barrels are installed

rain barrel set up in San Diego
My now working rain barrel!

I mentioned a while back in this post about the Water Smart San Diego Program that I was thinking of installing rain barrels. My dad came into town for less than 24 hours in December and while he was visiting he helped me set up my rain barrels. I ordered them from a site called hayneedle. I realize that I could have made my own, but there is a program offering $75 for each rain barrel that is installed and I needed a receipt to get the refund. I really like that they are up-cycled from previously used food shipping containers. They are incredibly strong and decently made, but not the nicest to look at. I think if I were putting them in an obvious location I would have sprung for something nicer.

After they arrived I realized that I needed to alter the spouts as well. The way this works is that most of the water goes into the barrel (a little goes through), but once the barrel is full, it mostly keeps going down the spout. I researched a few and for my needs (having the barrel off to the side) and the price, I opted for the Mystic Rainwater Collection System.

I started by leveling the ground where the barrels would sit. I didn’t want to mess with them tipping. Then I placed two cinder blocks under each barrel that I already own. The website with the refund requires that the barrels be at least 6″ off the ground. I am assuming this is to make it easier to distribute the water later without a pump.

Before setting up the downspout, but after leveling the ground
Before setting up the downspout, but after leveling the ground

Next we measured how much of the downspout to cut off and we used a hack saw to cut it. I ended up slicing my hand on the cut downspout so please watch out. It can be really sharp.

The cut downspout. In retrospect, I wish that I had painted that.

Attaching the Rainwater collection system was simple enough, but my downspouts were old and they needed a little bending and finessing to get them over the plastic. Then we slipped the two parts together and tightened up the screws that held the downspout in place.

connecting the two ends of the downspout
connecting the two ends of the downspout

I am happy to report that it is working well and after one very small rain and one big one I filled up the entire barrel. I installed two on the other end of the house and nearly both of those are filled as well. I’m hoping to get another one to attach the the one shown in the picture.

Water Smart San Diego

Water Smart San Diego WebsiteToday I stumbled upon a resource while researching trees for my front yard. This website, is not only well designed, but also filled with helpful information and resources.

Through it I found out that there is a new rebate for rain barrels (something that I had been considering anyway but had not gotten around to) and an upcoming class on water wise gardening.

Wonderful PDF provided by the city of San Diego and produced by Sunset Magazine

Natural beauty of the Sequoias


We spent five days camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Sequoia National Forest. We stayed just between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Now I have discovered that camping as an adult is a lot of work. It feels good to be in nature. The park offered some beautiful scenery.

We stayed at Stoney Creek Campground and for anyone that cares my favorite sites there are sites 36, 37, 38, and 167. The whole are is shaded with big trees, mostly White Fir trees. The campgrounds were pretty dusty but just outside there were plants under the trees. Ferns and shrubs nod low grasses. There was a small creek on either side of the campgrounds. It made the dry creek bed that I created almost look like a joke. With water surrounding the campgrounds, surprisingly bugs were not an issue. We never broke out the bug spray that we made a special trip for. While the campground was lovely, the main attraction are the giant sequoias that you need to drive to.

20130927-140315.jpgA sign to help identify the trees of the area.

Are these threes not stunningly beautiful? They actually sell seedlings in the stores there and while i was tempted i cant imagine that this tree would thrive in San Diego County. When you think of right plant/tree right place it also seems a little silly to plant a tree that can get so large by a residence. Granted the giant Sequoias are thousands of years old but still.

Going on this trip has fueled a desire to garden with natives. I know only the basics but it seems to make sense. I wonder if where I live was once a place of beauty. It is very developed but perhaps I might be able to bring a little natural (but nice looking) space back.


Sun shade

view from under the sunshade
View from below the sunshade.

package containing one triangular sunshade
package of one triangular sunshade

Before we moved in the previous owners tore down the patio cover out back. It was unsafe and needed to go but since then our patio gets a lot of sun. In San Diego the sun can be particularly brutal especially in the afternoon. When I saw these sun shades at Costco I thought they might be a good solution to our problem.

I have arranged them in several different arrangements and the patio still gets a lot of sun. Eventually we might want to get a custom shade, but for the mean time I think that this is a good and very cost effective solution.

our backyard with the sunshade
our backyard with the sunshade off the patio and connected onto the tree.