Water Smart San Diego

Water Smart San Diego WebsiteToday I stumbled upon a resource while researching trees for my front yard. This website, www.watersmartsd.org 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

Halloween Decor – How to turn a planter into a pumpkin

Halloween Planter
I previously blogged about this funky planter a few months ago after I scored it from Target. At that time I was thinking summer thoughts and not of Halloween decor.

While I like to get the house decorated for holidays, I can’t bring myself to spend a lot of cash doing it. This results in expressed creativity, but often only when the project is quite easy. This my friends, is one of those projects. While this planter looks kind of like a pumpkin, really I think that this could work for just about any potted plant that you have in your house.

1. Pick pot that you want to convert into pumpkin decor.

2. Cut out the eyes, nose, mouth, etc. for your pumpkin. I used black felt that I had for a different project.

3. Using double sided tape, adhere it to the planter… and that is it!

This planter resides in my entry and you can see it as you just enter the house. Here are two other pics that are in the same area, decorated with mostly found materials. The bats were drawn with pencil on black poster board and attached using blue painters tape. I am contemplating using black felt for these too.

Halloween decor

Halloween decor - bats

San Diego Botanical Gardens

This week I went up with a friend to the San Diego Botanical Garden in Encinitas. There were many different sections of the garden all of which were well done. The one that I liked best as an inspiration point for our yard (this was kind of a fact finding mission), was the Mexican Garden. That garden was mainly comprised of succulents like agaves, but there were other plants mixed in as well. Surprisingly to me most of the garden was in the shade. I have noticed that my succulents do prefer to have a little respite from the sun. This could possibly be because I hardly ever water them.









I only have this picture, but I also really liked the Children’s Garden. It had many of the same plants that were in the Mexican Garden, but some other drought tolerant plants were also mixed in. The result was very pleasing to the eye. It also seemed to attract many butterflies, which is always fun.

It is worth a visit to the San Diego Botanical Garden if you like plants and are around the area.

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.


Fountain of cascading succulents

succulent fountain
succulent fountain fount in a courtyard in front of a condo complex at the beach

I have an on again off again habit of running. One of the things that I enjoy is viewing different front yards. I often stop and take photos with my phone (since I have it on me listening to music) of plants or yards that I find inspiring. Often the pictures are lacking due to the time of day that I often run. I am finding that while most people have traditional lawns, many done quite well, more and more people are opting for low water plants including natives, low water plants, and succulents. It seems that this is especially a good solution for small yards, but it also seems to work well in average front yards. In the case of the latter xeriscape seems to help define the space and break it up. But I digress.

succulent fountain
succulents flow like water in this fountain

On one such run, this one being near the beach in front of a condo complex, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a stunning fountain filled with succulents. It gives the illusion of water, but in a most unexpected and pleasing way. The colors and the textures are fabulous and surprising. I would love to do something like this, but honestly I am just thankful that it exists. It is just that cool! Kudos people!

Can you dig it? (starting a dry creek bed)

dry creek bed, xeriscape,
Behold the beginning of xeriscape and a dry creek bed

Our soil is filled with river rocks, which I’ve always thought odd because we are on a hill. We used to live a mile away, but on the other side of the freeway, just south of the 8 and it was the same thing. Digging out a hole to plant a tree took MUCH longer than needed because of all the river rock. It is not much fun.

So from all of the demolition in the back yard (still need to write about the back yard) we unearthed many river rocks. The previous owners had their own rock pile as well. Between the two I thought that we might have enough to create a dry creek bed. My thought is that the more I xeriscape the less that I have to water and the more personality our yard gets. If I can do it on the cheap, by using found materials native to my area all the better! All that to say, I have now dug out a path for the dry creek bed in front of our house.

dry creek bed with weed barrier fabric
I laid a weed barrier fabric down before adding the rocks.

Over the course of a weekend I hauled rocks collected from my yard (yes my soil is filled with these) and placed them in the ditch that I made.
After the digging I took my trusty roll of weed barrier fabric and rolled it out above the dry creek bed. In areas like this where plants are not growing, it works amazingly well at keeping weeds at bay, at least for the first 5-7 years or so and then they start to get through. Even then, it is better than the places where you do not lay it.

The next several days, working for only about an hour in the morning (did I mention that I had the brilliant notion of doing this in the middle of a heat wave?) I placed the rocks into the trench.
View a mock up of what our front yard will hopefully look like.

Powdery Mildew on my plant

powdery mildew on plant
Here is a close up of the powdery mildew on the plant. It was pervasive and it actually had a funky smell to it.

We have a plant located in front of the garage that came with the house. It has been completely trouble free at this point and required little water that I have nearly ignored it. In June it was encroaching on the walkway so I trimmed it back the weekend before we hosted a rather large party. I water it very little, but my son often waters it and I think that might be the problem. He waters it overhead with the spray nozzle just beside it. A few weeks ago I noticed this rather healthy plant looking rather sad. On further examination I saw that a powdery mildew was on most of the leaves (except new growth). I have had experience with this in my last house on roses and I used a spray from the store. I really want to avoid the use of harsh chemicals if at all possible at this point. Floating around the internet, there seems to be two different recipes to try. One involving milk and water, and this one that changes the PH balance using baking soda. Powdery Mildew is actually a fungus/mold and it spreads when spores travel in the wind. I’ve read that you may not be able to eradicate it entirely, but it is possible to keep it under control and from effecting other plants.

pruned bush (before mildew)
I pruned this bush at the end of May. It was really healthy, but getting quite overgrown for the space

Recipe to combat Powdery Mildew (Pow!)

2 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
2 1/4 tsp. Dish Soap (I used Dawn)
2 1/4 tsp. Olive oil (can use most any oil)
1/2 gallon Water.

Mix ingredients and place in spray bottle and apply to plant.



  • It is a good idea to test a section first before applying to all of the plant.
  • Avoid watering overhead.
  • Spray in the morning before there is direct sunlight that could potentially burn the leaves with the spray on it.
  • Repeat Weekly.

I sprayed it once yesterday and this morning and while it seems to have helped there is still mildew. On closer examination I also found aphids and after spraying I do not see them. I’ll update on the progress.

Here is the plan

yard plan updated with dry creek bed
Front of the house plan updated august 2013

Two months ago when I was extremely busy at work, I had the bright idea of spending a few hours putting together this image using various things from the internet. You will notice that this includes new paint on the house as well as a stained fireplace.

  • We plan on putting a small patio in the front yard. Initially it was going to be a decomoposed granite patio, but after going to the Estancia Hotel and seeing their beautiful gardens, I think that I would like it to be a flagstone patio with some ground cover in between.
  • The plant selection isn’t really fleshed out in this rendering, but we mostly want to use drought tolerant plants and succulents. To use either we really need to bring in new soil as ours is clay and has horrible drainage.
  • The walk way that we want to add has pavers here, but after talking to my dad he changed our mind on that. He convinced me to have a flat surface for the front walk way of concrete. That makes it easier for people not to trip. This is especially important for older people. So we are going to have a concrete walkway (the same width) to match the other concrete path.
  • We also need to figure out what to do with the planter attached to the house. I thought we might be able to stucco it, but I don’t know if that is a good solution. That will be a phase 2 item, but it still needs consideration.
idea of what the yard would look like upon completion
Here is a Photoshop rendering of what our house might look like in the after sate

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.

Better late than never?


I was lamenting the fact that my raised beds were not ready to plant a garden this year. I am missing fresh tomatoes! last year I picked cherry tomatoes off the vine and popped them in my mouth. My in-laws gave me a container that they were not using and told me to try planting late tomatoes. I’m not expecting g a bumper crop but even a few would make me happy.

Yesterday we planted it and watered it. My son was really excited about planting. I hope that I can pass this on to him.