Posts Tagged With: Garden

Finding Words Everywhere

Being a fan of words I look for and read them everywhere. I think it all started ages ago while reading the backs of cereal boxes. Now I read everything: signs, plaques, memorials, directions, chalkboards, menus, whiteboards, magnets, carvings, raised metal, blocks, imprints, impressions, sidewalk chalk, train graffiti, book spines, air fresheners, notices, refrigerators, headlines. Even the occasional book.

Words hang out everywhere and in some surprising places. Some even smell good.

Here’s a few words I’ve run into lately:

The good and the bad.

The good and the bad.

“There are places I remember all my life, Though some have changed, Some forever, not for better, Some have gone and some remain.” ~ From the Beatles”In My Life.” 


Such a tiny word...

Such a tiny word…

“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.” But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.” ~Khalil Gibran

Life began here.

Life began here.

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.” ~Bill Mollison


Don't ask me to choose just one kind.

Don’t ask me to choose just one kind.

“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” ~ David Mamet


A concrete idea.

A concrete idea.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” ~ Michelangelo


I believe I can fly, somedays.

Wings, roots, reasons.

“Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.” ~ Dalai Lama 


Such a big word.

Such a big word.

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder


Categories: Communication, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Open the Windows

My flowers are loving the cooler weather, and so am I.

My flowers are loving the cooler weather, and so am I.

Guess what?

It’s gardening season!!! Happy dance, happy dance, happy dance!

Yessirreebob! In the desert climate of Arizona, it’s time to put those seeds in the ground. I get tingly all over just thinking about it.

Tingly might be overstating things a little.

Who wouldn't rather spend time with this beauty than a pile of laundry?

Who wouldn’t rather spend time with this beauty than a pile of laundry?

There’s just something about getting my hands in the soil, helping Mother Nature with her tasks, watching the little nothings of seeds become shiny orange carrots, rich red beets, curly green spinach. Sure, I admit that it’s work, but anticipatory work. Work with an outcome you can see and that lasts. It’s nothing like doing dishes or laundry or mopping or any other sort of indoor chore that already needs  redoing within hours, if not minutes after finishing.

I’d almost always rather be outside than inside. If I were rich I’d pay a glorious someone big bucks to keep the housework under control so I could frolic in the garden, mow the grass, plant bushes, trim trees, map out square foot plots of wonder and green stuff. I’d eat outside every meal I could, with a big shady umbrella for day time and candlelight in the evening.

Oh wait. I could do part of that now, without a house helper. Nothing’s stopping me from taking breakfast out to the patio table and breathing in the (finally) cool morning air of fall.

Surely I can ignore a few chores indoors and let my feet take me outside more often, to clean up the summer’s detritus and prep a spot for some waiting fall plantings.

Patio lights

Patio lights! (Photo credit: life is good (pete))

And evenings, well, sure, they’re a bit busy for me, but still, I could light a candle or two out back and sit in a lawn chair, look up at the stars, breath out the days dusty worries and breath in some oxygen freshly exhaled from the nearby orange tree. Or I could head out front to the porch swing and watch the world wander past at the park, catch a glimpse of a hummingbird getting its last sip from the feeder before settling in for the night.

I could probably even read a chapter or two by candlelight, or patio light if I thought about it.

It’s that priceless time of year in the desert with only good things to anticipate and summer’s heat a fading memory. It’s open window season, music wafting out into the yard season, planting hope season.

Categories: Gardening, Nature, Outdoors, phoenix | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Bit of Compensation

The heat is on.

Tomorrow is June. We’re set here in Phoenix to bust past the triple digits after a month of nineties that merely flirted with the hundreds. We were spoiled by that. But that little dalliance of sweet summertime romance is over. Reality is about to set in. Unrelenting, pounding, incessant, oppressive desert heat is about to clamp its fiery grip around our throats and lives.

Sounds melodramatic? Overdone? Silly? I invite you to visit for a week or two. Drive around with the AC in the car not working. Attempt a brisk morning walk with the sun peaking over the horizon, grill a few burgers in the blaze of the sunset, sweat a bit at midnight.

Oh, I know it’s not like Iraq, where my brother worked on an army base in an undisclosed location and the average daytime temperature was 124. No, it’s not that bad. But it’s not all that good either.

I wonder often why someone would settle in the desert. Of course there’s evidence all over the place in the desert southwest of native Americans settlements, canals, living spaces, communities, long before Columbus hit the coast of North America. When they had a choice of the entire landscape why here? Flat, hot, arid. I suppose it’s tough to have your enemy sneak up on you when there’s nothing but flat for a hundred miles in every direction.

I often wonder what we’re doing here. So does MSH.

Money brought us here. Family and friends keep us here.

But that’s not where I was going with this.

I meant to talk about my sunflowers.




Look at these babies! The cinderblock wall they’re planted next to is six feet tall. And they’ve rocketed into giant growing fortresses of greenery. The stems are bigger around than my hand can reach! They’re more like trees than flowers.


And these! Happy yellow faces of bright sunshine on a stalk, all lined up and waving at me every time I glance out the back window.


It’s like sunshine, compacted into a flower. Instead of the burning, gaseous orb of hydrogen and helium, with its eye-squinting, brow beating heat and light, it’s condensed itself into these massive, delicate, powerful bursts of golden petals.

An ironic gift, held out to somehow compensate for the meanness of the hundred plus temperatures and earth parching relentlessness of the next four months.

I’ll take it. I’ll take whatever relief and wonder I can get when it’s this hot.

It’s like being on the receiving end of a repeating phone message to a busy office where instead of music you hear, “Please enjoy the flowers while you wait.”


I will.

Categories: Gardening, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Neon Purple Pansies Brighten a Bare Spot

Astounded at the depth of color with that little burst of sunshine in the center, I snapped this photo of some Pansies in my garden. There’s some slight variation in the purples, almost neon in some, bluer in a few others.

purple pansies

Nature always manages to surprise and delight me.

Lately I’ve watched as the seeds I planted a week ago push through the ground, transformed into minuscule green leaves. Amazing! I understand it, but I don’t.

I’m also never sure why some spots I plant turn green and flourish, while others remain a blank landscape of soil. That’s a mystery, too.

Pansies appear just as temperamental as seeds. Not four feet away from these beautifully abundant blooms, struggles a similar Pansy plant, barely managing to put out a couple of pale blooms, the foliage equally pale. Why is one thriving and the other just hanging on? Both plants are in the same bed, same soil, same watering schedule, same sunlight. I’m clueless.

I find it fascinating to see children from the same family, like these plants, respond to the same conditions with completely different results. So too, can people respond to troubles and challenges that seem the same, with vastly different results. Every seed, every person, every situation, varies in subtle ways. Combine those tiny variances and the resulting differences can become huge.

That’s what makes a garden so delightful; the different shades of colors, heights, hues, patterns, textures, not just between species but within the same plant family. Those combinations can complement and play off one another in a spectacular way.

Gardens and people, two of my favorite unpredictables in life. Never sure of what’s going to pop up next. Always some nurturing required and some love given back in return. Anticipation and hope in every single day.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gardening for Arizona Summer Survivors and Other Interested Persons

African Daisies from my front yard last February

It’s gardening time in Arizona.  Hard to believe but true. Most of the northern hemisphere has already experienced an early taste of winter, a dash of snow, some frost, some dang is it really that time of year again driving.

Here in this odd pocket of strangeness that is the desert southwest, (no I’m not going to capitalize it) we are finally coming into our own, emerging from our air-conditioned caves, cars and hovels, to the bright new season that is sanity.

There is a good reason the town is named Phoenix.  A mythical bird that rises from the ashes.  That would be us, the desert rats, I mean, dwellers, the real survivors.  We don’t sneak away during the heat and come back later when it cools down like the snowbirds have the luxury of doing.  But that’s just me being bitter.  Sorry.

We come out in droves once the temperatures begin to stay below 90 degrees and the night-time temperature dip into the 70’s.  This morning it is a brisk and chilly 50 degrees if I step outside, which I’m not going to do since I’m still in my jammies. Yes, I said, chilly.  It’s a sixty degree difference from the 110’s we, ahem, enjoy, during the summer onslaught.  So yes, 50 feel chilly.

With such reasonable and lovely temperatures outdoors we Arizonans begin to think life is once again livable and endurable and we head outdoors to do all sorts of things we can brag about to our northern neighbors.  We post photos on Facebook of ourselves in the pool on New Years Day even though the water truly is too cold for swimming.  We throw some steaks on the grill in January and call a sibling to incite more rivalry, which we miss dearly.  We plant a garden and text or online chat about the tomatoes we just ate fresh off the vine in February.

And then we wonder why we get so many visitors in the winter.  Go figure.

I digress.

It’s gardening season.

In honor of that, I’m sharing a batch of information and websites from a recent very amature class I taught about Arizona gardening.

It’s handy stuff if you’re interested in growing anything here in the desert, from a solitary pot of flowers, to an all out miniature farm in your backyard (which MSH would love, but I won’t allow.)

For those of you in the wintry states, it’s a bit of interesting reading if you like gardening.

A California poppy, from amidst the rocks of my front yard.

I might make a quick mention that if you want wildflowers to bloom amidst your rocks or elsewhere you have another week or two to scatter those African Daisy seeds or California Poppy seeds.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not planted my garden yet this year.  I’m a slacker, yes.  At least this year I am.  I could give you all my lame excuses but that would be boring.  I’m happy to try to answer any gardening questions you might have if I can, but honestly, all the websites below are where I learned ninety percent of what I know about gardening here.  So check them out and learn.  Then grow!

Phoenix Area Gardening Basics

Sun 6 hours minimum is needed for a healthy garden.  Protection from afternoon sun is ideal but not absolutely necessary

Soil lots of compost/organic matter and gypsum added to your soil (6 inches deep) or buy several good potting soil mixes to spade in together

Season consult the planting guide for what to plant when (cool season or warm season)

Seeds – buy seeds that indicate early crop.  Store for up to 3 years if kept in a dry, cool spot, like inside your house. Dollar store kinds are fine. Our growing season is short, very short, hence the need for early crop varieties.

Water a timer hooked up to a sprinkler or drip system is easiest.  Deep watering on a regular schedule will promote a strong root system and a healthy plant.

The early stages of one of my square-foot garden beds, sadly, not this year.

Square foot gardens You will only need 20 percent of the ground you would use for the row-and-furrow method. Lay out your garden in 4-foot-square boxes (or multiples like  3 x 4, 4 x 4, 4 x 8) so you can reach in from either side. If you have a box along a wall or fence, then make it only 2 feet wide (or multiples like 2 by 4, 2 by 8, 2 by 12) because you can only work the garden from one side and you won’t have to walk on the soil.

Use Miracle-Gro garden soil (or any other high quality gardening soil) – about four bags of 2 cubic feet each per box. If you have more than three 4 by 4 boxes, call Pioneer Materials and order sandy loam soil. It costs only $45 (at least a couple years ago it did ) for delivery of 1 cubic yard or more. Tell them how many square foot you will need, times 6 inches deep to figure volume. (  (This blog is by the original guy who invented square-foot gardening!)

Containers Many plants do well in pots, especially herbs, tomatoes, peppers.  Just keep a closer eye on watering needs

Gardening Websites

*Timely Tips – what to do each month, problems you might encounter, and how to solve them.  Includes lawn care and some tree info.

*Herbs –  This site has great tips for soil preparation and discussions about herbs specifically and gardening generally

*Maricopa County Cooperative Extension – Anything you could possibly want to know or ask about gardening in Maricopa county.

*Flower planting guide – What to plant during which months, and bloom  times.

*Square Foot Gardening

Categories: Gardening, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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