Posts in Green Tips
Prep Your Garden Tools For Spring

Last year my husband, John, and I were featured in an article called "Grow Greener" highlighting our flower/vegetable gardens, and organic practices in, Nature's Garden magazine, Spring 2008, http://www.debraprinzing.com/articles.php?article_id=40, written by friend, Debra Prinzing, an incredible garden and design features writer. See below, for more information on Debra. For this article, she asked me my "top ten healthy garden practices", and the last one I chose was "order before beauty", which Debra so aptly penned, "Chores Have Their Rewards".

One of the chores I was particularly thinking about, was caring for your tools. Tools should always be cleaned, dried, and stored away in an orderly manner. If you have the due diligence, go one step further and wrap clean rags or towels around your tool heads before stowing away. Spring is especially a great time to prep your garden tools and have them ready, for all of your busy gardening needs, so you can "hit the dirt running".

Take a good look at your tool inventory and their condition. Do you know where your favorite tools are? Are your tools clean, or a bit rusty? If so, deep clean and lubricate them. Do they seem dull when using, or do they still have their sharp edge? Make sure your tools are sharp, it will save you physically. Are your tool handles rough or soft to the touch? If rough, lightly sand your wood handle tools with fine sandpaper, and apply a generous amount of linseed oil with a soft cloth. If the oil absorbs quickly, reapply. Your tool handles will be as soft as velvet and a treat to work with. Properly cared for tools can last generations, and can be handed down from one generation to the next budding generation of gardeners.

It is all the same, whether it is your personal life, your home, or your garden. If you are organized and tidy, you will be much more effective, efficient, and accomplish more effortlessly. You will soon experience the rewards. There is a great quote that reinforces this message. "When you do the things you have to do when you have to do them, the day will come when you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them."--Zig Ziglar, Author.

Debra Prinzing is a Southern California-based writer and lecturer who specializes in interiors, architecture, and landscape design themes. For more information and articles, please visit her website, www.debraprinzing.com, and her blog, www.shedstyle.com. Her latest book, with William Wright, architectural and interior design photographer, is called "Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideways".

"Rainy Day" Green Tips

Can You Spot the Rain Barrel? Here in Southern California our average rainfall is twelve inches. With the looming cloud over of us whispering "water rationing" it is wise to take advantage of our precious rains. Why not try to collect, contain, and utilize your precious rain water for your garden. Here are six easy tips I use, that I would like to share with you.

1)  If you hear on the news of an incoming rainstorm or showers, turn off your irrigation water. The news has gotten quite accurate reporting on all the details of rain coming, enough to give you advance warning to prepare.    

2)  I have a compost bin, actually three to be exact, that I add to everyday and make fabulous "worm worthy" compost for my garden. That is another post subject on its own. They are stackable and have a removable lid. When I hear it is going to rain, I remove the lids from all of my compost bins to catch all of the rain and moisture. Compost needs to be kept moist, and what better way then a fresh rain. After the storm, I put the lids back on.

3)  Install an actual rain barrel or large urn under one of your convenient downspouts to collect water. In the photo, there is actually a plastic 33 gallon barrel within the beautiful wooden barrel, adorned with succulents on its top. My dear neighbor gave me this vintage barrel, that I slipped over a new plastic barrel. If you look closely you can see the downspout which is coming off of a storage shed rain gutter. I went one step further, and connected a hose at the bottom of the barrel with an on/off valve. The lath structure by the rain barrel is actually my potting shed. I have the ability to fill a watering can from my collected rain water barrel, inside my potting shed. It does not take much rain to fill a barrel. You will be surprised.

4) If you can not install an actual rain barrel of some type, put your watering cans, or something similiar under your rain spouts or gutters.

5) Place your easily moveable pots and containers out in the open air to receive the rain. Rain water has a lot of nutrients in it, that our irrigation water does not. Give your plants that extra boost.

6) Once again, when you hear rain. Prepare. Clean your bird baths, and empty them. The rains will fill them with fresh rain water and your wild birds will enjoy the treat.

I would love to hear your green tips for rainy days...in comments.

Narcissus Bulbs Naturally Deter Gophers

Narcissus Bulbs Blooming Alongside Chicken Coop If gophers are a problem in your garden or property I can recommend an organic green solution you might not have tried yet, the beautiful narcissus bulb. Any type of narcissus bulb, which includes jonquils, paperwhites, and daffodils will be a deterrent to gophers, rabbits, and deer in your garden and property. For simplicity sake, I am writing mainly about gophers and daffodils, but this solution works just as well for rabbits and deer, using all types of narcissus bulbs.

It is important to plant bulbs that are hardy for your climate. Check the packaging information included with your bulbs, or with the source you are purchasing your bulbs from. Generally speaking, these type of bulbs are planted in the fall time frame, and are cold hardy blooming in early winter, depending again on your specific climate zone.

Narcissus bulbs are such a wonderful green solution to deterring gophers for many reasons. Once you plant your bulbs, depth and spacing depends on variety, they bloom year and year. They are simply beautiful to look at, and often very fragrant. Bulbs planted in the ground send out a year round message to critters by actually "advertising" a toxicity odor or fragrance. Yes, that's right. Even before a bulb is bitten into, it is sending a warning, that it has a natural toxicity ability to irritate (burn) the soft tissues of their mouth and cheeks. Gophers find it uncomfortable and stay clear of the bulbs, "taking a hike" out of the vicinity. To some extent by limiting their food source, you are limiting their population, and they have to go elsewhere. Once your bulbs are planted and in the ground, give it some time, and you will notice gophers staying clear of the area near your bulbs.

If you have ever had a gopher problem, you have probably tried trapping, poisoning, drowning, blasting, and a few other gopher terminator techniques. Gophers can be quite a menace taking out a rosebush, grapevine, shrub, or vegetable plant, usually by eating the root system. If you have chickens like I do, gophers can be especially persistent in trying to reach their "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow", the chicken feed bucket and ensuing spillage around it. I even have a 1 1/2 foot wire fencing buried around the chicken coop to discourage gophers.

Try planting bulbs first in a few specific areas, such as along side your chicken coop or the perimeter of your vegetable garden. With time and budget permitting, you can expand your bulb planting as you see your success.

In vegetable gardens where you have a lot of rabbits on a regular basis, try planting bulbs among your vegetables, besides the perimeter. In flower beds, for instance where you have tulips, and a problem with deer, plant your narcissus bulbs mixed closely with your tulip bulbs. All types of iris and agapanthus are gopher, rabbit, and deer resistant, too.

One of my favorite sources for bulbs is the mail order business, www.easytogrowbulbs.com (tel) (866) 725-5361. They sell bulbs for all zones, but specialize in "warm climate" bulbs. Featured in the above photo is their "Erlicheer" Daffodil.

Holiday Green

Going Green This Holiday Season This year I wanted to buy a live "green" tree for our holiday season. I thought it would be wonderful to have a live tree in the living room for the holidays. I could nurture and care for this tree throughout the year, and bring it inside in December, for an intimate few weeks. There is something so special about having a live tree inside your home. This evergreen beauty exudes the holiday season. Just look at the captivating shadows it leaves on a wall, in the photo.

I stumbled across this potted Oriental Spruce, Picea orientalis "Atrovirens" grown by the wholesale nursery brand, Monrovia, www.monrovia.com at Green Gardens Nursery, 4910 Cass St., San Diego, CA, 92109, Pacific Beach area, (858) 483-7546. This is truly a wonderful little nursery chock full of unusual plants for the holiday season, and throughout the year. You can find unusual tabletop topiaries, live christmas trees, hollies, garlands, and much more to accent your home and garden.

This beautiful Oriental Spruce reminds me of the Noble Fir tree in appearance. It is a slow grower, and ideal for keeping in a pot or container outside throughout the year, and bringing inside for a few weeks. It has dark green shiny needles, and grows in a pyramidal form which is fully branched to the base. It likes to be watered regularly when the top 3" of soil is dry. Be aware, however, if you ever plant this tree in the ground with optimum growing conditions it can reach 60-80 feet high and 20-30 feet wide. It does best in zones 2-8.

The Oriental Spruce came in a 3.6 gallon sized pot. I took it home and transplanted it into a slightly larger container that drained and had a saucer. Before transferring it to it's new container I did a little preparation. This Oriental Spruce was incredibly root bound, so I loosened the roots a bit, scored the entire root ball, and gave it a good drink letting it soak in a tub of water. I placed my newly potted spruce into a beautiful copper patina bucket to bring inside. The Oriental Spruce is so pretty, I am going to decorate simply with a single strand of tiny white lights. It needs nothing else.

Buying a live ornamental tree such as the Oriental Spruce is an investment, at least 2-3 times more expensive than a cut tree, maybe more depending on the tree. It is a worthwhile investment. One, you have a year-round tree. Two, you have an exceptional tree for the holidays. Three, you are being green, and kind to the environment. After the holidays, you don't have to dispose of it, recycling it with the garbage. Live trees are generally smaller in size, than cut Christmas trees. This Oriental Spruce will fit beautifully in our living room, and it won't be out of scale in size either.

The beauty of this tree and it's simplicity, reminds me to embrace "the spirit of the holidays", and seek other ways to be holiday green this season.