Archive for September, 2011


Soulful Plotting

September 30, 2011


The branch and leaf structure of a fern or members of the palm family


2011 October Events

September 28, 2011

This old straw hat blends in with the dry weeds so well it’s easy to miss while driving by, unless you’re a gardener. What do you think; did the wind sweep the hat away when the owner tilted his or her head out an open car window? Did somebody toss the hat out the car window on purpose? Did the hat just happen to land on this makeshift roadside hat rack? Was it placed there—then forgotten—by one of the road crewmen while weed eating the dry fire hazard?

Whatever the story is of this old straw hat, there are other ‘gardening’ things to think about–fun, educational, family activities and much more–listed on the October Calendar of Events. Click on the sidebar on ‘today’s date’ on the little calendar or on ‘Events’ under Page.

If you decide to attend a bright, sun-lite, outdoor activity, I know where you can get a free hat!


Why You Shouldn’t Kill a Mantis

September 26, 2011 Registered & Protected

I’ve heard it said that praying mantids (plural/refers to entire group) are a sign of good fortune. Since I’ve spotted four or five the past couple of months, I expect an incredible future in and around my garden, and in my life. How about you? Have you spotted a mantis (singular) lately?

This California mantis clung to my screen door for three weeks. Its milky-white color indicates that it just completed one of the ten molting stages mantids undergo before achieving adult size.

Here is a California mantis creeping along the garage floor. I left the mantis to find the nearby plants where it will prey on bad and good bugs:  grasshoppers, ants, moths, crickets, gnats, mealworms, grubs, termites, maggots, katydids, aphids, most flies, mosquitos, butterflies, ladybugs, spiders, worms.

Mantids Facts:

  • TypeBug
  • DietCarnivore. Mantids sometimes eat the male while matting or immediately after.
  • Average life span:  In the wild, 12 months. In captivity, up to 14 months.
  • Size: ½ – 6 inches (1.2 to 15 cm) long. In 1929 in Southern China, the world’s largest mantis measured at about 18 inches long.
  • Color:  Green or brown for camouflaging as they wait to ambush prey.

Other Interesting Facts:

  • More than 2,000 different species exist worldwide.
  • There are no ‘praying’ mantids in California.
  • Mantids were named for their “prayer-like” stance.
  • Mantids do not have a larval phase. They are born fully formed as nymphs.
  • Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes with three simple eyes between.
  • They use their front legs to snare prey and can crush their prey in half.
  • Their legs have spikes to help snare and pin their prey.
  • Female praying mantids mate in late summer and lay hundreds of eggs in a small case in autumn.
  • Mantids live in all parts of the world where there’s mild winters and sufficient vegetation.
  • Male mantids are attracted to artificial lights and often fly at night making them a good meal for bats.
    • If threatened, mantids will make themselves appear larger by standing upright with their forelegs spread, wings fanned wide, and mouths open.
    • In some states, killing a mantis is against the law because they are a natural mosquito control.

Tip:  When doing your fall pruning, look for mantids eggs on branches, twigs, walls, fences or eaves. If possible, don’t prune the branch or place it in a protective area of the garden, off the ground where ants quickly consume them. Follow the same procedure if you remove mantids eggs from a wall. The nymphs will survive.


Soulful Plotting

September 23, 2011


Abbreviation for the American Horticultural Society.


Seeds of Hope

September 21, 2011

If you’ve been following my blog, you know of the recent computer failure, the immediate need to raise funds for a new PC (the one I’m using is seven years old, slow, and tired), and the special friend who donated a carload of goods for last weekend’s garage sale.

Saturday’s sales were slow. Ninety-five percent of the people were men. Of course, I didn’t have ‘guy’ merchandize so the sale was a bust.

Sunday morning, another special friend—who loves garage sales—showed up early, filled several bags, then gave me a sizable donation that nearly started a brawl. We argued for some time. In the end, she won. Then she offered to look at my printer and external backup drive that also went on the blink. Within twenty minutes, both were working! No brawl, just hugs. Lots of hugs!

Although sales were low both days, I met the most interesting people. One couple talked about the old town buildings in their backyard and the fun they have hunting for more structures.

A big guy tossed a lace tablecloth over his shoulder, gave me fifty cents, and said with a flushed face, “It’s for my mother, honest. She loves these things.” Another man, after seeing the computer speakers for sale talked for thirty minutes about his internet woos and being a tech dummy. I knew how he felt and wished I could help.

A true country dweller walked into the garage asking if I had a sickle bar mower. “I plow my fields with a team of horses, he said proudly. “There’s not one tractor on my place.” Amazing! Somebody actually lives on manual mode. Love it!

Then I met a genuine American Picker, the last person before closing. A well-dressed man with hair white as snow and a gentle voice with such clarity I clung to every word. He sells all over the world through other dealers, people, he said with so much integrity they’re honest enough to tell him when one of his hundred-dollar items, for example, goes for $1,400.

Hearing about the integrity of others seemed to go with the weekend’s theme of special friends planting seeds of hope. I have a long way to go before earning enough for a new computer. Nevertheless, the donations and sales will allow me to make a modest contribution to the Susan G. Komen Beast Cancer Foundation, buy a heavy-duty surge protector, and start a small fund for a PC.

Small beginnings lead to big finales. Can you hear the fireworks?  


Direct Sowing Cool-Weather Seeds

September 19, 2011

If you’re a little behind schedule like me, there’s still time to get cool-weather seeds in the ground. Growing from seed is the most economical way to bring ‘healthy’ food to the table, and there are more available seed varieties than seedlings. Although starting seeds indoors provides a jump-start if done earlier, sowing seeds directly in the garden takes less work and avoids transplant shock. All you need to direct sow cool-weather seeds is a little time for soil prep, garden tools, gloves, and water.

Soil Prep for Direct Sowing Includes:

  1. Working in amendments. Loose soil is especially important for root crops. Hard compacted soil can stunt the growth and clumps create odd-shaped vegetables, but they’re still edible so don’t toss them.
  2. Removing all weeds, pebbles, and dirt clumps.
  3. Leveling the soil so water will distribute evenly.
  4. Deep watering so the soil is moist below the top layer.

Once the soil prepared it’s time to direct sow seeds. Here’s a list of cool-weather seeds sown in September:

  1. Beets
  2. Bush Beans
  3. Cabbage
  4. Carrots
  5. Celery
  6. Cilantro
  7. Collards
  8. Corn Salad
  9. Head Lettuce
  10. Kale
  11. Mustard
  12. Onions
  13. Peas
  14. Radish
  15. Shallots
  16. Spinach
  17. Swiss Chard
  18. Turnips

Follow seed packet instructions for depth and spacing. Seeds sown directly on top of the soil need light to germinate. To keep these from washing away, use a hose wand set on a gentle ‘shower’. Buried seeds require less caution while watering but need moist soil. Label what you planted where and watch your crop grow.

Note:  Most seeds need warm soil to germinate and grow to a sufficient size. If a cold spell is in the forecast during germination and early seedling stage and you have a small garden, cover the soil with clear plastic. Be sure to ventilate or uncover if the temperatures are warm in the afternoons.

For a list of September gardening chores check out “Monthly Tasks” on the sidebar.


Soulful Plotting

September 16, 2011


A flat-topped or domed flower head in which the center flowers open first.


Moving Forward

September 15, 2011

I took my computer to two repair shops and it is fried. (Discovered this morning, there’s also a problem with my printer but I think I can fix it–not sure yet.)

I received one carload of donations so I can have a garage sale this weekend to help with the cost of a new computer. If you have any sale-able items you’d like to donate contact me at

Ten percent of the profits will go to a charitable organization. I haven’t decided which organization yet so please feel free to submit your favorite ones for consideration.


Ground Cover

September 14, 2011

My favorite ground cover is Lysimacha Goldii (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldii’). This low-growing evergreen thrives in full sun or semi-shade. The trailing, golden highlights add a stunning pop of color. Mine is growing between flagstones and in an otherwise drab area of the perennial garden. I planted Lysimacha Goldii several years ago and it always looks beautiful, unlike some mature ground covers that get woody and dull.

Lysimachia Goldii is easy to grow and is beautiful cascading over walls, pots, and hanging baskets. Best of all, it’s a cool pet bed on hot summer days.

Note:  If your pet loves to gnaw on vegetation, ASPCA has a list of toxic plants. However, their files are not complete and Lysimachia Goldii is not listed.


Out of the Box Garden Art

September 12, 2011 Registered & Protected

Giant farm equipment is the last thing you’d expect to encounter in garden beds. But that’s what you’ll see in Kimberly Fruits’ remarkable landscape. Beyond an iron gate and an impressive grove, a massive grain auger and a 1908 threshing machine on either side of a circle driveway surprisingly blend into the scenery. The largest of many farm equipment, agriculture and a strong sense of rewinding time festoons most of the five acres surrounding Kimberly’s, and her late husband, Drexel’s, 5,000 square-foot country home in Acampo, California.

After tearing down and rebuilding the existing 1,800 square-foot house from 1997 to 2000, Kimberly and Drexel began landscaping the grounds in 2001. Drexel replaced borer-infested trees, brought in tons of soil to overlay hardpan, and installed water systems.

For years, Kimberly, a retired bank manager, and Drexel, a pharmacist, sought out auctions, estate sales, thrift stores, and garage sales. They tore down old barns to rebuild rustic sheds, and searched the internet for objects Drexel loved for the history and Kimberly loved because, “My favorite color is rust, and I like old and ugly.”

When Drexel bought agriculture equipment, he’d have a vision for it, drew a picture for Kimberly, then together they’d design a bed for the piece. They built large hills to accommodate timeworn pieces. To border the mounds, they used railroad ties, rocks from their property or broken concrete from the old house’s foundation. Then Kimberly dazzled the beds with flowering perennials and annuals.

Kimberly admits to choosing some of the large pieces like the manure spreader (above) tucked beneath a Japanese Elm tree. Drexel reinforced the rotted-out bottom with metal. He set barrels on the metal, filled them with soil, then added a drip line. Today, Kimberly’s plantings of sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime), agapanthus (Lily-of-the-Nile), and Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos flavidus), spills over the sides concealing the barrels. Between the spreader and repurposed concrete path that Kimberly acid washed, are colorful impatiens.

Nearby, purple and yellow lantanas fill a rusty horse feeder. A claw foot tub and an antique hand pump are paired as a water feature. A baby buggy frame holds a galvanized tub with society garlic. Throughout the grounds, wagon wheels, rusty carts, farm tools, cast iron stoves, bicycles and much more are intergraded as accents or focal points.

Everywhere one turns, strolls, or stops to take in the vast number of garden art and picturesque plantings, you realize several visits are needed to see everything. Impossible to miss are the grain auger and threshing machine. Against a vista of redwoods, cedar and pine trees, both pieces appear complete. Although Drexel plumbed the auger and threshing machine for water features, neither were finished when a tragic fall from a scaffold took his life three years ago.

To honor their dreams, Kimberly, a petite grandmother full of energy, spunk, and personal garden memories, has opened the grounds and her amazing home for tours. This is one place you don’t want to miss. Rewinding rich reflections of remarkable garden art and thousands of collectables indoors, Kimberly’s stories are as intriguing and unique as her country estate. © Dianne Marie Andre

For tour and luncheon information contact Kimberly Fruits at 209-334-0138 | |

Kimberly Fruits’ Garden Art Tips:

  • Think outside the box. Almost anything can be a focal point or accent, alone or grouped together.
  • For dynamite weathered finds, go to thrift stores. The more worn and rusty the better. Once it decays, it won’t cost much to replace – a dollar or less.
  • Don’t be afraid of change. If it breaks or decays, modify the bed, patio, porch or wall with another object.
  • Don’t be afraid to use indoor elements outdoors. Again, it can always be replaced.
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