Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Earth Friendly Garden Quiz - Final Question for December

Earth Friendly Garden Quiz - Final Question for December

Here's the answer to last week's question - True or False - 'Soil ' is just a fancy word for dirt.
False.  To the organic gardener, soil is a complex stew of rock, sand, silt, clay, air, water, dead organic matter, and many living things including roots, insects, bacteria, and fungi - not to mention the earthworms, reptiles, and mammals it may harbor.

The organic gardener's foremost task is to make good soil. As the saying goes, "Feed the soil; the soil will feed the plants."

A given volume of soil should be equal parts solids and space.  The solid half's content should be 90% mineral - sand, silt, and clay - and 10 percent organic matter (that's 5 % of total soil volume).  The space half should hold equal parts air and water.

(Answer from Sierra Club's The Earth-Friendly Garden Knowledge Cards.)

One of the easiest ways to get more organic matter in your soil is to use compost - and we can all make compost at home.  Learn more about compost in the Arizona desert.

Now for the third and final question of the month and this one will make you think a little more.

What are nematodes, and do you want them in your garden?

Remember to reply through the comments section below. Next week, I will reveal the winner who answered all three questions correctly and who was the first one with the answers.

Wishing you a happy and safe New Year celebration!

The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Earth-Friendly Garden Quiz - Second Question - Soil

Earth-Friendly Garden Quiz - Second Question - Soil

First - here's the answer to last weeks question (the first question for December).

Question: True or False? Bats should be discouraged from the garden because of their high potential for carrying rabies.

Answer: False. Although many people consider them creepy, bats are the gardener’s friend. On its nightly excursion, a single bat can eat 1,000 insects, many of which might otherwise have chowed down on the garden (e.g., beetle and moths) or the gardener (mosquitoes). Bats also pollinate some fruit and nut trees.

Contrary to persistent misconception, bats are not prime carriers of rabies. Few cases of human rabies have been attributed to bat bites, and most of those occurred when the victim attempted to pick up a bat found lying on the ground.

The only flying mammals, bats reproduce slowly and are vulnerable to extinction. Although they’re found throughout the U.S., nearly half the country’s bat species are threatened or endangered.

You can attract bats to your garden by erecting a bat house. This simple structure resembles a birdhouse, except the opening is at the bottom and the inside is designed so bats can hang when they roost.

The above is from The Sierra Club Knowledge Cards – The Earth Friendly Garden

NOW – Question Two – True or False – “Soil” is just a fancy word for dirt. Why?

Remember you must answer here on the blog in the comments found at the bottom of the post and include WHY to be eligible for the prize. The person who responds to all questions in the month of December correctly will win a book on living more simply.

There will be ONE MORE question next week.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday!!

The Garden Goddess

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crazy Phoeinx, AZ Winter Storms

Crazy Phoenix, AZ Winter Storms

I know Arizona does not get the kinds of storms the east coast just experienced.  Today is the first day of winter and it is forecasted to be 70 degress.  We get rain in the Phoenix area - not snow.

And we do not get 'weather' that often.  In fact. this past summer during our 'monsoon' season, we got very little rain or wind. So when it rains, is cloudy or there is a 'storm' we get excited - and actually happy!

Our first true winter storm is forcasted for this week - just in time to lower the temps to chill it down for Christmas Day.  A 40% chance of rain isn't much, but in our town we get hopeful.  Of course it WILL rain as I just hand washed my car at home on Saturday and cleaned the office windows from the last rain.

Speaking of the last rain, we also had a lot of wind.  It knocked many of the leaves off the Chaste/Vitex tree on my back yard so that I could fill up my compost barrel.

It also whipped around in my front yard garden.  A week prior, I had removed the lodge pole I used to stake the palo verde tree I planted last March.  Desert native tress do not need to be staked very long at all. Just long enough to establish the roots - about 6 months. The movement actually helps to strengthen the tree trunk.

The tree did OK in the wind, but I noticed a gap in the soil all around the base of the tree - looks like that tree got whipped around quite a bit. The photo shows just how much it moved (using the house key to give perspective).  I was amazed at how much strength both the wind had in moving the tree and the strength of the tree itself to withstand that kind of movement!

I also noticed my brocolli plants where leaning quite a bit.  They are not broken, just leaning. They have moved more upright in the two weeks since the rain. However, I will leave them as is for now. None of the other plants looked any worse for the wind.

So while the rest of the U.S. is dealing with snow and freezing temps, here in Phoenix we are keeping our hopes up for rain again this week.

What's the weather doing where you live and how does it affect your garden?

Happpy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Earth-Friendly Garden Quiz - First Question

Earth-Friendly Garden Quiz - First Question

I got a neat holiday gift last night that I will use for a new feature here on the blog. My friend did her shopping at the Sierra Club on-line store. The Earth-Friendly Garden Knowledge Cards (TM) is a deck of cards with a question about 'green' gardening and the answer on the other side of each card. I have had so much fun reading them and testing myself that I thought you might also enjoy playing and learning with me!

So each Wednesday I will post a question from the deck. You reply to the blog with your answer (post a comment). I will use the Sierra Club's answers as THE correct answer.

Only rule is that you must reply by Tuesday of the following week. I will post the answer in the post with the next weeks question.

The person who gets them all right for the month will win a copy of a current gardening or sustainable living book of my choosing. This means you will need to read the blog each week for the questions and answer right away! The first correct answer and the person who gets them all right for the month will be the winner.

OK ready for the first question?

True or False?

Bats should be discouraged from the garden because of their high potential for carrying rabies.

Respond with the answer and WHY!

Best of luck to you all!

The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Brown Areas on Rosemary

Brown Areas on Rosemary

This question came from the Maricopa County, AZ, Master Gardener Q&A email. I thought it might be a benefit to you!

Hello Annette -- If the rest of your rosemary plant is doing well, just cut out the brown/dying leaves and stems. Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant and is highly susceptible to root rot, since Mediterranean soils tend to be loose and well-drained and our desert soils typically are not. Root rot can cause all or part of the plant to die very quickly. To ward against root rot when planting rosemary, sage, thyme and lavenders, add lots of pumice or perlite and compost or mulch to your soil and create a small mound or place the plant in an area of your landscape where water will not sit on the roots. Also, rosemary in particular tends to be a great Xeriscape plant.

Once it's established (after about a year), you can almost turn off the dripper if it's on a drip irrigation system.

Hope this helps!
Carolyn Hills
Maricopa County Master Gardener Volunteer Member, Arizona Herb Association (

Thanks to the Master Gardeners for their endless supply of knowledge!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, December 7, 2009

Herb Potting Class at Maya's Farm

Herb Potting Class at Maya's Farm
Saturday started out pretty chilly but as the morning wore on and we got busy learning about herbs, it didn't seems so bad. Thankfully Maya put on a hot pot of coffee and I bought (and made) lemon-basil butter cookies and rosemary shortbread (herbs can be used for many kinds of food!)

The pictures above are of the containers the students created. It was really fun to see the various pots and designs.

Besides learning how to pot the herbs, we also blended our own soil mixture using Maya's biodynamic compost and organic soil. Notice the flowers in some of the pots? Johny Jump Ups (viola's) flower petals are edible, too!

Now with the winter rain a few days later, these herb pots will be off to a great start!

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Plants - Green Gift Giving

Holiday Plants - Green Gift Giving

I was putting together a gift basket this weekend for a friend's fundraiser for AIDS and I decided to include one of my favorite holiday plants along with a gift certificate for an hour on my time.

The Christmas Cactus is a beautiful plant that doesn't have a sting of a cactus and all the color of a beautiful flowering house plant. Three similar “holiday cacti” are called by this name, but only one is the real thing. The branches of the much rarer Christmas cactus have scalloped edges—no “teeth”—and like to bloom from December thru March.

Most of them are blooming in the nurseries and stores now. Place it in a cool spot away for heat and it will provide you with lovely blooms for months.

However as with poinsettias, to promote blooming next year, keep the plant in total darkness from around 6pm to 8am each day; during the day, it should receive bright, normal light. After about six weeks, you’ll be rewarded with nice big fat flower buds. After that, keep it in bright light during the day with nighttime temps in the mid-sixties, and those buds should open in another six weeks or so.

So think green this holiday season and give the gift of living plants. Shop your local nursery for one that is sure to please even the pickiest of friends.

Happy Digging,

the Garden Goddess

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Hurry Up & Wait Game

The Hurry Up & Wait Game

Now that the new season's gardens are all planted there really isn't much to do - but wait! Boy I was Hell-bent to get the beds planted - and in the midst of an injured foot. I had all the seeds, knew how I wanted to plant them out and what to put where and now that is is all done, I have lost my motivation!

Oh I get out to the gardens daily to check on them, see what's sprouting and what's not, pull a few weeds and maybe harvest a few swiss chard leaves or a summer sweet pepper or two.

But other than that, the hard work is done for a few months. You think I would be ecstatic, but I enjoy working with my hands in the soil and creating the new beds. There is something almost artistic in the creating of the garden bed from just a patch of dirt.

Watching seedlings emerge from the ground and the leaves unfold is also magical, but I am less involved in that activity. That is all mother nature at work.

Now all that is left is pruning and replacing a few landscape plants that didn't make it this summer. But maintenance isn't all that exciting to me.

I am thankful for the abundance that is growing in my gardens and I am thankful for all those who helped me get the gardens in when I was injured. Now I need to exercise patience while I nurture the plants into maturity.

How is your garden coming along?

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Garden Chores Save Money in Long Run

Fall Garden Chores Save Money in Long Run

This is a good time to get your garden in order. Here’s a tip that can save you money in the long run:

Keep your garden tools clean and sharp. Some plant diseases can be spread on tools.

Hose soil off of garden tools before moving to another area of the landscape. Dry them well before storing.

Sterilize pruning tools after each and every cut if there is any chance the plant is infected with a disease. Use an antibacterial spry and wipe it dry.

A dull saw is much more dangerous than sharp one. When the saw is sharp, gentle pressure is all it takes to make a clean cut. If it is dull, force is required and serious injury can occur if it slips. Sharp tools make for clean wounds which heal quickly.

Take care of your tools, they will last longer and so will you and your plants!

Happy Digging,

Doreen Pollack

Down 2 Earth Gardens, LLC

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Garden Planting Started

Fall Garden Planting Started

After my foot injury 2 weeks ago, I started getting worried that my garden planting wasn't happening on schedule. I still had 2 small beds to amend and many things I wanted to start by seed right in those beds. But I couldn't get around the garden very well and I certainly couldn't use a shovel and get up and down off my knees very well.

I called upon the help of my gardening friends and clients. Lo and behold last Sunday morning three wonderful, generous women came to my rescue. The really cool thing about it, is they all wanted to learn how to start a garden bed by seeds.
I coached and guided them and they did the work. Lucky for them we never needed to use more than a small garden shovel and trowel. But they planted many rows of seeds. The weather was perfect for gardening. We had a great time chatting and taking about gardening life and all the wonderful things growing your own food meant to each of us.
Now a week later I have tiny seedlings popping through the ground. In fact they could be seen as early as 4 days after planting!
Let me take you through a tour of my three newly planted garden beds:
The front yard is the newest of beds. This is where the grass was just a year ago! This lovely key-hole garden is now planted with:
Chinese kale
Red leaf lettuce
Swiss chard (there are 2 chard plants left over from the summer that have doubled in size in a week since amending the soil!!)

The 2 back gardens are smaller. They were the first beds I used for food 2 years ago. Boy have I learned a lot since them.
The garden bed tucked in the farthest corner of the yard (about 2 ft x 3 ft) is now where I grow the plants that have a longer maturity or harvest date - onions, garlic, carrotts and beets. This year I threw my radishes in with all of this.
You can see the seedling coming up here as well. Notice the fancy plant marker - a plastic knife! Use a sharpie pen and they will hold up to all of the harsh AZ weather!

The third garden bed I call the salad bowl since I put my lettuces there. It is closest to the house and the back door. It has a vent from the crawl space which helps keep it warmer on cool winter evenings. Last year I had lettuce for almost 4 months for the same spot.

What is missing from all of this is the diversity of companion planting. That will come next week when I add the nasturtium and sweet alysum seeds and a few marigolds.

What did you plant this fall?
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess
Fall Garden Planting StartedAfter my foot injury 2 weeks ago, I started getting worried that my garden planting wasn't happening on schedule. I still had 2 small beds to amend and many things I wanted to start by seed right in those beds. But I couldn't get around the garden very well and I certainly couldn't use a shovel and get up and down off my knees very well.So I called upon the help of my gardening friends and clients. Lo and behold last Sunday morning three wonderful, generous women came to my rescue. The really cool thing about it, is they all wanted to learn how to start a garden bed by seeds.So I coached and guided them and they did the work. Lucky for them we never needed to use more than a small garden shovel and trowl. But they planted many rows of seeds. The weather was perfect for gardening. We had a great time chatting and taking about gardening life and all the wonderful things growing your own food meant to each of us.So now a week later I have tiny seedlings popping through the ground! In fact they could be seen as early as 4 days after planting! Let me take you through a tour of my three newly planted garden beds:[Photo]The front yard is the newest of beds. This is where the grass was just a year ago! This lovely key-hole garden is now planted with:SpinachChinese kaleRed leaf lettuceCilantroSwiss chard (there are 2 chards plants left over from the summer that have doubled in size in a week since amending the soil!!)The 2 back gardens are small, they were the first beds.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Healing Gardens

Healing Gardens

A very appropriate topic considering my foray with the thorn in the foot. I am writing an article on modern day healing gardens and am looking for great resources.

If you have done any work in this area, I would love to interview you for my article. I am also interested in great websites, books or article on the subject. All sources will be created and I will gladly send you a copy of the article when done!

Thanks for your help!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trouble Lurks in the Garden

Trouble Lurks in the Garden

No picture today with this post because I don't want to gross you out - my swollen, red left foot is the reason for this note.

First - I have already been chastised by my fellow gardener friends. Seems like the guys had less sympathy and did more scolding than the woman.

Second - I feel a little foolish even sharing this with you. I mean, come-on, I am a PROFESSIONAL (aren't I?). But if I don't share this with you, there is a good chance this could happen to you!

So here goes - I stepped on a thorn! Well not your average thorn, but a one inch long Palo Verde Tree thorn that went through my Crocs and into my foot a quarter inch! OUCH! Yes, I screamed a really bad word very loud in the back yard! Then I stopped, took off the crock and saw how long the thorn was inside the shoe coming through the sole. The ball of my foot had a drop of blood on it and I thought "that's a good sign, bleeding helps to flush the germs out."

Well, I may have been OK if I would have stopped what I was doing, cleaned and disinfected the puncture site and put on a band aid and a sock. But NOOOOOOO I had to keep on gardening. I thought it was just a small pin prick and it didn't hurt tooo much.


The next time you get cut, scratched or get stuck with a thorn, go into the house to clean and disinfect it. Put on a bandage and take a break.

Here's why.

Monday morning I couldn't put any pressure on that foot when I rolled out of bed! It was red and swollen. One of my toes was twice the size it was the night before. I thought that perhaps I was allergic to the Palo Verde Tree! But as the day wore on and the foot felt worse I knew something was up.

A trip to the doctor's office confirmed my fears - it was infected - with a staph infection! A pretty serious condition. I spent the last week going to the doctor every other day and getting shots (tetanus and antibiotics) and am also taking them orally. I am now taking two different antibiotics, soaking the foot several times a day and elevating it when I can.

It has definitely slowed me down. The weather is PERFECT for gardening after the hottest summer on record and I can't do it!! I hobble around on the outside of my foot just to get through the day.

So take it from me - follow the doctors advice - clean and disinfect any cuts or scratches and cover it. The garden is a dirty place!

Safe Gardening,
The Garden Goddess
Down 2 Earth Gardens, LLC.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Update on Who Stole the Compost

Update on Who Stole the Compost

Thanks to my friend Vinnie the Gardener for solving the mystery of the missing compost. Here's what he has to say:
"Means you have 'high' bugs as I call them; all the visible critters (pill bugs, roaches, beetles). Had the same issue myself when we began renovating our garden. Started my pitchfork plugging (stab, wiggle), and kept piling on the nature. It took about three years when I noticed the 'dirt' became 'soil' in the top 4-6"inches or so. That's when I noticed more of the 'low' bugs; worms, grubs, micro-critters, mostly below the ground. Since then, all my debris clean-up goes directly onto the garden - not into the compost pile. The major green stuff (kitchen & mowing & pruning) goes into compost. All of the general plant litter gets layered in the garden (along with coffee grounds). "

WOW - I love his idea of making it easy to build the soil. Now that some of my trees are loosing their leaves (the mulberry especially) - and right by this garden, I will just layer them on the soil, almost like a mulch and let the critters in the soil munch on them. I just hope it doesn't take 3 years for me!!

Look there's one now just waiting to be eaten!! Sort of blends in with the dirt. I hope the bugs see it.

So folks - this fall do not back up your leaves and throw them away - put them on your garden! Or at the very least put them in your compost bin or even better yet - leave them where they fall and let them provide nourishment to soil below the tree!

Now that's MY kind of gardening!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Who stole the compost?

Who stole the compost?

As I was preparing the front yard garden bed, I realized the soil was lacking organic matter. It's been almost a year since I removed the bermuda and created the new garden. I added a truck load of compost to the existing soil back then and I have been adding more compost throughout the summer.

Yet when I started to dig in the garden the soil looked pretty bad, still lots of clay soil, almost as bad as when I started. So I broke one of my own rules - I dug up the garden beds.

Thank goodness for my own compost pile and Soil Secrets. I was able to amend about half of the garden with my own compost. It was kind of creepy carrying the bucket of compost and BUGS! But I know that bugs are part of the process so I just walked really fast!

Since I didn't have enough of my own compost, I added some great amendments called Soil Secrets. I recently ordered a pallet of this great stuff for my friends and clients. I am excited to see how this great product works on my gardens.

I didn't plant anything yet, just watered in the amendments and moved on to the next garden bed.

Where do you think all the compost went?

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess
Down 2 Earth Gardens, LLC

Saturday, September 26, 2009

September Tree Care

September Tree Care

Now that it is cooling off there is more work to be done in our landscapes. If you didn't fertilize your citrus yet in the low desert - you still have a few more days!

My trusted colleague John Eisenhower owns Integrity Tree Service. If you ever need your trees maintained (pruned) and perhaps you have a concern about their health, please give John a call. I just got his newsletter this week and he has a list of tree care items for September. Pruning can now be done and even some planting as well. Check out his Tree Care Calendar.

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Final Summer Harvest?

Final Summer Harvest?

I got out in the garden this past Sunday to do a little clean up and start to prepare the front bed for the winter garden. Seems funny to use the word 'winter' when it was still over 100 degrees on Sunday.

I was pretty ruthless with the cleanup up. I pulled out or cut off at the soil line whatever looked like it was done for the season. I noticed I still have 2 armenian cucumbers on the vine and about 3 green peppers so those plants got to stay in the ground. The plastic knives used as plant markers were dated March 21, 2009. Some of those plants were in the garden 6 months and made it through the worst summer in decades.

But I also took out anything that looked stressed from a pest or fungus. I thought the hollyhock has rust, but it turned out to be some kind of very small bug. And when I turned the leaves over I saw MORE SQUASH BUG EGGS!

As you are cleaning up your garden for the next season or to put it to rest for the season, be sure you examine the plant material well so you can see what lurks out of view. I thank the sacrificial hollyhock for taking one for the team. They were attacked by something, but the veggies were OK!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Look Who's in the Garden!

Look Who's in the Garden!

As I was cleaning out the summer garden today I found this little creature sunning himself on the porch. He must be camera shy as he ran into the bush when I reappeared with my camera!

Can you identify the kind of insect he is and is he a good insect or a bad insect?

But these other two furry helpers are never shy. Now if I can only teach them to actually plant!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Creating an On-Line Gardening Community

Creating an On-Line Gardening Community

I have been thinking about starting an on-line garden community so I can teach more people around the world to garden more sustainably. I really love the local commuity I have built here in Phoenix, AZ, USA. My clients and their gardens are very special to me, I enjoy teaching gardening classes face to face with people from the surrounding communities and writing gardening articles for local papers and magazines is always interesting.

I also specialize in low-desert gardening and permaculture. But that doesn't necessarily mean I am limited to the Phoenix area. What about other areas of the world that have equally arid climates? Much of what I teach on sustainable gardening transcends climate.

So my question to you, my faithful readers, is what would you like to see me offer? Don't worry if you are not sure if I offer it or not now, but if you were to be a member of an on-line gardening club what would YOU like to receive in exchange for your membership fee?

I look forward to hearing from you!
Happy Digging
The Garden Goddess

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gardeners' Addictions

Gardeners' Addictions

Seems like there are several items I just can't keep myself from buying - gardening magazines and books. I was in the local used book re-seller in Phoenix (Bookman's) recently and found my self in the gardening section looking for books on gardening in the desert. Besides the usual suspects that I already own like, Gardening by the Month by Mary Irish and Western Garden by Sunset, nothing really piqued my interest. In fact, there really is very little about gardening in the low desert! There is much written about gardening in general, but little in comparison about the low desert. I think I own most of them!

I did find two garden journals - really simple books with lots of blanks to fill in to keep track of what is happening in the garden. I am still looking for the perfect journal it seems after my post Keeping Track of it All a few weeks ago about just such an exercise.

Maybe I will just take all the parts I like from the various journals and make my own!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Growing New Friendships in the Garden

Growing New Friendships in the Garden

Gardening can be a very solo activity - if you let it. When I spend a day in the garden pushing myself past the point of exhaustion, I do so to finish a project or task. I can loose myself in garden work. I often solve all of lifers problems in my own little head while planting and digging and just putting my hands into the soil.

Today I met with Debra who will be my Garden Caption for the next 6 months and we work together to get me and my garden ready for the 2010 Real Gardens for Real People tour sponsored and put on by the Master Gardeners.

When she asked me what she could help me with I was at a loss. I have been doing all of my own gardening for 10+ years. But after I thought about it I realized I would welcome the help with plant selection for a new garden and putting together the story board so people can see the evolution of the garden.

I am now getting used the the idea of someone helping me. I am sure it will be a very rewarding experience. It will be fun to share the ideas and the planting of these new specimans for me.

Happy Digging (and invite a friend)

The Garden Goddess

down2 Earth Gardens

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why I Love to Hand-Water My Garden

Why I Love to Hand-Water My Garden

Hand-watering is so hypnotic - the cool water splashing on my sandled feet, using my index finger to spray the water - sometimes shooting it far, other times making it a soft mist. Feeling the mist blow back on me on a hot summer day cooling me off just a little before it dries oh-so-quickly.

But the best part of hand watering is I get up close and personal with the plants! Today I saw the green grasshopper on the red pepper plant that had white blossoms. The tomato vine has two yellow blossoms, and the eggplant has a single pale pink blossom. I also discovered another armenian cucumber hiding in the leaf of the vine sprawling throughout the whole garden.

I bet it was the rain that brought this on. Or the plants heard me say I was taking out my summer garden next weekend and they don't want to go!

Either way, after the brutal summer we had this year breaking all heat records and the least amount of rain, it is really heartwarming to see that a few of the plants survived.

I think they will get to stay next weekend when I begin to make room for the fall gardens!

What's happening in your garden?

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rain in the Desert - Finally!

Rain in the Desert - Finally!

The last time it rained at my home was August 13, 2009 and I got 1/2 an inch of rain. I remember well because I lost almost all the rain from my barrels - you can read all about it at Mourning the Loss of the Baby Rain Drops.

This time I was partially prepared for rain, at least I had the faucets closed! It rained for most of the day on Saturday, September 3, 2009, three weeks and 3 days after the last rain. I checked my rain gauge when I got home on Monday and there was .4 of an inch and two full rain barrels. They looked like they over flowed, but unfortunately I did not have the overflow diversion tubing hooked up!

I wasn't even home to witness this glorious event. I was out of town for the Labor Day weekend in Sedona hiking and visiting a friend. It rained about 30 minutes after I finished my morning hike and put a damper on my hot tub time to ward off sore muscles. Then it continued to rain all day long in Sedona so I at least got to spend a rainy day reveling in the coolness and wonderful smells of pine and creosote.

Even though I didn't have a chance to plant the rain where I wanted to with the overflow diversion, I am still happy it rained. The grass seemed to have grown an inch over the weekend so I know the plants were very happy for the rain.

And I am too - now if it would just rain again SOON! But not before I install the Barrel conversion kit for the third barrel!

Happy Rain Harvesting,
The Garden Goddess

Friday, September 4, 2009

Never-ending Gardening

Never-ending Gardening

It seems like we never really take a break from gardening in the Arizona low-desert. We are blessed (or cursed) with year-round gardening.

Of course this means we need to make sure we are practicing garden maintenance. This includes soil amending, and good garden hygiene.

You may remember in my post about a great garden planning tool that developer Jeremy Dore also sends out a monthly newsletter with great gardening tips. I love to learn how others garden and can always learn something new.

I really enjoed his recent post Good Garden Hygiene – Beating Pests and Disease as it tied in nicely to the question I got earlier this week on composting sick or diseased plants.

So remember what your mother taught you when you were a little person - wash your hands often and now your garden tools, too!
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Garden Therefore, I am.

I Garden Therefore, I am.

I friend of mine on Facebook said she loved reading how passionate I was about gardening and was glad to see someone pursuing what makes them happy. This had me pause for a moment and think about how much I do think about gardening - pretty much all the time.

Let me count the ways:

1. I have my own gardening company

2. I participate in a community garden

3. I teach gardening classes

4. I write about gardening, articles, on other peoples blogs, my own blog and newsletter

5. I read gardening magazines

6. Follow Gardeners on Twitter

7. Read other gardening blogs

8. Volunteer as a gardener for schools

9. I am a board member for a sustainability nonprofit

10. I talk gardening on the radio and TV

Well I guess there are other things to be obsessed with!!

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's New in My Garden Today

What's New in My Garden Today

The green beans are still progressing nicely and the sunflowers have also poked their heads out of the ground (8 days after planting) but other than that it is a pretty slow day in my gardening world. I thought about pulling up the shade cover over some of the plants, but I noticed new flowers on the green pepper plant. Since it is still HOT here, I better wait and give the plants as much protection as possible. I am hoping to get a second harvest from a few of the plants.

The seeds I ordered from Botanical Interest arrived yesterday. It was like getting a Christmas gift. They have beautiful artistic water color drawings of the plants which are very pretty. Now if it would just cool down a bit more so I can plant.

I finished booking my teaching and speaking engagements for September and was very excited to see I have 10 engagements. Most of them are now on my website so check there if you would like to take a gardening class with me this month!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, August 31, 2009

Should You Compost Diseased or Bug-infested Plants?

Should You Compost Diseased or Bug-infested Plants?

I just got this question today from a former student of mine. She was removing the summer plants and noticed an Aphid infestation.

She had asked two other people, one being a plant nursery, and got 2 different answers. That's how it is with gardening. Everyone has an answer usually based on their experience.

Here's how I answered - I have a personal rule of never composting any diseased or bug infested plant - why take the risk? I compost a little more casually than the scientific or bio-dynamic version and I can never be sure if it gets hot enough to kill off the bug EGGS, the disease or bacteria.

What do you all do with bug-infested plants? I would love to hear from you!

Happy Digging,

Doreen, the Garden Goddess

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Green Beans Emerge from Vegetable Garden Early

Green Beans Emerge from Vegetable Garden Early

Took only 4 days from when planted to emerge - this pic is day 7. Made note in my planting journal. And this is during an extreme heat alert with temps over 100 for 3 days straight!

Look who I found chilling next the the water bucket where I collect the AZ evap water? Cats are so smart!

Happy Digging and happy Sunday!

The Garden Goddess, Doreen

Friday, August 28, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 4

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 4

Plant! Purchase your seeds or transplants at the nursery. When buying seeds, make sure they suit your garden location. When buying transplants, make sure the leaves look healthy and the root ball is not compacted with roots wrapping around the inside of the pot.

Here are some tips on proper plant placement. Be sure you know and consider:
•Spacing base on mature size
•Height and width
•Root vegetables vs. leafy vegetables
•Water requirements

Use this cool tool to plan your garden:

It will help you with identifying mature size so plants aren't too crowded.

What should you do seeds vs. transplants
Seeds – longer germination time
• Acclimate to garden environment from beginning
• 2-3 months longer to harvest
Transplants – instant plant
• Earlier harvest
• Uniform production

Allow space for the mature plant size. Many plants, especially vegetables, need room for their ‘fruit.’ When planting from seed, read the seed packet for recommended spacing. Allow space for the mature plant size.
Water well after planting, then relax.

Now it’s just a matter of time. Protect your garden as it becomes established. Keep birds, cats and other critters away from your garden by tying ribbons to sticks and placing them around the garden. For cats, consider laying down chicken wire over the top of the soil after planting. The seeds will grow up in between the holes in the wire.

Water your new garden daily at first, keeping the soil moist until seedlings are a few inches tall. Once they are, test the soil to see how much moisture it retains and water based on need. A soil probe, pushed into the soil will help with you see how deep the water seeps..

Enjoy your harvest! The flowers will look brighter and the food taste fresher as a result of your tender loving care.
If you missed the first three weeks, you can get the entire article here.

If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area, I wil be teaching this class in-person on September 12th at the Home & Garden Expo Center at 1700. E Washcington St., PHX from 9:30-11AM. Watch my website for more details.
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keeping track of it all

Well I FINALLY recorded what I planted and where so I can track what happens in the garden. I have been relying on my memory and now that I am expanding the gardens and have several all over my property, I think it is time to write it down.

For now I am using a blank journal someone gave to me. It has a beautiful water-color Impressionist style drawing on the cover.

On Sunday I planted Mammoth Sunflower seeds in four planting holes, 2 seeds per hole at the back of the existing sunflower sentries protecting the garden at the public sidewalk. According to the back of the seed packet, I can expect the seedlings to break ground in 7 - 21 days, a bloom in 75-90 days and a plant 7 - 12 feet tall and the bloom 1 foot across!! WOW! I will plant more of these each week until the pack is all planted and that way there will be Sunflowers all fall!!

I also planted Green Beans! Since they need something to grow on, I planted them all around the two peach trees that never leafed out - I am pretty sure they are dead. But they make an excellent nurse plant (trellis) for the green beans. I also planted some right at the walkway near the front porch where I have a bare trellis. These will take 7 - 14 days to germinate and 50 days to harvest.

With my journal I can actuall track how long it took in MY YARD for them to germinate and mature. This is useful information for when I plant the same things again next season. I will know if that location worked out, or the seeds for a specific company had a good germination rate, how they did in my soil, etc.

I am always looking for great ideas, so if you use a garden journal or format to track your garden progress, I would love to hear from you!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Friday, August 21, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 3

Time to apply mulch and compost to the prepared bed. If you are planting directly into the ground, spread a six inch layer of compost, mulch, sand and topsoil on the ground. Dig down at least six inches (the depth of most shovels and shades) and mix in well. Beds should have a soil mixture at least six to twelve inches deep so the roots have plenty of room to grow. This is especially true for root vegetables likes beets and carrots. If you are creating a raised bed dig down to the bottom of the raised bed.

Next wet the area completely making sure the water soaks down at least 12 inches. This guarantees good drainage and deep root watering.

If you think the water drainage is poor, you can test it by digging a hole about the size of a gallon container (think of a gallon jug of milk or water). Fill it with water. Check it an hour later. If the water is gone you probably have SANDY soil. If there is still water, come back in a another hour to two and check again. If the water is gone or almost gone, you have LOAMY soil - the desired soil! If the water is not absorbing well, you probably have to much CLAY in your soil. If you have too much sand or too much clay in your soil, amend again with more organic material like compost.

Let this sit undisturbed for the week. If it is still hot and dry in your area, water every few days to encourage the microbes, fungi and worms to get to work!

Time to make the plant shopping list, locate where you will get your seeds or transplants and how much to plant because next week we plant! One of my favorite seed companies is Botanical Interests. They are available on line and in garden centers and store. If you are shopping on line, consider supporting one of my favorite non-profits by shopping here.

Happy Digging, The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunflowers - the garden workhorse

There was a bouquet of sunflowers on the counter at my local coffee shop, Drip, today and they reminded me how much I love sunflowers. Long before I started gardening and growing my own I have loved the sunflower. There is just something about the large yellow/orange blooms and the dark brown center that brings a smile to my face.

There are many different kinds of sunflowers as well with names like Ring of Fire, Teddy Bear and Claret, each one with its own uniquie coloring and size. From the small one inch bloom on a multi stalk plant that almost resembles a bush, to the elegant Mammoth almost one foot across.

These gentle giants help break up hard soil with their deep root system, provide visual pleasure for cut flower arrangements and in the garden and provide food for us and the birds. Sunflower seeds are a great addition to our diet and sunflower oil is a healthy alternative to other kinds of oil as it contains high levels of vitamin E. In fact this great plant even has it's own national association!

There is still time to plant the last of the seed pack in the ground for a fall color show. You know where you can find me early Sunday morning!
Happy Digging, The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fall Garden Plant List

I made my veggie garden list last night watching TV. I pulled out the Planting Guide for the Phoenix area and went to town. I selected about 10 veggies (I already have seeds for 9 other vegetables) and 5 herbs. But before I run out and get the seeds like I usually do, I want to take stock of my various gardens and determine how much and what I can plant in each one.
I have 4 small beds (3 ft x 4 ft) in the back yard and two beds in front (3 ft x 20 ft) and (3 ft x 10 ft). As I said before it is a bit over whelming. I would like a salad bed, a root vegetable bed and another for those late harvest plants. There are several things to consider before I buy the seeds.

First, there is the companion plant theory about interplanting the plants for their mutual benefit. So I want to study that and use it for my garden planning. There's a great book on the subject called Carrots Love Tomatoes.

Second, how much do I want to plant. How much will I actually eat and do I want extra to freeze or can?

Third - do I want to start them all by seed or get some transplants too? Then where do I want to get the seeds? Definately non GMO, but heriloom, southwest native variety, organic?

So I am back to the planning phase - feel like that little hamster on the wheel going round and round. Kind of squeaky, too!

Happy Digging, The Garden Goddess

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seeing my Garden Through Another Person's Eyes

My business, Down 2 Earth Gardens, is being profiled in the August 27 edition of the Arizona Business Gazette, part of the Arizona Republic. I am very honored and flattered. I spoke to the reporter/writer by phone last week and today she stopped by to see what I was referring to when I mentioned I took out a bermuda lawn and put in an edible garden.

As I was waiting for her arrival I walked through my garden thinking about what I wanted to show her. Mid August in Phoenix is not when your garden looks it's best! Yet as I walked around the garden beds, I thought about what it looked like this time last year - dead grass.

I am pround of what I have created and I am critical about what I should have done differently. But the nice thing about a garden is that it is easy to redecorate the next season.

Now back to dreaming of a new garden this fall........
Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Garden Planning & Remodeling

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what to plant this next season. So many choices - broccoli, cauliflower, beets, onions, garlic, and so much more. I woke up at 5 AM one morning last week thinking about it! I actually got out of bed, put on a pot of tea and sat down with the planting calendar and my collection of seeds. Check out the Phoenix Area Planting Calendar here.

I cleaned out the packets of seeds I don't want. Some will go to the community gardens, the squash seeds I threw away - I am so disgusted with my experience in growing squash both in my home garden and the community garden that I don't want to try growing them for a while. There are other veggies I really enjoy that I will focus my energies on. Why put all that time and energy to something that doesn't grow well for me, especially when I can get it at the Farmer's Markets.

I also came across some flower seeds. I love flowers and want to create a cutting garden, where the flowers grow tall enough to be cut and brought into the house for flower arrangements. If I grow the flowers among the veggies, they will add color to the otherwise green plants as well as attract pollinators (bees & butterflies) and help to manage the bugs as well.

I am excited about cleaning out some of the ornamental garden beds as well. I want to focus more on native plants that can survive on less water and will still give me color and beauty.

Boy I really wish it would cool off! I want to get into the garden beds and start moving plants around, getting the bulbs in for the Irises and amending the soil. But it is still a little too warm for me & the plants!

For now I will just focus on creating lists of what I want to grow and getting the seeds. I will probably start some soon in small pots. Toilet papaer and papaer towel cardboard rolls also work well. Just cut them down to about 2 inches tall and fill with potting soil. Place them in something with a solid bottom and sides for support, put a few seeds in each one and with them grow. You will have your own transplants ready in a few weeks!

Watch for my 'shopping' list soon. I will share my fall/winter garden list with you. I have 4 times the garden space I did last year! This is going to be fun!

Happy Digging

The Garden Goddess

Friday, August 14, 2009

4 Weeks to a New Garden - Week 2

Last Friday during week one your job was to walk around your yard and just observe sun, shade and water. If you live in the Phoenix Metro area, I hope you walked through your property after the big thunderstorm Wednesday night to see where the water created puddles or washed way the soil. Water flow on the property is an important element in garden placement.

Now on to Week Two - this is the week you get dirty and do some physical work. If it has rained recently - lucky you. The soil will be that much easier to dig.

Prepare the soil. Remove all weeds and grass by old-fashioned weeding or an herbicide. If you use an herbicide, you will need to bio-remediate the area before you grow edibles in the garden (at least one full season.)

Dig the garden bed area. You can use a shovel or a rototiller. Break up the clumps of dirt into small pieces. The dirt should flow freely through your hands. There is an intense process used to do this called double–digging. It aerates the deep layers of soil and allows the roots of the plants to go deeper. For heavy clay soil it also improves the drainage as clay soil is very dense. Double-digging is the first step in creating the most productive garden bed possible.

1. Start your digging at one end of the bed and dig a trench the depth and width of the head of the shovel. (approx. 12" deep) Put that dirt in a wheelbarrow.
2. Use a pitch fork to loosen dirt in the bottom of the trench.
3. Dig a second, similar-size trench directly next to the first. Place that soil into the first trench you dug. Loosen the soil at the bottom of this second trench with the pitch fork as well.
4. Repeat this process until your entire garden bed is dug.
5. Put the dirt in the wheel barrel into the last hole.

Do not till the dirt at all when it is either bone-dry or very soggy/muddy. This will ruin the garden plot by destroying the soil structure. The soil should be as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Clods of the dirt should crumble in your fist, but it should not ooze-out or crumble into dust.

Use a garden rake to even out the garden bed. Place a border around the bed now if you choose. It will help to define the garden space and keep people and pets from roaming through the bed.

Now soak in a warm Epsom salt bath to relieve those achy muscles!

Only two more weeks to go - You could have a garden bed by Labor Day!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mourning the Loss of Baby Rain Drops

Well it FINALLY rained at my house in Phoenix, AZ last night - and into the morning. We had a real honest-to-goodness thunderstorm. By the looks of the yard it was pretty windy, too.

I was very excited to see how much rain I got and how much I collected in my 55 gallon rain barrels. I have three barrels and although it is only 165 gallons of water - I reuse that water over the span of a few weeks to water some of my gardens. Rain water is SO much better for the plants than city water. It has less chemicals, especially salt and chlorine, in it.

I stumbled out of bed and directly into my sandals and headed outside about 6 AM. It felt cool and certainly smelled like the desert. Although I live in an urban neighborhood, I have a creosote bush in my back yard that smells heavenly when it rains.

I immediately looked into my barrels. I could hear the water trickling down the gutter and into the barrel. I went to the closest one and was surprised to see so little water in it. Scratching my head I looked down and saw water trickling out the tap (spigot) near the bottom. I had forgotten to close it the last time I drained it! So I turn the handle closed and went to the next barrel. Same thing! Darn! I wondered how much I actually lost.

Then I remembered, I still have one barrel I have not tapped yet! I went around the side of the house and checked it knowing it would have water in it and I found it half full! Woo Hoo! Now it is heavy with water. I will be leaning into it to dunk the watering can to get the water out. After it is empty I better get busy and install my new Barrel Conversion Kit.

Next I checked the rain gauge in my garden and it measured 1/2 an inch of rain - that is a lot of rain for a storm in Phoenix!

As I sat on the back porch sipping my morning tea and watching the cats play in the wet grass, I reflected in my loss of all those baby rain drops. Frustrating? Yes! but I was very happy overall that we got such a nice rain for the first time this summer!

Happy Sloshing!
The Garden Goddess

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Green Features Now Listed in MLS

It does pay to incorporate green or sustainiable features into your home! If you are selling your home in Arizona your realtor can now list these green features in the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service (ARMLS). Just make sure that the features are installed by an expert and you also get any required permits. Using a registered contractor or company is important.

The list of features includes solar, greywater harvesting, LEED Certified and more. See the complete list here. Thanks Terry B - an excellent realtor who stays up to date in current trends.

Also consider the exterior look of your home before you sell. Is the landscape in top shape? Here are some tips to make your outside as inviting as the inside:

Tips on Exterior Home Staging
1. Make sure the outdoor area is clean. Sweep away all ground debris, dust
and trash. Clean off all furniture and cushions. A layer of dust and or bird
droppings is not very inviting!
2. Eliminate all dead or dying plants. Outdoor temperatures take its toll on
anything living. Cut back or remove dead plants. Not only is this good
from a Feng Shui perspective, it removes the notion that the property is
3. Keep lawn and bushes maintained. Curb appeal is so underrated. First
impressions do matter.
4. Don’t forget about the back yard. If it has been neglected and never
landscaped, consider staging it with patio furniture and potted plants.
Stacking paving bricks, pavers and masonry blocks to give to illusion of an
outdoor room will improve even the most dreadful back yards.
5. Use color to add visual appeal and excitement. Bright colors used as
accents will draw the eye to them. Use this tactic to divert the attention
away from less desirable areas.

Do you need help in getting the outside ready for a sale? Or perhaps you have a home for sale and no one looks at it? Consider the curb appeal may be lacking that 'Welcome Home" look. I can help you get the yard/landscape in tip top shape that will attract buyers into the home. Contact me for a free phone consultation.

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Catching the Rain

OK - For the readers in the Phoenix area I know this sounds crazy - WHAT RAIN? Now that we are officially in the downstretch of the 'nonsoon' and we have had no measurable rain since May it seems pretty ridiculous to talk about rain water harvesting.

BUT THIS IS EXACTLY WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER RAIN WATER HARVESTING. YES I AM YELLING! When we got so little rain (about 7 inches a year), every little drop we get is very presious.

I have had lots of fun catching rain and reusing it in my garden, even if I just dump out a bucket into the garden. That extra water will provide deep water to plants – more so than the rain that fell in my yard. I built my own rain barrels last year and it was so much fun!

Last winter I added a few feet of gutters strategically to further help with rain water management. What I realized after that first rain is that I can now capture more rain than before! When my 55 gallon rain barrel runs over – but not to worry as I have an overflow valve that I attach a hose to and I just redirect that water out to a tree which loves the deep watering!

Saving, reusing and redirecting rain water has been one of the smartest thing I did. Now I plant the rain where I want it to go rather than letting it drop wherever it wants. Making your own barrel is not that complex and the parts are now easy to find right here.

If you already rain water harvest please drop me a line and tell me about your experience – I would love to see pictures too! And if you don’t, then drop me a line and maybe I can help get you started!

Happy Digging,
The Garden Goddess

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bug of the Month - Squash Bug

Being Bug of the Month is not necessarily an honor. It is not like being Employee of the Month or Teacher of the Month. I was once Volunteer of the Month – that was nice.

But being the August 2009 Bug of the Month is no prize! The notorious SQUASH BUG is hated by all gardeners. There is nothing beneficial about it. They make my skin crawl when I see them swarming all over the vines in my squash or pumpkins plants. In fact – I will NOT be growing my own Halloween pumpkin this year – nope – just pulled those vines out this morning. They were infested with the squash bug, eggs and nymphs (again not cute sea nymphs frolicking in the water) but spidery-looking immature bugs crawling on the underside of the leaves.

And not just the leaf of the squash plant – they were on the leaf of the nearby weed and the sage plant. Other parts of the country may only have ONE cycle of these pests each year, but we have more. The mature bugs can hide in waiting for the squash plants (only sucking and eating the leaves – not the ‘fruit’).

When I pulled up the vine, I saw the nymphs crawling all over the mulch in the garden bed under where the vines were. OHHH so creepy! I grabbed the Diatomaceous Earth and sprinkled it carefully in that area. Yes, DE can also take out the good bugs too, but there were so many in a concentrated area, I just had to do something.

A Google Search revealed many different ways to deal with this pest:

Physical Removal of Squash Bugs (Extension office in MN)

1. Remove or knock off and kill nymphs and adults by dropping them into a pail of soapy water. This is particularly effective if only a few plants are affected. This can be challenging because squash bugs hide under leaves and move quickly when disturbed.
2. Crush eggs that are attached to the undersides and stems of leaves.
3. Trap squash bugs by laying out boards or pieces of newspaper. Squash bugs will congregate under the boards at night, and then can be collected and destroyed in the morning.
4. Remove plant debris around the garden during the growing season to reduce the potential harborages where squash bugs may hide. Clean up cucurbits and other plant matter around the garden in the fall to reduce the number of overwintering sites.

Organic SolutionsGuinea Hens – Mother Earth News

This one may not work too well for me as my garden is in my front yard and it is not fenced in. I do not want to be chasing Guinea Hens down 12th Street!

Companion Planting - article with several solutions including companion planting (catnip, tansy, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, bee balm and mint), and selecting bug resistant varieties.

So much time, energy and resources goes into growing a plant and I have had the squash bug attack several years in a row now that I am ready to leave the squash growing to others and just get mine at the Farmer’s Market!

What about you?

Happy Digging,

The Garden Goddess

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Life Changing Events in the Garden

I moved to the Valley 12 years ago from Chicago. Gardening was much different there. You put seeds or a plant in the yard or garden and they grew. It rained regular and the soil was rich with organic materials. Never really too hot or sunny. Actually that last part is why I left. I couldn't stand the cold winters and the grey skies.

When I bought my own home in 1998 in Glendale, Arrowhead Ranch Phase 5 (I was proud of that long sub-devision name) I really had no idea how to landscape it. The front landscaping was included. I drove around similar neighborhoods and looked at plants I liked and that's what I picked for my yard. Although my house was the third on the block to be built, by the time the street was built out, we all looked the same.

Back yard was pretty much the same - lots of bouganivillea and lantana. But soon I began to experiment with different plants. Got my first Hibiscus and agave then. Added several other vines and bushes and expanded garden beds and irrigation systems, all kind of helter skelter. Some lived, many died. It was very frustrating and costly.

Several years ago I worked with someone who had a certificate in her office for a Master Gardener program. I was in awe of how easily Rhonda spoke of plants and where they should be planted and when. I wanted some of that for my self!

Four years ago I had the chance to take the Master Gardener program and it changed my life. Not only did it give me more confidence in my own gardens, but I started sharing it with my friends. Soon people were offering to PAY me for my knowledge. They didn't have it and didn't want to go off the learn it themsleves. They wanted ME to come to their house and answer their
questions about specific plant problems or help them re-do or add a garden.

With the encouragement of my friends, I started my one-of-a kind Garden Consulting and Coaching business, Down 2 Earth Gardens (thanks Robert for helping me create the name).
D2EG provides advice to homeowners on how to reduce the use and dependency of outside resources in their landscape. I create low water and low human energy use designs which are creative and natural. I specialize in working closely with do-it-yourself gardeners and people just starting to use their yard for food production and respite from their busy lives.

I am now doing what I truly love - working with people and the earth. After 25 years in Banking and 10 years in Non-profits, I am doing work I LOVE!

Well now you can apply for and hopefully attend a wonderful program that could change your life as well. The 2010 Master Gardener Program Dates are out!

Jan. 12 - May 4, 2010 (Tuesdays)
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Desert Breeze Police Substation
251 N Desert Breeze Blvd
Chandler, AZ

July 13 - Nov. 2, 2010 (Tuesdays)
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
U of A Cooperative Extension, Maricopa County
4341 E Broadway Rd
Phoenix, AZ

Information regarding the class, including the application and maps, can be found at

The fee is minimal compared to the knowledge and friendships you will make! I highly recommend you take the program wherever youlive! There are Cooperative Extension Offices throughout the US. Look them up in your part of the country and run, don't walk to the next class near you!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack aka The Garden Goddess

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Do you have ‘Ratoons” in your garden?

No, it’s not a furry animal that eats your vegetables and wears a mask – that’s a Racoon!

Ratoons are second crops that grow from the stumps or stubble of the first. This according to Barbara Pleasant who writes for, the company that created the wonderful gardening planning tool I use. You can also subscribe to this newsletter and get great money saving tips like this.

You can read more about Ratoons and learn how to rejuvenate your plants and get a second harvest from the same plants! So do not pull out those plants yet. Try the process Barbara suggests in her article here and let me know the results!

I love hearing from you – please write!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack, The Garden Goddess

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Garden Maintenance

The weather has been bizarre all over the US this summer. Boston just had its wettest July on record and Phoenix it's hottest. So how does that affect your garden? I really can't answer that in a universal way. Each and every garden bed - no matter if they are in different states or in your front or back yard has its own microclimate. The soil is different, drainage is different, sun patterns differ.

What I do know is that there as several things you should always do in your garden on a regular basis to monitor and maintain them:

1. Check the moisture level of the soil. Stick your finger in it, or use a soil probe to see if the soil is moist before you water. If it has been cooler than normal and maybe even cloudier, you may not need to water – even if it is watering day!

2. Look for sick or diseased plants. Do the leaves look different – perhaps eaten up, curling up, spotted or yellowing? Look under the leaf to see what’s ‘bugging’ your plant. Remove them or treat them (responsibly – no chemicals please!)

3. Deadhead flowers (no not Jerry Garcia Deadhead) – pinch or cut off the dead blooms on annuals and perennials to encourage new blooms.

4. Lightly prune any broken branches on trees and shrubs.

5. Apply several inches of mulch to the top of your garden bed to help keep moisture in and reduce weeds (that compete for water).

6. Apply a layer of compost to the top of your garden bed, no need for fertilizer!

7. Harvest any vegetables or fruit that are ready to eat and enjoy them for the next meal!

8. Admire your garden or landscape and be proud of your creativity and hard work!

9. Share it with friends by have a summer cookout.

Just few minutes in your garden every day will help you catch a problem before it gets out of control and help you also notice all the wonderful things that are happening in nature.

Don’t forget to slow down and stop to smell the roses!

Happy Digging,
Doreen Pollack aka the Garden Goddess

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Four Weeks to a New Garden - Week One

Vegetable gardening is all the rage – but not in a trendy sense. It has become a must-have for many people who are concerned with food security and safety. Today’s vegetables are often harvested before they are ripened and shipped across the country, even the world, ripening along the way. In fact many fruits and vegetables come from seed that have been genetically modified. The seeds have been altered to produce fruit or vegetables that will withstand the early harvesting and transportation.

Today people are growing their own so they know how the food has been nurtured. Starting a garden might seem like a daunting task, but tackling the work over several weekends makes the work load lighter.

September marks the beginning of the fall/winter planting season here in Phoenix. Not sure what to plant? Download a free Phoenix Planting Calendar at the Phoenix Permaculture Guilds website.

I’ll be sharing a week-by-week plan each Friday that even novice gardeners can follow to get their gardens ready to plant between now and the end of August, just in time for getting those seeds into the ground.

Week one:

Determine what you want to grow. Vegetables, flowers, or both? There are many vegetables that do well in our fall/winter/spring planting season. Beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, all lettuces, peas, radishes and spinach can all be started by seed. Flowers can be started by seed or from transplants available at nurseries. Some of my favorites are carnation, hollyhock, nasturtium, pansy, petunia, snapdragon, sweet pea, verbena and viola.

  • What kind of garden do you want. Raised beds, pots, or in-ground? Square, rectangular, spiral, key hole (u-shaped)? Each one has it's pros and cons. The available space will usually determine the shape. A spiral is good for small spaces since there is more vertical planting surface. Whatever you choose for an in-ground or above groung bed, make sure you can reach all area of the bedding area without walking on any of the soil. There are many possibilities.

  • For hard ground, raised beds may be an easier option. Check out an easy way to get more garden in small spaces above ground with a concept called Square Foot Gardening.

  • If you rent or live in an apartment with a sunny balcony, pots can be moved with you so consider a container garden.

  • Make sure that the chosen spot has a convenient source of water and that your plants will get the light they need. Vegetables need lots of sunlight, at least six hours a day. A flower garden may need full or partial sun, or shade.

  • If part of your yard is crushed granite or dirt, you may want to plant a wildflower garden to add color to an otherwise drab area. Wildflowers do well in full sun.

  • Consider the full size of the plants you will grow and the amount of space they need. make the bed large enough so don’t overcrowd them when planting. Check out my blog post on August 6, 2009 for a cool garden design planning tool.

  • Mark the borders of your garden using natural items like river rock, bricks, or trendy Urbanite (broken up concrete sidewalks) .

  • Break ground if you like, turn the earth over, pulling out the weeds and grass and then take a break until next weekend rolls around.

If you are overwhelmed and need someone to guide you don’t forget to consult a Garden Coach like me!

Remember next Friday will be Week Two where I cover amending or building up the soil!

Happy Digging,

Doreen Pollack aka the Garden Goddess


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