About the SFMGA

Monday, June 18, 2007

Begin with a Good Design

16 Steps to Garden Planning
  1. Relax. Live with your garden area for awhile without putting a shovel into the ground. Take this time to observe and plan. Collect all the pictures you can find of what your dream garden looks like. Start making your garden wish list.
  2. Plant a Pot: Go ahead and give in to that irresistible urge to plant with a container or two. If it's still winter, paint some branches a bright color and mix them with pinecones and pineboughs. Summer is easy.
  3. Dream and Imagine: Add to your list all the activities you want to do in your garden...what you want it to be. Formal? Playtime? Veggies for the family? Cool and zenlike? English cottage style?
  4. Look Around: What do you see you don't like and wish to hide? What's a pretty feature you want to highlight? View your garden from every window and decide what you'd like to see.
  5. Read and Research: Take the pictures you've collected and paste them into a notebook. Research what you like with books, TV shows, DVDs, workshops. Take pictures of your garden as it is now and add to your book.
  6. Dig Down: Know your soil. Send a sample in for a soil test. Call the MG office at 471.6251 to get the name of a lab.
  7. Tree Check: If you have a lot of trees, ask an arborist to evaluate them. They'll be the backbone of your garden.
  8. Watch the Sun: You'll want to know what areas of the garden get sun, which don't and how much. You'll match this with the sun needs of your plants. You'll need to account for future growth when your young trees grow up and cast shade.
  9. Make a Plan: Use a large sheet of paper and locate everything on it that exists on your property...house, walkways, trees. Make notes on the plan where your sunny areas are.
  10. Shrink the Lawn: Unless you really like turf care, don't plan a huge lawn. There are lots of turf alternatives.
  11. Priorities: arrange your wish list by importance and your ability to carry out your plans, financially and physically.
  12. Get Help: Many landscape designers and nurseries will take on small jobs or, of course, work with you on a grand plan. It's worth the cost to have a pro evaluate your ideas.
  13. Trees go First: Planting annuals for quick color is easy and fun but plant the 'bones' of your garden first...trees and shrubs. Plan for them to grow and site them accordingly away from the house or other areas they might overwhelm in 10 years.
  14. Amend your Soil: In your oasis zone, near the house, start with good soil. Ask your local nursery for recommendations on amendments.
  15. Take your Time: Gardens take time and mistakes. Be ready to have both happen.
  16. Relax: again and above all else, have fun.

Pruning for Repair and Beautification

by Jeff Clark, Santa Fe Greenhouses
  • Prune to promote healthy, attractive growth and to encourage fruit and flower bearing.
  • On trees and shrubs remove dead or diseased shoots, branches or limbs at any time of year. Also remove suckers (growth from lower portion of trunk) at any time of year.
  • Summer blooming trees and shrubs should be pruned in spring. Spring blooming trees and shrubs should be pruned after they bloom.
  • When pruning, cut back to lateral or main branch.
  • Prune roses and perennials in very early spring before new growth.
  • Summer pruning checks unwanted growth and allows you to shape your tree, shrub or plant at a time when you can see its leafed-out form.

Commonsense Principles for Growing Healthy House Plants

by Michael Clark, Tropic of Capricorn
  • Purchase a plant that is healthy to begin with, including roots.
  • On average, houseplants need temperatures ranging from 65 to 80 degrees during the day and 55 to 65 degrees at night. Temperature needs vary by plant.
  • Avoid overwatering plants. Roots need air as well as water. When you overwater you drown the roots and the plant suffocates.
  • Plants need proper drainage. If the soil is too wet, the roots will rot and diseases can occur. Avoid planting in too large a pot.
  • Houseplants need light to survive. Placement in your home is critical. Be aware of how much light your plant needs. Be careful with direct sunlight at our altitude.
  • As a general rule, potting mix containing organic matter is best for growing beautiful houseplants.
  • Fertilize weekly with a weak solution. Weakly weekly.

Tips for the Super Star Garden

by Bob Pennington, Agua Fria Nursery

  1. Expect failures. When doing extreme gardening, one never knows ahead of time what will work.
  2. Rather than spending a lot of time and money on soil prep, dig, dig, dig. The biggest problem with getting established is compacted soil.
  3. Plant late in the day: your new plants don't like the heat of the day any more than you do.
  4. If experimenting, plants from the great basin may work the best. Their moisture and temperature cycles are much like ours.
  5. Most salvias and agastaches are not good candidates for an extreme garden, as they require moisture during what is supposed to be the monsoon season. If the monsoons don't come, these plants will dry up.
  6. Because the super stars are plants that have pretty much all evolved to live in depleted mineral soils, adding organic mulches is contra-indicated, and fertilization is likewise best done lightly with mostly mineral nutrients.
  7. Try again, and again. Some of these plants will eventually grow in spite of initial failures.
  8. Be very patient. Do water even the most drought tolerant plants during their early years in your garden, but avoid keeping plants like cacti too wet in winter.
  9. Take notes, observe regularly, take pictures, enjoy, experiment.

Tomato Water Tanks

Tomatoes can go into the garden earlier when seedlings are set inside water cocoons. Make your own by filling 20" by 48" clear bags with 3 gallons of water. Tie them closed then center and lower the bags over short wire or wood tomato supports so each bag flows down over the support and forms a double walled bag with the water flowing between. Snug bags to the ground. Remove when frost danger is past.

Beneficial Border

The larger your vegetable garden, the more it attracts undesirable insects. Consider plants that attract beneficial insects as a border around your garden. Plants to consider: asters, dill, fennel, parsley, pot marigold, marigolds, yarrow, zinnias, basil, sage, and thyme.

Lanky Seedlings

Lanky seedlings happen. You grow them or they're those bargain bedding plants. Plant them deep up to the first set of leaves then pinch off the top set of leaves. This is usually all the encouragement your plants need to grow bushy and strong.

Easy Vegetable Harvesting

  • Rinse your vegetables in a kiddie pool to save mess in the kitchen. Set up an old screen door on sawhorses and let the veggies drain through the screening.
  • Plant vegetables whose color is different from their leaves...so much easier to see and harvest.
  • Harvest greens and herbs right into a cooler to prevent wilt as you collect the rest of your produce.

Moonlight and Evening Gardens

If you only get to enjoy your garden at night or on weekends, consider all white plantings as part of your flower patch. White flowers are visible after dusk, long after their bright counterparts are hard to see. Some white flowers give off a wonderful fragrance, released by an evening breeze. Certainly when the moon is full, a white garden is breathtaking.

Plants to consider are obedient plant, nicotiana, Shasta daisy, cosmos, geranium, white flowering kale, petunia, yarrow, zinnia, alyssum, snapdragon, liatris, gaura, and many other varieties available from seed or as bedding plants. When selecting your plants, remember that no white garden is totally white. The leaves and stalks will add texture and green-to-gray color, so be sure to consider those elements when planning and purchasing. You'll likely plant a mix of bulbs, annuals and perennials for a long season. Make a grid of all the plants you like with their bloom time. Then you can plant the garden accordingly so something will always be in flower.

Adding a reflecting element is beautiful in a moonlight garden. A pond, mirrors, reflecting glass balls, and crushed glass mulch are a few additions that add sparkle to the night garden. Soft, subtle electric lighting can add a glow on moonless nights. Experiment with adding your own covers to purchased lights and place them in a random pattern throughout the garden.

Turf Substitutes

  • For a new look, consider a small patch of artificial turf. It can look funky or very natural, will brighten up a small space, can be swept or vacuumed clean, never need mowing or feeding, stay green all year round and...best of all...never need watering.
  • Gravel, rocks, drought tolerant shrubs and native grass clumps look great and natural, especially with a flagstone pathway winding through. Add a dry river bed and you'll have a handsome Santa Fe style turf free landscape.
  • Consider ground covers, traditional and not so traditional. Santa Fe nurseries are good sources of old favorites such as creeping thyme, vinca, snow in summer, and veronica. Plant these ground covers near walkways and patios then back them up with sturdy low growing shrubs like sumac, broom and manzanita, winter hardy cacti, and short native grasses. These turf free areas look good all year round and require little to no supplemental water.

Ground cover tip: If you're covering a weedy site, clear the weeds without tilling the soil, a step that will just bring more weed seeds to the surface. Plant your ground cover plugs at twice the recommended density. The plants will grow together quickly and thwart the weeds.

Tree Planting Thoughts

Bigger isn't always better. Smaller trees cost less and often catch up with their larger counterparts in 2 seasons. Smaller trees also tend to transplant and survive better, are much easier to plant and require less care than large ones.

By choosing small trees, you can spend your money on attributes such as disease resistance, shape, unusual bark or leaf, drought and soil tolerance, and speed of growth. You'll also be able to buy 2 to 3 trees for the price of one.

Dig an oversized planting hole, working the soil in a wide, shallow dish to accommodate future roots. By loosening the soil where the roots are to go, they'll struggle less to get through a tough soil wall. Add amendments only to get the tree started, as eventually it must survive in native soil.

The best way to water trees is slowly, either with drip irrigation or with a bubbler at the end of a garden hose. Water where the feeder roots are...at the drip line or beyond. Newly planted trees, especially balled and burlapped ones, should be watered twice weekly in their first season, as they don't tolerate drought well.

Critter Baths

Birds like dirt baths to help get rid of parasites. Create a bird bath in your garden by filling an area with loose sandy soil, surrounded by rocks or bricks. Butterflies, on the other hand, benefit from the minerals and salts present in mud. Create a small mud puddle area near your butterfly plants for them to dip in. Keep it moist with a drip line from your irrigation system.

Practical Ways to Keep Water on Your Land

by Nate Downey, Santa Fe Permaculture

  • Build soil with organic compost.
  • Choose appropriate plant material.
  • Consider the effects of microclimate.
  • Control soil erosion caused by wind and rain.
  • Harvest precipitation with simple, passive systems.
  • Harvest precipitation with cisterns, pumps, and drip irrigation.
  • Install deep-pipe irrigation and other water-conserving techniques.
  • Mulch for water retention, wind protection, soil building, and insulation.

Seed Starting Tips

Creating your garden totally or in part from seeds is economical and easy, plus, your choices of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, both annual and perennial, are myriad. You'll be able to grow plants unavailable at any nursery, lending great variety to your garden efforts. In Santa Fe, we have so much sunshine that seedlings from seed quickly catch up with their expensive nursery seedling counterparts. And, who doesn't have a sunny window to sow at least a few seeds early inside? To get you started, here are a few tips on growing with seeds beyond the directions on the seed packets:

  • Make your own seed starting mix: Blend equal parts fine peat moss and vermiculite. If necessary, rub the peat through a screen to create a fine mix. Add enough water at seedling time to create a moist, not wet, mix.
  • If you choose to start seeds in soil, cover seeds with vermiculite or sphagnum moss to help retain moisture and easily mark where your seeds went.
  • Superfine vegetable seeds? Blend them with sand to help you broadcast them evenly. Try sprinkling seeds evenly and thinly over your soil, eliminating the effort of trying to form straight rows. Then, rather than thinning the vegetables, harvest these juvenile plants for salads and soups.
  • Take-out containers with hinged lids, thoroughly clean, make excellent seed nurseries. Put starter mix directly into the container (cut drainage holes first) or in paper muffin or catsup cups that you then put into the take-out container. The hinged lid retains moisture during germination and the seedlings can be transplanted into the garden right in the cups.
  • When sowing mesclun greens, make your own mix by choosing individual types and blending them. Place a pinch of your mix into shallow holes in the garden (or in individual peat cells inside). As each clump matures, harvest the entire bunch for instant mixed greens.
  • When lettuce bolts at the end of the season, let it go to seed. You'll get volunteer lettuce next season.
  • To achieve even spacing when seeding, cut the ends off a vegetable can that's as wide as you want your seeds spaced. Use the can to stamp rows in the garden and place the seeds in the center of the circle. This technique is especially good when gardening with children who then know exactly where to plant their seeds.
  • Row covers mean you can set out seedlings early. Check local nurseries for this valuable gardening tool.

The Principles of Xeriscape Gardening

How to Plan a Water Wise Garden

by Dr. Curtis Smith

A surprising amount of water is used in the home landscape. Studies have shown that as much as 70 percent of water from a municipal water system can be attributed to residential use. In addition to municipal water sources, a percentage of water from private sources or wells also goes to residential use. Of water used at homes, almost half is used to maintain the landscape. The problem is that while we live in New Mexico, we have traditionally landscaped with plants native to England, Japan, the East Cost of the United States, and other regions with much higher precipitation

To successfully grow these plants, we must supplement the natural precipitation with our limited surface and groundwater. The use of plants with high water demands is not our only landscaping option; fortunately, neither is removing plants from the landscape.

Our landscapes may remain beautiful and productive if we use water efficiently and if we use landscape plants that require less water. A secondary benefit is that plants with low water requirements are frequently adapted to the alkaline soils characteristic of New Mexico and other dry regions. Landscapes using these water efficient plants are often called xeriscapes.

The 7 Principles of Xeriscape

  1. Planning and Design
  2. Efficient Irrigation
  3. Mulch
  4. Soil Preparation
  5. Appropriate Turf
  6. Water Efficient Plant Material
  7. Appropriate Maintenance

The concept of xeriscape was developed in Denver, Colorado, in response to water shortages. "Xeros" is a Greek word that means "dry." Xeriscape refers to a landscape that uses little or no supplemental water.

It does not refer to a dry, barren landscape, nor is a xeriscape a "no maintenance" landscape. Like traditional landscapes, a xeriscape may be designed to minimize labor or to require frequent care. Many people appreciate beautiful landscapes, but have limited time to spend tending a garden. By using plants that are well adapted, mulches that suppress weeds and conserve water, and drip irrigation to make the most use of water, these landscapes can have color and fragrance with only monthly or seasonal gardening chores. Gardeners who like to spend time in the garden can design a xeriscape to be as labor intensive as a highly maintained traditional garden, but use much less water. There is a xeriscape for every gardener.

Xeriscape is not a landscape style or garden design. Xeriscape is a concept of water conservation that may be applied to landscapes of any style, from traditional to English, Japanese, Southwestern, and others. They may be formal or natural looking. The principles used to develop good xeriscapes are good horticultural practices applied to our unique desert environment.

  1. A good landscape and garden begins with good design. Water conservation in the garden can be maximized if it is considered in the initial planning phase. Xeriscapes can be divided into zones with different water requirements. An "oasis," a zone with the highest water use, is usually where people spend more time. The patio area and perhaps the entry area are candidates for the oasis. An oasis receives more water and, as a result, is cooler. This area also may require more maintenance and usually will be the landscape's most colorful area.

    Efficient irrigation applies water where it is needed, not where it will be wasted and benefit only weeds. Contrarily, too much water is as bad as too little. Roots will suffocate in soggy soil for lack of oxygen and eventually rot. Always water deeply and let the soil dry out somewhat between waterings for most plants. Leaves of overwatered plants turn yellow and drop. If severe, the leaves and stems actually rot.

    Beyond the oasis is a "transition" zone of moderate water use. The transition zone contains plants that require less frequent irrigation and usually less maintenance. Further away may be a "low-water-use" zone, which requires no supplemental water or very infrequent irrigation during prolonged dry periods. Designing the landscape with areas of differing water demands is called "hydrozoning." "Found water" or "harvested water" that runs off roofs and paving during storms can be used to reduce the need for supplemental irrigation. Roof runoff can be directed to the oasis or other areas, drastically reducing the need for supplemental irrigation…harvesting requires grading to channel and detain runoff. It should be planned when the landscape is designed.

  2. Irrigation is necessary in a xeric landscape, at least during the first few years while the plants' root systems are developing. Following establishment, irrigation may still be necessary, depending on the landscape design and plants' needs. In New Mexico, many landscapes need irrigation for at least a portion of the planted area for the life of the garden. The oasis and moderate water-use zones have the greatest need for irrigation, but it is wise to plan irrigation even in the low-water-use zone to allow for new planting, changes, and years of severe drought.

    The irrigation system – whether automatic, manual, or hoses moved as needed – also is an integral part of landscape planning. It is the foundation around which the plantings are designed.

    The water-use zones – low, moderate, and oasis – should be separate from each other, and each managed independently. With in-ground irrigation systems, each zone should be under a separate valve. The water should ben applied as efficiently as possible. Sprinkler systems are appropriate in areas of turf, but drip, bubbler, and micro-spray systems or soaker hoses are more appropriate for shrubs, trees, and annual and perennial plantings.

  3. Definition of Water Zones

    Zone 1: The mini-oasis is the area nearest your house where high water use plants should be placed.

    Zone 2: The transition area is where low and moderate use plants go, those needing water once a week or less.

    Zone 3: This arid area is farthest from the house and should be planted with drought tolerant vegetation that rarely requires supplemental watering.

    Mulch provides a cover over the soil, reducing evaporation, soil temperature, and erosion. It also limits weed growth and competition for water and nutrients. Landscape mulch materials vary in their suitability for various uses. Impermeable plastic mulch has a function in the landscape, but is very often misused. It may be used in areas where the soil must be kept dry, for example, next to a foundation where termite control products have been applied and where you are channeling harvested water from one area to another.

    Otherwise, permeable weed barriers, bark, gravel, and other porous mulches are better because they allow water and oxygen to pass to plant roots. Dust will eventually collect over the weed barrier fabrics and allow growth of some weeds, so it is not a perfect solution, but these porous fabrics are useful for weed control when the bark or gravel covering it is less than 3 to 4 inches thick, or annual weed potential is great. Organic mulches keep the soil moist and reflect less heat. They work well with plants adapted to cooler microclimates. Bark mulch should not be used on steep slopes or in drainage ways because it washes away in heavy rain. Some plants native to very well drained soils grow better in gravel mulches. Remember rock mulch becomes very hot in our climate and can injure or limit growth of some plants. Ultimately, the mulch should be shaded by landscape plants that will provide environmental cooling. Using gravel mulch alone as a landscape element may result in increased heating bills and require greater weed control efforts.

  4. Since soil disturbance promotes the germination of weed seeds, limit tilling to areas being planted.

    Soil preparation is an important part of successful xeriscaping and gardening. When done prior to planting, soil testing can help determine which plants are best adapted to the site and which amendments are appropriate for improving the soil for the selected plants. In the oasis and moderate-water-use zones, adding compost increases the soil's water-holding capacity. In the low-water-use zone, soil preparation may only consist of rototilling to loosen the soil and reduce the soil compaction associated with building construction in planting areas. Loosening the soil improves root development and allows better infiltration of water and air needed by plants' roots. This is important in all water-use zones.

  5. One of the most controversial and misunderstood of the xeriscape principles is the concept of appropriate turf. Turfgrasses have a place in the landscape, even the xeriscape. Turf is easy to maintain, although it requires more frequent care than many other landscape plants. Turf provides a play surface for children and pets. It is an important element in cooling the local environment, reducing erosion, and preventing glare from the sun. Other ground cover plants can perform these functions – except providing a play area. Consider where and how large a turf area is desired, how it will be used, and during which seasons it will be used. You are then prepared to limit turf to useful spaces and determine which grasses will best serve your needs. In northern New Mexico and higher elevations of the state, cool season grasses are best for areas used extensively for play areas, especially if this use extends into the early spring and late fall. Fescue or a fescue-bluegrass mixture is appropriate for these areas.

    A Water Tip to Remember: Vegetation slows water velocity…plus it's pleasant to look at!

    If the use is light or mostly in the warmer months and in southern New Mexico, use a grass that needs less water such as buffalograss, blue grama, or bermuda grass. If the area is only for appearance, other ground cover plants may be more appropriate and may be irrigated more efficiently. Choose the best plants for each purpose by carefully defining your needs and purposes before selecting specific plants.

  6. Plants that require less water are readily available in the nurseries. There are many very attractive plants for use in water-wise landscapes. While you may use many of your old favorites in the oasis zone, there is a wide variety of colorful, fragrant, and beautiful plants for the less irrigated part of the landscape. Many have long blooming seasons and attractive leaves. Some provide autumn interest with colorful foliage and fruit, while others offer winter interest with their fruit, seed, stalks, and winter colors ranging from silver, to gray, to many different greens and brown shades.

    Xeric plants depend on the formation of extensive roof systems to effectively gather water for proper growth. While they may look unimpressive in nursery containers, they rapidly become beautiful plants in the landscape.

  7. Maintenance cannot be forgotten, even in a xeriscape. While many gardeners find the time spent gardening very relaxing, people with less time or other interests may prefer a landscape that requires minimal time working in the garden. The design will determine maintenance: pruning, removing trash that has blown into the landscape, occasional weeding and pest management, checking that the irrigation system is functioning properly, and adjusting automatic irrigation systems as the seasons change.

Xeriscaping offers a way to have beautiful, livable landscapes without excess water use. It allows areas close to us to be cooler and hospitable while investing less water on parts of the landscape in which we spend less time. Even lower water-use areas can be very attractive if the seven xeriscape principles are employed. Using xeriscape makes our landscapes more compatible with our New Mexico environment.

Herb Growing Ideas

  • At the end of the season, let your herbs remain in the garden. Many, such as borage, chervil, dill and summer savory will self sow the next season.
  • Fill out your basil plantings by taking multiple cuttings from a single plant and rooting them in water. Take 6 inch cuttings, remove the lower stems and place in warm water in a small-neck bottle that keeps the plant upright. In a few weeks you'll have rooted cuttings to go in the garden.
  • Give perennial herbs a hard pruning in early spring to encourage bushy plants. Cutting back to 1/3 original size is a good guide. Tarragon especially needs pruning to avoid spindly growth.
  • Mulch herbs with sand to prevent weds and keep soil from splashing on the leaves when it rains. Sand also reflects sunlight encouraging lower leaf growth.

Some Easy Insect Tips

  • Hot water washes away scale, thrips, mites and aphids best. If you can hook up a hose to your hot water faucet indoors, a fine, quick hot water spray is more effective than cold in controlling these insects and doesn't hurt plants. Spray the ground around the plants as well. If hot water is not available, use cold.
  • Spray plants affected by thrips, mites, aphids, whitefly, leafminers and leafrollers with pepper spray. To make your own, blend ½ cup hot pepers with 2 cups water in a blender. Strain the mix and use it to spray plants lightly. Reapply after rain and be sure not to get the mix in your eyes.

Cheap Plant Labels

Try these inexpensive ways to label your plants in the garden:

  • Take old clay pots and break them carefully into small shards. Label them with permanent marker or pencil and arrange them artfully beneath or alongside plants.
  • Rescue an old miniblind and separate the slats. Cut them with heavy shears into desired lengths, tapering one end. Label with marker or pencil. You can bury or just tuck them next to plants. Below the soil, the labeling doesn't fade.
  • Have the children gather small and medium stones to label. Place them in the garden label side up or down.

The 8 Principles of Water Harvesting

by Brad Lancaster

  1. Begin with long and thoughtful observation. See where the water flows and how. What is working, what is not? Build on what works.
  2. Start at the top of your watershed and work your way down. Water travels downhill, so collect water at your high points for more immediate infiltration and easy gravity-fed distribution.
  3. Start simple and small. Work at the human scale so you can build and repair everything. Many small strategies are far more effective than one big one when you are trying to infiltrate water into soil.
  4. Spread and infiltrate the flow of water. Rather than having water erosively run off the land's surface, encourage it to stick around, and infiltrate the soil. Slow it, spread it, sink it.
  5. Always plan an overflow route and manage that overflow as a resource. Always have an overflow route for the water inn times of extra heavy rains and, where possible use that overflow as a resource.
  6. Maximize living and organic groundcover. Create a living sponge so the harvested water is used to create more resources, while the soil's ability to infiltrate and hold water steadily improves.
  7. Maximize beneficial relationships and efficiency by 'stacking functions'. Get your water harvesting strategies to do more than hold water. Berms can double as high and dry raised paths. Plantings can be placed to cool buildings. Vegetation can be selected to provide food.
  8. Continuously reassess your system: the "feedback loop." Observe how your work affects the site – beginning again with the first principle. Make any needed changes, using the principles to guide you.

Brad Lancaster is the author of Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Rainsource Press, www.HarvestingRainwater.com

Critter Resistant Plants

Design your garden with plants that are naturally resistant...once established...to rabbits and deer. The list below will get you started; there are many other animal resistant plants available.

Rabbit Resistant

  • Achililea

  • Agastache

  • Allium

  • Artemesia

  • Leadplant

  • Lavender

  • Marguerite Daisy

  • Creeping Thyme

  • Penstemon

  • Indian Paintbrush

  • Gaura

  • Gazania

  • Gaillardia

  • Centranthus

  • Dianthus

  • Coreopsis

  • Globe Thistle

Deer Resistant

  • Buddleia

  • Apache Plume

  • Bear Grass

  • Blue Mist Spirea

  • Manzanita

  • Mock Orange

  • Fernbush

  • Chamisa

  • Blanket Flower

  • Banana Yucca

  • Blue Flax

  • Black Cherry Sage

  • Big Leaf Periwinkle

  • Beardtongue

  • Russian Sage

  • Speedwell

  • Century Plant

  • Pampas Grass

  • Gayfeather

  • Santolina

  • Ornamental Oregano

Edible Perennial Plants

The blossoms, leaves, and/or petals of these plants can be added to summer salads for decor and taste. Be sure you wash all plants thoroughly before using.
DandelionLavenderSweet woodruffPeach
PearHyssopBorageGarlic chives

Designing Dry Climate Gardens

by Judith Phillips

  • The garden must be appropriate to the place, both the site itself and the greater ecosystem of which it is a part.
  • Loosen the soil well before planting.
  • Add good quality compost as organic matter if needed.
  • Capture water runoff from hard surfaces to use during dry periods.
  • Group plants by their suitability to conditions in a particular area.
  • Consider using plants that can be supported primarily by precipitation and water harvesting.
  • Limit turf and other high water landscape features.
  • Use drip or low flow irrigation equipment.
  • Use mulch to limit moisture evaporation, suppress weeds, and control erosion.
  • Proper garden maintenance, weed management, pruning, deadheading, mowing, and pest control.


These charming stone-like troughs are fun and easy to make and become a charming addition to any garden. Plant them with cacti, succulents, herbs, or any small or alpine plants. The containers will last for years outside. Try this version:

  • 2 parts Portland cement (not a cement mix)
  • 3 parts vermiculite
  • 3 parts peat moss sifted to remove twigs & debris
  • Water

For a mix of 10 qts cement and 15 qts each peat and vermiculite, use about 3 gallons water. Combine the dry ingredients in a large trough or pail; blend thoroughly. Add water slowly, stirring well. Add enough water so the mixture is like cottage cheese and holds its shape. If it's too wet it won't hold its shape in the mold.

Molds can be anything from plastic and clay pots to cardboard boxes lined with plastic. Hypertufa looks great in rectangular shapes that tuck in a corner of the garden or patio. Be sure the bottom of your trough is flat no matter what mold you use. Packing the mix into a plastic pot insures the bottom of the trough is flat.

You can remove the bottom of a cardboard mold and set it on a flat surface to cure. Pat and press the mix inside the mold, making the walls proportionately thick to the size of the pot. Too thick is better than too thin while still allowing enough room in the trough for the necessary planting soil.

Press the mix to remove air bubbles. Use a dowel or stick to poke drain holes in the bottom of the trough. You can also drill those later when the trough is fully cured.

Place the trough in a dry place and cover it loosely with plastic. Mist the trough a little each day so it cures slowly. The slower the cure, the tougher the pot. This can take 1-3 weeks. Carefully remove the mold as soon as the mixture is dry enough, in 28-48 hours.

When the trough is dry you can use a wire brush to shape and smooth it to your liking. Open drainage holes with a screwdriver. Fill your trough with appropriate soil. Plant with small plants and decorate the surface with bark, rocks, colored stones, art objects.

It's a good idea to experiment with a small pot before tackling a large trough. Remember, a large trough will be heavy, so consider curing it in the spot you will ultimately place it.


by Jack Ortega, Rosarian

  1. Water your roses once a month during the winter.
  2. Prune your roses in April.
  3. Wait until your roses sprout their initial stems and leaves about an inch long before you feed them.
  4. I recommend that your initial two feedings be fish emulsion. Repeat the process once a month for the remainder of the growing season.
  5. Mulch your rose bushes with a one to two inch layer of material.
  6. If you want to foliar spray your roses with insecticide or feeding products, do it in the evening about an hour before sunset.
  7. If possible avoid planting a rose bush against a west wall.
  8. Use a water wand to deter spider mites during the growing season. Spray on top and under the leaves as well as the bottom of the bush three to four times a week. This works very well. Do this early in the morning…prior to 8AM.
  9. Begin to spray to ward off mildew in late June. Continue to spray twice a week until the end of September.
  10. Stop feeding your roses on the third week of August.

Plant trees gently

Never compact the soil around a newly planted tree by stamping on the soil. Fill the hole halfway with soil; water to settle the soil and remove air holes. Repeat. Top off with more soil if needed. The top of the root ball should be level with the ground. Form a water well around the edge of the hole with soil.

Grow peas and beans in a tub

Put a sturdy pole in the center of a tub and run strings or wires from thepole to the edges of the tub, like a teepee. Fasten the strings to the tub with screws, hooks, or nails. The vines will climb the strings and be easy to harvest. Pest management is also easier when veggies are grown in containers.