Waiting For Pansies


     While the northeast part of the US had a freak October snowstorm this weekend (with power outages again!), I wish we had some of that cold weather here.  This week should be the last week we have 90 F (33 C) days.  Hooray!  I'm ready to put my fall flower garden in.  I have many bare spots in the flower garden where the heat of the summer killed off many plants.


 I bought petunias a week ago, as well as mums.  I put the mums in my patio pots which were bare all summer.  I never plant anything in these pots in summer because it requires so much watering to keep plants in the pots alive in the heat we have here.

     I spread the petunias out on both sides of the flower garden and planted them this weekend.  Now I'm waiting for the pansies to arrive at Lowe's or Home Depot.  They arrive about now, when the temps get below 90 F.  But neither store has any of the larger 21/2 quart size in; just the small 6 flats came in.

Petunias planted
     My vegetable garden is not doing well.  When I planted seeds three weeks ago, we had ten days of over 100 F (38 C) temperatures.  I think the heat killed most of the radish, carrot, spinach and lettuce seeds.  Only a few of the lettuce and chard seeds sprouted.  The tomato plant has two tomatoes growing on it, but the zucchini were infected with whiteflies.  I sprayed soapy water on them, and one may make it.

Early Girl tomato plant

Rhubarb chard

     The weather here makes gardening very difficult.  Although our last 90 F (33 C) day is supposed to be Tuesday, the temps have dropped into the 50's at night already.  So there was a vast 40 degree difference between day and night temperatures this last week.  Then after our last 90 F day, the temperature will immediately drop to the low 70's and stay that way for a few weeks with night time temps in the 40's.  Temperatures do no drop gradually here.  Last year we had three below freezing nights in November.  It takes about three weeks to go from summer to winter here.  There is no fall color here in the desert.  About half the trees are deciduous here, and their leaves (most of which are smaller than your little finger) just turn brown and fall off.  I really miss the beautiful fall color of the east.

The Succulent Garden


Gate into the courtyard succulent garden
     Yesterday the temperature finally went below 100 F (38 C) for the first time in 10 days.  It has been abnormally hot here for October.  It was 99 F (37 C) yesterday, and it is forecasted to be 95 (35 C) today.  The average temperature for this time of the year is 89 F (32 C).  I think we are finally done with the triple-digit temperatures.

     In the cooler weather in the fall and spring I can sit outside and enjoy my succulent garden.  The succulent garden is located in the front courtyard entrance to my home.  Succulent plants are water-retaining plants that store water in their leaves, stems and roots.  Most are indigenous to arid or semi-arid regions, and their succulence (swollen or fleshy appearance) is an adaptation to the extreme heat and dryness of their environment.

Courtyard succulent garden
     The best known succulents are cacti (family: Cactaceae).  Virtually all cacti are succulents.  I have two different cacti in my succulent garden.  Two of my cacti are San Pedro  (Trichocereus pachanoi) variety.

San Pedro cactus

I knew almost nothing about cacti until I moved to the desert.  According to my research, San Pedro cacti have been used for healing and religious divination for over 3,000 years and contain mescaline that can be extracted from the plants.  They are columnar with six to eight ribs and can grow over 15 feet high.  They are native to the Andes Mountains of Peru.  This cactus flowers at night and will produce red fruit.  I have seen neither from my two San Pedro cacti.

     The other cactus I have is a Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii).  It has a globe shape and can reach three feet in height.  It is native to central Mexico.  Small, yellow flowers appear in summer around the crown, but only after 20 years.  It is easy to grow and is widely cultivated for use in gardens.  But I have read that it is endangered in the wild.

Golden Barrel cactus
     The other succulent plant on the courtyard is a Red Apple Ice Plant (Aptenia cordifolia).  It is a perennial with fleshy leaves that develops tiny red flowers.  It is prized for its drought tolerance and fire retardant ability. It is used in many places as a groundcover that can prevent soil erosion.

Red Apple Ice Plant
      I have discovered that classifying plants as succulent or non succulent can be a problem.  Many  publications or books ignore succulent plants such as orchids.  Some plant physiologists tend to be noncommittal on bulbs.  Some authors use the term semi-succulents for plants with less obvious succulent characteristics.  I'll leave that discussion to others much more versed in classifying plants than I am, and just enjoy my succulents. 

Alfalfa, Cotton, and Horses


Horse farm east of my house
      We live out in an agricultural area far west of Phoenix, Arizona.  Five years ago, there was nothing in this area but horse farms and crops.  The area was being built up just as the housing market crashed, and construction has come to a halt here.  Our subdivision is surrounded by alfalfa fields, cotton fields, and horse farms.

     To the south of our subdivision are alfalfa fields, and to the east are at least 15 horse farms.  There are also dairy farms nearby.

Harvested alfalfa field
The harvested alfalfa is used as hay for feeding the animals.  Alfalfa is a perennial, clover-like plant of the pea family that grows two to three feet high and has purple flowers.  I have read that it is possible to cut or harvest alfalfa monthly, but it seems to me that the farmers here harvest the fields every two months.  This photo is of a field that is two blocks from my house.

     The other two sides of our subdivision are surrounded by cotton fields.  There are many more cotton fields in this area than alfalfa fields.

Cotton field

     In the wild, cotton is a perennial, but farmers have cultivated the plant to grow as an annual shrub that reaches four to seven feet high.  The flowers are creamy white.

Cotton flower
The flowers turn red before falling off and revealing the formation of a boll.

     The boll will mature and pop, exposing fluffy, white cotton.

     When cotton is harvested here in late fall, there will be many stray peices of cotton that blow down the roads.

     The very green looks of the fields in the above photos are deceptive.  All of the fields are heavily irrigated, and if you drive a few miles away, there is nothing but brown dirt.

Cotton boll


Fluffy white cotton


Fall Vegetable Garden


      Now that October is here, most of our temperatures will be below 100 F (38 C) during the day, and the nights will finally cool off into the 60's and 70's.  So over the past week I have put in my fall vegetable garden.  I purchased one Early Girl tomato plant and two zucchini plants.


     I have two rhubarb chard plants from my spring garden plantings that managed to stay alive through the heat of the summer, and they are growing again.  I also have planted more chard seeds.

rhubarb chard

     From seed packets left over from my spring garden, I planted organic buttercrunch lettuce, a couple of rows of loose leaf lettuces like black seeded simpson, royal oakleaf, and green and maroon lettuce called prizeleaf.  Additionaly, I purchased and set out four red leaf lettuces plants and four bibb lettuce plants that will have a head start on the seed planted ones. 

red leaf lettuce

bibb lettuce

     I sowed a couple of rows of spinach called baby's leaf, and a couple of rows of little finger carrots that grow only three to four inches long.  I had about eight radish seeds left over from spring that I also planted  in my square foot garden.  This spring was the first time I tried square foot gardening, and I don't really like this method of gardening.  To me it's restrictive.  I can get much more out of a garden that's planted in rows, instead of these squares.  I will probably go back to row planting next year.

My Brother's Garden


squash plants
     I spent the past four days at a family reunion celebrating my Dad's 90th birthday.  We met at the house my Dad and brother share.While there I toured my brother's extensive gardens. Because my brother lives in Las Vegas, Nevada he plants spring and fall gardens.

     This fall he has planted squash, onions and green beans.

tomatoes under suncreen
     He shaded his spring-planted tomatoes with a sunscreen fabric this summer so they wouldn't die off, and is hoping they will produce again this fall before cold weather sets in.  He has blueberry bushes under this suncreen fabric also.

compost bin

orange cherry tomatoes

     On the patio, he has a couple of pots of orange cherry tomatoes, and his compost bin sits just off the side of the patio next to his kumquat bush.


pomegranate bush


     Along the back wall are two pomegranate bushes.  The pomegranates are just ripening now.  We picked one and sliced it open.  We ate the arils which are the seeds.  Each seed is encased in a juicy sac which has a sweet-tart taste.

     My brother has many of the same flowers and bushes that I have in my yard:  yellow bells, Texas sage, red bird of paradise, lantana.  But the most gorgeous flowers in his yard are the red roses.

red roses