Photo: Oaks, acorns and an unidentified spider that needs a name

It is flag football season again, so an hour or so of each afternoon involves me sitting in the park trying to work or read or do something else productive.

Today I happened to notice these tiny acorns on the tree above my head. They are small, but yet the perfect definition of an acorn. A little online searching makes me think these trees are Quercus chrysolepsis based on the shape, size and color of the leaves. If I am mistaken, please let me know. It seems to be one of the few oaks we have here in California that doesn’t have lobed leaves of some sort.

Quercus chrysolepsis ?

Click for larger image from Flickr


Click for larger image from Flickr

Finally, here is a small spice that climbed up my laptop screen as I say writing. I have no idea what this species this is. Do you have an idea? Leave a note in the comments. I would love to know. It is probably a bit difficult as it is most likely a juvenile and the picture is severely zoomed to give you even this basic image.

Small yellow spider

Click for larger image from Flickr

Photo: Wine bottle edging in the garden

Wine bottle edging in the garden, originally uploaded by dewelch.

An overview of the wine bottle edging shown in my latest video.

Video: How-To: Wine bottle edging for your garden beds project

Douglas takes you through a project using wine bottles to edge a garden bed. This is a great recycling project and easy enough that anyone, even kids, can help out.


Disclosure: This post is in conjunction with my paid partnership as one of the Saturday6 from Troy-Bilt. All thoughts are my own.

Photo: Incipient Tomato

Tomatoes are about to arrive here in our garden. This volunteer tomato which sprouted from some compost I used for potting has been putting out flowers and today I noticed a small, cherry tomato already forming.

Our volunteer tomato

Incipient Tomato

A closeup from the same shot

Incipient Tomato closeup

It is always such fun to see things go from seed to fruit in your own garden, even if you do it in a pot, like this one.

Project: Roof cleaning for the Fall and Winter

If you have a lot of mature trees on your property like we do, you will be faced with this project once or twice a year. In our case, we sometimes fall down on the job and don’t get to it when we should. This year, though, I see Fall approaching rapidly even here in Southern California. We are only about a month away from our first regular rains of the season and it is never good to have a bunch of leaf litter on your, and in your gutters, when the rains come. It can cause water to dam up agains the shingles and leak into the house and also shorten the life of your roof generally.

If you can, it is always better to plant trees some distance from the house to prevent damages from falling limbs and invasive roots. I only have a bit of control over this, though as the previous owners planted all there trees long before we purchased the home. We have removed the most dangerous trees, and removed quite a few smaller ones, but the size of the lot dictates that the trees overhang the house quite a bit.

What the roof looks like now

Leaves on the main roof

What it should look like — the garage roof after cleaning

Garage roof after removing leaves

So, struggling to get anything done today, I tackled a small part of this project. I started with the garage, as I can reach all the leaves on this section of roof without actually climbing up on the roof. I was along for most of the morning and, as you might imagine. climbing around on your roof without anyone nearby who might be able to call 911 is not very smart. That said, I was able to clean off about 90% of this roof, except for a few, small areas that will require an actual visit up there.

I also cleaned up the small section of gutter on this area. The gutters on the house are almost non-existent and really need replaced, so I have never taken the time to fit leaf guards so I don’t have to clean them out. Of course, I have never gotten around to replacing them either, so I still have to deal with the problem every year. Sometimes you can get caught in a bad cycle like this. Still, I do plan on replacing these gutters eventually…sometime…really…I mean it…would I lie to you? (LAUGH)

A small section of gutter that is now clean and ready for the rain

How the gutters SHOULD look

The majority of this leaf litter will be run through out chipper-shredder, as soon as I get it out of moth balls. We don’t have a lot of occasion to use this behemoth of a machine, but along with these leaves I have a host of small pruning jobs that could also be shredded, either for the compost pile or as mulch for the garden beds.

I plan on pressing forward with this project as quickly as I can since possible thunderstorms were already  predicted for the area. This means that our regular Fall and Winter rains can’t be far behind. I these leaves get wet before we can remove them, the job becomes much more difficult due to the extra weight and mess involved.

I’ll keep you informed on my progress and whether my good intentions help me to finish in time.

What is happening in your garden as Fall approaches? I have seen some people pulling up their tomatoes and babying their pumpkins already. Leave me a note in the comments to share your stories!


Photo: Soaker Hose Timer and manifold

I use soaker hoses almost exclusively here in my garden. They insure that the water gets where it is needed without watering path and other area and simply causing grass and weeds to grow. In our dry, Southern California climate it is hardy weed indeed that can grow without any source of additional water.

Soaker hose timer and manifold

Click for larger version

All of my soaker hoses use these these mechanical, clockwork timers. Since soakers must run much longer than a normal hose, it can be easy to forget that they are running. With a quick twist of the wrist, these timers from for 2 hours. They are “set it and forget it.” Perfect here in my garden of benign neglect (LAUGH). On this particular hose pipe I have a 4 way distribution manifold, I can only run one soaker line at a time due to water pressure concerns, so the small black values on the manifold allow me to turn each section off and on as needed. I find this much easier than connecting and disconnecting hoses each time.

I have used a couple of manufacturers for these timers and both worked well. You do need to make sure that you don’t have any leaks at the hose pipe end or the manifold connections so you don’t waste water when the timers are turned off, but that only seems to require replacing a washer every so often or perhaps a piece of the hose stubs I use to run to each bed. They stand up well to UV light, too, which is always a concern for anything made of plastic in the outdoors.


Photo: Fig harvest from our large volunteer tree

Fig harvest from our large volunteer tree, originally uploaded by dewelch.

We are getting 10-15 figs a day from this volunteer (well, bird-seeded) fig tree in the back garden. It s behind our little garden shed. This is good because it doesn’t take up a lot of space, but bad because it wants to reach up so high that it is difficult to get to the fruit.

My wife discovered that she loved figs a few years ago when she gathered some from another neighborhood tree, so it is nice to be able to provide her fruit from her very own garden. She found this delicious recipe for fig cake that she has made on several occasions. I will get that recipe from her and post it as soon as I can.

Once the fruiting is done for the year, I will probably try and prune this fig back into some sort of manageable shape in preparation for next year.

Photo: Plums (Italian: pruna/susina) with ash from Mount Etna

Plums (Italian: pruna/susina), originally uploaded by dewelch.

Here are some lovely, tiny, plums that were growing in our cousins garden in Sicily. Such a nice little mouthful, although it did have some fairly large seeds inside. Juicy as all get out, too.

That “dirt” you see on the leaves is actually sabbia, or ash, from a previous eruption of Mount Etna nearby. This ash makes for some very fertile, black soil, but the ash can negatively effective leaves and can prove toxic to grazing animals. Overall, though, it tends to allow for some amazing fruits and nuts. We tasted quite a few directly from the trees on this visit and they were quite amazing.

I Like This – August 25, 2011

Book Review: Garden of Secrets Past by Anthony Eglin

Garden of secrets past

Book Review: Garden of Secrets Past by Anthony Eglin: An English Garden Mystery
Minotaur Books, 2011

I have been a big fan of Anthony Eglin’s books since reading the first English Garden Mystery, The Blue Rose. He caught me immediately with his protagonist, Lawrence Kingston, who was a learned and avid gardener as well as a bit of a sleuth in the traditional English model. I considered Lawrence Kingston a bit of a garden-digging Hercule Poirot. Sure, he doesn’t get things right all the time and he is often a bit naive about the personal danger he places himself in, but he loves the hunt like a faithful hound who never strays from the scent. Of course, in these books the scent is more likely to be from a beautiful rose or fragrant lily than that of a fox.

In Garden of Secrets Past, Eglin steps up the mystery several notches with the inclusion of even more shady characters, a secret code and a bit of a love interest for, no longer young, Kingston. He also expands our knowledge of Kingston’s relationship with his his friend, Andrew, who looks staged to become a sidekick in the vein of Poirot’s Captain Hastings or Miss Marples various friends and relations that accompany her on her mysteries.

While the gardening information is a bit light in this episode of the English Garden Mystery series, the mystery is top-notch. Sure, the story revolves around a major garden, but we don’t get lessons in Water Lily propagation or the reasons why a blue rose is basically impossible. It mattered little in the end, though, as the mystery pulled me through the book quite quickly. Despite reading it on a vacation in Sicily, between family visits, long meals and excursions, I finished the book in about 4 days. I caught myself, several times, reading long after I should have retired for the night while I looked for that final twist or clue that would make everything clear. To me, this is the best judge of the quality of any book. You should never really want to put it down.

It is good to see the character of Kingston developing a bit of a “history” as the book continue. Where before people took little notice of the gardening academic, now his reputation proceeds him with both police and those he is interviewing and questioning. I like seeing the growth in the character and his reputation, just as I would in a real person.

As I have said in past reviews of Eglin’s books, the combination of gardening with mystery suits me perfectly. I love both and to find a place where they are seamlessly merged is a bit of reading nirvana. I look forward to the next episode in Lawrence Kingston’s career.

I was provided an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher, but the opinions here are expressly my own.