Gardening Gift Guide # 8: Garden Crafts

# 8 Garden Crafts

I came across this book years ago, but saw it again in the library and was reminded how nice it is. There are some great ideas for nearly every type of garden, along with detailed instructions. The photography is great and really gives you a clear idea how each piece is put together and how it fits in the garden.

This book is a pleasant reminder that just because a book is a few years old doesn’t make it out of date.

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“Cookies and More” Holiday Special — We want your stories, recipes, advice and more

Cookies and More Holiday Special
A Holiday Special from

Each year I make over 80 dozen cookies and candies for our annual Cookie Party. After 15+ years of putting this party together, I have collected a lot of cookie stories, recipes and advice. This year, I am putting together “Cookies and More for the Holidays” — a New Media special full of holiday reminiscences, recipes, cookie baking tips and more… and I would like you to be a part of it.

There are several ways to participate:

  • Join us live in the “studio” to talk cookies
  • Call in live via Skype or other online media
  • Record your story, recipe, question or advice via voice mail by calling 818-804-5049
  • Post an audio or video clip to YouTube and send us the link
  • Email your story, recipe, question or advice to

I am planning producing the show in mid-December, right after i have finished up all my baking for the party and reminded myself again about all the joys, trials, tips and hints of cookie baking for the holidays.

Start thinking of what you would like to add to this special. You can start sending in your emails, audio and video immediately. If you have any questions, send them

Gardening Gift Guide # 7: Coppertop Caged Bird Feeder

# 7 Coppertop Caged Bird Feeder

Birds and other wildlife are an important part of any garden. Why not give them an attractive place to feed? I have a similar bird feeder in my garden and it has stood up will to the harsh, sunny, conditions better than any plastic feeder. UV light damages plastics over time, but this copper feeder has no such issues. It is also easier to clean than a plastic feeder.

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Gardening Gift Guide # 6: Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening: Month by Month

# 6 Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening: Month by Month

Welsh’s previous month-by-month guide has been a constant companion in my gardening journeys over the years and it is great to see her offer this organic version. Gardening in Southern California is quite different from other areas with odd seasons, hyper-local micro-climates and a near-desert environment. The month-by-month checklists help to remind you what needs to be done when to make your garden thrive.

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Gardening Gift Guide # 5: Anthony Eglin Gardening Mysteries

# 5 English Garden Mysteries by Anthony Eglin

I have quite enjoyed this series of garden-related mystery novels by Anthony Eglin over the years. They follow the adventures of Professor Lawrence Kingston, gardening expert, as he finds himself drawn into the machinations of various evil doers, all thanks to some very special plants and gardens.

Here is my short review of “The Blue Rose”, the first book in the series.

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Gardening Gift Guide # 4: Troy-Bilt TB154E 6.5 Amp Electric Front Tine Forward Rotating Garden Tiller/Cultivator

# 4 Troy-Bilt TB154E 6.5 Amp Electric Front Tine Forward Rotating Garden Tiller/Cultivator

When I moved to Los Angeles 22 years ago, I left behind my grandmother’s ½ acre garden and our own ¼ acre plot behind the house. I thought little of gardening for almost 10 years. Some people are good with houseplants. I am not one of them. So gardening was fondly remembered as something I did way back when.

It seemed like everyone in my hometown (New London, Ohio, pop. 2600) tended a garden and I spent my childhood with a hoe in my hand, riding a lawn mower, behind huge rototillers and eventually driving tractors around our small farm.

Finally, twelve years ago we purchased our first home and inherited a 10 year old, quite mature, garden. My wife and I typically tended the garden with shovel and hoe, but when I received an offer from Troy-Bilt to review some of their products, I jumped at the opportunity. We have a variety of beds on the property and after 12 years they could all use a bit of TLC. I thought an electric cultivator could help a lot.

The Troy-Bilt TB145 Electric Cultivator(Click to get more info from the Troy-Bilt web site) arrived in a box about 4’x 2′ we found on the porch one day after returning from Little League practice. I was eager to try it out, so like a typical user, I opened it up, set the owner’s manual aside (of course) and put the cultivator to use. The only assembly required was attaching the handle, which took about 5 minutes and no tools.

The first task was a rose bed that, after being dug up for a sewer line replacement, was buried in tall grass. I had used a hoe to clean out the bed once already and couldn’t face doing it by hand again. Thankfully this tool arrived just in time.

I was immediately surprised by the power in this small electric unit. I could easily pick it up with one hand, but it was cutting through the grass and quickly cultivating the bed to to 6″ or more. Since it is so small, maneuvering it around the existing rose bushes was no problem. The bed itself is probably only about 3 feet wide, bordered by a cement block wall on one side and rustic wooden edging on the other.

The long grass would occasionally wind up around the tines, but the cultivator is designed with quick release pins on each end that allowed me to simply pull off the tines, remove the grass and get right back to work.

Managing the electrical cord is always a concern with a device like this. (I have cut the extension cord with my hedge trimmers at least 3 times (!!!). The cable management is well designed with a simple clip to hold the extension cord towards the back of the unit and along the handle so it is always in your sight and within easy reach of your hands.

For me, personally, this is a great unit that fits well with my environment and I already have 4-5 more jobs waiting for it.

The next weekend we brought out the cultivator to work up another small bed where we planned to put some tomato plants. I had picked up 3 seedlings from Tomatomania (Watch the video) in nearby Encino and was eager to get them, and a small pot of basil, into the ground. This bed was even narrower than the first and surrounded by cement on two sides and the stucco of the house on the other. I thought about taking the outside tines off the unit, but the full width ended up being fine.

On this bed, I first laid out about 6 cubic feet of compost recently harvested from our old compost bin and then used the cultivator to work this into the existing soil. Again, the unit did a great job and quickly we had a nice, fluffy bed for the tomatoes. The tines handled the inevitable contact with the edges of the cement driveway with no ill effects. The blades showed no damage and simply bounced off the cement.

Overall, the cultivator works well as an all-purpose cultivator for a small to medium-sized garden. Those with large expanses of open garden would probably opt for a bigger, gas-powered unit. The TB145 would also be an excellent “second machine” for small beds and hard to reach areas such as annual beds, shrub beds and cultivating between rows in a small vegetable garden.

For me, personally, this is a great unit that fits well with my environment and I already have 4-5 more jobs waiting for it..

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What visits and lives in your garden?

Spider web this morning, originally uploaded by dewelch.

You can judge a garden by the company it keeps. Regular visitors and inhabitants let you know that it is healthy and a good place to live. This spider web showed up a few mornings ago. We have a good collection of insects in the garden, both damaging and those that feed on them.

We get regular visits from opossum and raccoon, even here in the middle of urban LA. Birds flock in, even though they aren’t exotics like some people attract, but seeing a Cooper’s Hawk up-close and personal is always a treat.

What visiting and living in your garden besides the plants and trees themselves? What does that tell you about the “State of your garden”?

Gardening Gift Guide # 3: The 3,000 Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters Between Two Eccentric Gourmet Gardeners

# 3 The 3,000 Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters Between Two Eccentric Gourmet Gardeners

Two gardeners, one in Maine and one in London, carry on a correspondence on gardening, gardens and their effects on those who tend them.

One of my favorite books.

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Gardening Gift Guide # 2: Fiskars 9625 18-Inch PowerGear Bypass Lopper

# 2 Fiskars 9625 18-Inch PowerGear Bypass Lopper

I am big fan of Fiskars tools and my older version of these pruners continues to work amazingly well. A few years ago, I busted the blades while trying to cut a branch that was too large. At the time, and I think still to this day, Fiskars has a replacement guarantee for such failures. I took mine back to the store and they were replaced with a new pair. Amazing customer service.

Since then, these loppers have served me for many seasons. They are almost the perfect size for my garden. I have a larger set of loppers for big work, but 90% of what I need can be done — and done well — with these.

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Gardening Gift Guide # 1: Bosmere K767 Garden Compost Bin

# 1 Bosmere K767 Garden Compost Bin

I have had 2 of these bins for the past 8-9 seasons and they are going strong. I was lucky enough to get mine at a discount via our local recycling and composting program, but I see them listed here on and you might be able to find them locally, too.

Assembly was easy and fast and they have had held up very well to the weather, our beating Southern California sun and even the critters. I have added a large rock on top of each one to help keep the critters out, but that is all.

I am not an active composter — turning and tending my bins — but these composters continue to produce an almost continuous supply for my garden. Every so often I open the bottom door and take out the finished compost. The rest of the material then sinks to the bottom, leaving space on top for more material to be added. Couldn’t be easier!

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