Trends in Writing, The Arts, Regional Events, and High Desert Living

Posts tagged High Desert Gardening

Easy Transplants: Never Be Jaded By Jade

Jade Plant 02

A Healthy Jade Cutting

A Healthy Jade Cutting

     I admit that I’m not the greatest when it comes to keeping plants alive. But I do have pretty good luck with Jade plants and transplanting the Jade’s branches. I’ve even been known to give them away as gifts. All of the cuttings emanate from a very old Jade plant that my Mom nurtured for over 25 years.


Now that I have inherited this strong Jade that hasn’t wilted from my “brown thumb,” I can confidently pass on little cuttings without the fear of them losing their energy.



A Real Survivor

When looking at the best trimmings, select the healthiest branches that are showing fine offshoot hairs and small tendrils looking for light. These are the natural rootlets seeking water and soil. This African succulent is a real survivor and cuttings have been known to nearly shrivel up in a brown paper bag for six months before being revived and planted. It wasn’t me. I read about it. Honest.

Trim back the younger smaller twigs to give you about 3 to 4 inches of “trunk” to place in the soil. The trick to a successful transplant is to let the cut base dry out for a few days prior to planting. This natural scab will keep the cutting from sucking up too much moisture and rotting. Though most people think that wet soil gives plants a fast start, this idea will not work for Jade. Add water to the soil twice a month. The less water the better.


Getting Ready to Plantjade Planter 03

Lightly moisten the soil, pack it firmly but just enough to help the soil hold up the cutting. The best soil is a mix of sand and potting soil of your choice. Jades are very forgiving. You can use wooden skewers to prop up the plant so it starts off in a good erect form. Avoid injuring the plant with the skewers. Place the potted Jade in a sunny room but not in direct sunlight. Give it a month before it should receive any direct sun.

Within a month — Jades grow fairly slow — you should notice a change in your new Jade plant. The succulent leaves should look plump, the shine should return to the surfaces, and you may see a new leaf bud growing. Don’t peek. Just like baking a cake, never peek in the oven to see how it’s doing. The same is true for the Jade plant. Be patient and wait. Prodding in the soil to peek in on the young root system is a no-no. Exposing the rootlets to air can cause them to dry out and exposes them to bacteria in the air.


Go Easy On the Direct Sun

Now that your new, young Jade is responding, you can return it to its sunny spot where it can receive direct light for a few hours a day. I once placed a fern on the window sill and fried it. Another time I placed an Aloe Vera in a sunny window and forgot it for three days. When I remembered, it was too late, and the Aloe Vera turned white — literally bleached by the sun. It never revived. I mention my bad track record with plants because it can be very traumatic for you and your plant. When I think I’m doing the right thing only to find out I was wrong, very wrong for the plant, I don’t ever want to try it again. But, then, on a sunny Spring day like today, I forgive myself for my plant’s homicide and buy a new one. Let me know how your transplanting adventure turned out for you and your new green buddy.

Rusty LaGrange

Drought Tolerant Plants for High Desert Gardens












Lavender has made my recent weed-digging worthwhile. It’s received very little watering yet looks vibrant and healthy.

Lavender is grown in fields of southern France and as perennia shrubs and garden landscaping in North America. This aromatic herb also grows well in the high desert’s heat and drought. Grow it in an herb garden, make lavender crafts, or look for lavener lotions and bath and shower gels like my favorite lavender scent, Savannah Gardens, from Crabtree & Evelyn. They used to carry several products in this scent. One I liked was a sachet drawer liner.

Read the blog post, Scents: Do You Have a Favorite?, by Susan on Susan mentions how scents affect our moods. For instance, lavender is “soothing and relaxing; helps to relieve stress, depression, anxiety, and nervous disorders.” Geranium, jasmine, rose, and sandalwood are relaxing. Plant these in your garden, or find their scents in candles to enjoy in your home.

It’s no wonder that I love gardening. We garden for reasons of scent, childhood memories, comfort, crafts, food and more. Furthermore, tending to the garden gives us a workout. That’s better than going to the gym in my opinion.

Evergreen Fire Retardant Groundcover and Hedges

If you’re looking for an evergreen groundcover to use in your high desert landscaping, try the evergreen Dwarf Coyotebrush or Coyotebrush. This evergreen groundcover or hedge has dioecious white/cream flowers from summer to fall. It attracts songbirds and butterflies and is thornless.

California Fuchsia is another good hedge to plant that grows large and that hummingbirds love. The Fuchsia can be planted in the ground or pots and is drought tolerant. It flowers from mid-spring to winter.

Drought tolerant Fuchsia

Fuchsia Plant










Autumn sage is another aromatic evergreen that attracts songbirds and butterflies. Its red flowers bloom from mid-summer to mid-autumn.

The Copper Shine Coprosma, better known as the Mirror Plant, makes a beautiful glossy hedge. It’s wind, sun, and frost resistant and can be planted in full sun or semi shade.

Getting Rid of Weeds for Spring Gardening – High Desert Arid Zones

Spring planting in the garden

Spring has arrived!

Spring has officially arrived, and so have the weeds! The last good rain that the High Desert had made the weeds grow a foot higher it seemed. Pulling weeds is no fun though it does give one a good work out.

Planting is made easier when the weeds have already been pulled. When Spring arrives, gardeners get anxious to add favorite flowers, herbs, and vegetables in the garden. However, getting rid of the weeds is a must lest they take over the garden.

Hula hoe-ing is much easier when the weeds are small. If they aren’t taken care of then and a rain comes, you may need more than a hula hoe. Weed Eater trimmers can be a great help as well. George C. Ballas, Sr. in Houston, Texas came up with an excellent idea when he invented the Weed Eater trimmer. He got the idea from the spinning nylon bristles used at an automatic car wash.

Once the weeding is done, you can place newspaper (black ink) or plastic down as a covering to keep out the weeds when putting new flowers, fruits and vegetables, and shrubs in your garden and landscaping. Wet the newspaper first. I’ve read that the paper keeps the weeds away better than the plastic does.

Dorothy Stainbrook, on the other hand, hates black plastic and pulls it up from every bed she finds it in. She has a small farm and specializes in heirloom tomatoes and blueberries.

A Southern California gardener who always plants strawberries said he always uses plastic to cover the ground, and small critters and ants stay away from the strawberries.

Hula-hoeing may be impossible in tight spots like near rocks.  Sometimes you just have to pull the weeds with your hands. Wear gloves that foxtails won’t go through.

Killing the weeds can also be done with other simple ways that are chemical-free. Try boiling water, vinegar, or  cornmeal.

What other solutions have you tried in ridding your lawn of weeds?

In Doubt With Our Drought?

Just how much water should we be putting on our trees during the winter?

That thought came to me last night when the wind whipped up and the next day was another sunny warm one. This is our Winter? The rain hasn’t been offering much over the last few months, so even though the trees are dormant for now, they still are expecting Mother Nature to rain on them.

Does that mean that I have to be a nurturing “Mom Nature” for them?

We’re down nearly 12 inches of rain here and in LA basin they reported a lack of 20 inches. So that means that the roots in our desert soil — clay to sandy to loamy — depending on the region, will dry out and stay dry unless we supplement with some watering days.

But there again, how much?

The Sacramento Bee newspaper is reporting a drought year, and making plans: A state official referred to a dismal first regular snow survey of the winter season, conducted by DWR on Jan. 3 at locations throughout the Sierra Nevada. It found the snowpack at 19 percent of average on that date. In the five days since, the snowpack has shrunk to 17 percent.

This comes after two dry years, which left many reservoirs in the state depleted. Folsom Reservoir in the Sacramento area was at 18 percent of capacity on Tuesday. Water agencies that depend on the reservoir have begun enacting water conservation orders. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has cut flows into the American River to levels not seen in 20 years, the paper reports.

How can I tell if my tree is under drought stress?

Symptoms of drought injury to trees can be sudden or may take up to two years to be revealed. Drought injury symptoms on tree leaves include wilting, curling at the edges, and yellowing. Deciduous leaves may develop scorch, brown outside edges or browning between veins.

Evergreen needles may turn yellow, red or purple. They may also turn brown at the tips of the needles and browning may progress through the needle towards the twig. In early summer conifers under drought may exhibit wilted or drooping leaders. 

Often times, drought stress may not kill a tree outright, but set it up for more serious secondary insect and disease infestations in following years. And that’s what happened to one of my biggest pines last year. 

How much water your tree should receive depends upon the tree size. A general rule of thumb is to use approximately 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering.

You can easily determine trunk diameter by measuring the circumference of the tree at knee height and dividing by 3. (It can get complicated but it’s worth knowing)

Remember, water should be distributed evenly out under the natural drip line of the tree.

The best watering method depends upon whether you have a small (1-7″ diameter), medium (8-15″ diameter) or large sized (16″+ diameter) tree.

Small Trees

Newly planted and smaller trees can get adequate water within the existing watering restrictions by hand watering with a soft spray hose attachment as a separate zone on your designated day.

Small trees are best watered using the following methods:

• Automated drip irrigation system/soaker hose.

• End of the hose using a soft spray attachment at medium pressure 5-gallon bucket (with ¼” holes

drilled in bottom) or watering bags – filled and set under the drip line.

Medium Trees

Medium sized trees are best watered using the following methods:

• Soaker hose coiled several times under the drip line of the tree.

• End of the hose with a soft spray attachment to disperse the flow – use a medium pressure.

Large Trees

Healthy mature trees should be able to withstand a short-term drought. Large trees are best watered using the following method:

• End of the hose with a shower like hose attachment to disperse the flow, use medium pressure.

Here’s the clincher: It’s recommended to water for 12″ of depth to saturate the root system for a minimum of one a week. Yikes! I may not be watering my trees enough even in a good year!

Are You in a Drought Restricted Area?

Be sure to check ahead of time to see if you are restricted by the amount of water you can use. High Desert residents may not be facing any restrictions yet. But don’t be surprised if the warnings go out soon.

Avoid Light Watering — Too Little Causes Problems, too

Don’t dig holes in the ground in an effort to water deeply. This dries out roots even more. I used to think that was an easy method. Wrong.

Don’t spray overhead on the trees because that will just dry it out move due to fast evaporation, and should be avoided during drought conditions even more.

Small- to medium-size trees can be irrigated economically with slow-release watering bags, even gallon milk jugs with small holes punched in the base, or with inline emitters, or a soaker hose attached to your faucet and controlled with a simple battery-operated timer.

More Info is Coming As I Learn the Best Practices For Watering in the Desert

Rusty LaGrange

Desert Shrubs and Ornamental Trees to Plant Close to a House

High Desert Blogging Editor, Angie

Angie beside an oleander at Linda Marie’s Enchanted Treasures

Options of shrubs or ornamental trees to plant next to a high desert cottage require careful planning. After much time spent on the Internet reading gardeners’ comments on what should or should not be planted next to a house, the list of options narrows.

People are quite opinionated about what to plant or not to plant. For instance, I’ve heard so many stories about the oleander bush. It’s an evergreen that grows as a bush or a tree and can survive in most soils. I learned that it’s best not to plant an oleander next to a house or septic tank as its roots will take over. Apparently, it’s almost impossible to pull up the tree once its roots are established. So the oleander is out for an ornamental bush next to a house. It does make a beautiful privacy fence, though. But oleanders are poisonous, a strong argument against planting these beauties that grow easily and are found all over the high desert. A lot of plants are poisonous and are not meant for eating like azaleas and rhododendrons. For more information on the toxin of oleanders, look up the site.

The Japanese Maple tree is gorgeous with its vibrant color and can be planted near a front door. Plant in partial sun with eastern exposure to produce the most vibrant colors. Another idea is the pyracantha evergreen with its orange-red berries and white flowers. Plant the cypress tree for dense privacy. It’s a popular fast growing evergreen. Decide if you want evergreen or deciduous trees and shrubs or both.

Cindy from Perfection Landscape says:

“the most important thing when choosing plants for any location is to understand the nature and growth habits of the plant. Most people pick the wrong plants for their landscapes just because they like them or the big box store sells them and they think that makes it ok. Don’t impulse buy. Find out what soil, nutrients and weather conditions the plant THRIVES in. Thriving is very different than kinda surviving. Look for those conditions to match yours. Know the plants mature size and the plant’s ultimate size. Most untrained people put their plants too close to buildings and foundations and end up either constantly trimming said plant or taking it out when it gets too big for the location.”

What are your ideas on which shrubs and trees, preferably evergreen to plant near a house in the high desert? Comment below.



Looking for Live Red Worms For Your High Desert Garden?

I had the pleasure of meeting Greg Anderson of WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, California recently and I must say that I was extremely impressed with his breadth of knowledge with all things pertaining to high desert gardening. We’d only intended to pick up a pound of worms for composting, but we ended up getting an awesome tour of Greg’s farm in the process. To say that I was fascinated by Greg’s use of space, land and recycled materials is an understatement of the highest degree.

No Master Gardener Here…Yet!

Now, I’m just going to be honest with you– I’m no gardener. Having never been successful in cultivating anything green, I’ve always fancied the talents of others who can. And if you can literally grow your own food, you’re nothing short of a rockstar in my mind. I bow down to the master gardeners of the world, which is why meeting Greg was such a delight.

At this point, I’m sure you’re all wondering why on earth I’d be at a live red worm farm if I can’t grow so much as a dandelion, right? Well, since moving to the desert, my husband’s been learning quite a bit about green living from Neville Slade of the Sustainable Learning Center (in fact, it was Professor Slade who originally introduced my husband to Greg Anderson). Anywho, I’ve always been sorta interested in greener lifestyles, too, and as a freelancer I’ve learned a little here and there about things like composting, repurposing old things and the like. So, I may not be a high desert gardener yet, but I think I’m heading in that direction and am happy to learn from people like Greg Anderson as I go. Just don’t be too surprised when the day comes that I blog about my own square foot garden or cabbage patch or something really cool like that, ok?

WorldWideWorm Farms

But back to the WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley. When we arrived, Greg took us around back to show us his worms in action. While en route to his composting areas, however, we got to tour his property where we saw a bunch of cool things like the greenhouse he built with his bare hands and a few recycled materials.

Homemade greenhouse at worldwide worm farms in Apple Valley, Ca

The entrance to Greg Anderson's handmade greenhouse.


The following are a couple of shots from the rear as well as the interior of the greenhouse:


Plenty of shelving and room for Greg's plants


Greg also has a full on garden filled with fruits and veggies. He jokes that the only thing he ever needs to go to the grocery store for are his favorite candies, since he can’t grow them, lol.

Here are some of the grape vines, which we can see are edging towards producing delicious edible grapes very soon– check it out:

One of the things that I loved about Greg's garden is how organized everything is. High desert gardening takes a bit of planning, which this guy makes look oh so easy.


Tiny grapes are beginning to bud at the WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, Ca.


Just beyond the greenhouse area, Greg showcases a square-foot garden. Here, you can see what I mean about being organized. Each square features its own vegetable like kale, cauliflower,  onions, garlic, etc.

Square-foot garden filled with a variety of veggies and fresh herbs.


Notice the worm tube Greg uses to insert live red worms into his square-foot garden. The worms create vermicompost, which fertilize his vegetables.


Greg also sells worm tubes and vermicompost at his WorldWideWorm Farms. Above is a photo of one of the tubes he uses in his garden. Here’s a photo of what they look like brand new just to give you an idea of their size and how deeply they’re inserted while providing many of the nutrients a garden needs:

Brand new live red worm tubes for sale at WWWFarms in Apple Valley, Ca


Greg’s chickens love fresh vegetables from his garden. While we were there, they followed him around like crazy begging for a bit of kale, collards and other greens that they regularly feed on. His chickens all have names, they are never slaughtered for food and they’ve pretty much got the run of the yard (with the exception of the areas he’s had to fence away to keep them from eating the live red worms and fresh veggies. We were the ones fenced in on this photo, not the lady birds).

These girls love kale! The grey striped one is named Zebra (pronounced like Debra, lol). I don't recall the white one's name, but she's a Leghorn and the other one produces beautiful blue eggs.


No dye for these eggs. Featured in blue, tan, brown and white, each chicken produces a different colored egg.


She's happy to dine on her veggies all alone while the others are preoccupied with their kale feeding.


Once again proving that High Desert gardening doesn’t require a lot of space (even though he’s got plenty), Greg crafted ths “salad pyramid”. Even if you’ve got little more than a patio, there’s no excuse not to grow your own fresh vegetables if you’re so inclined to do so.

This salad pyramid is one of my favorites. Lettuce, radishes and anything you need for a delicious salad are right here for the picking.


Greg was kind enough to send us home with a few fresh-picked radishes. They were soooooo delicious, too!


No real ick factor like I would have expected at a live red worm farm. I mean, really, besides a little bit of an earthy scent (which I rather like), Greg’s worms and compost are very well maintained. Here are a few photos of his worms and vermicompost areas:


Just what we came red worms!


Live red worm beds at WorldWideWorm Farms in Apple Valley, Ca


And lest you think that it’s all worms, chickens and veggies at Greg’s place, he’s pretty handy with recycled items, too. You’ve already seen the greenhouse featured in his High Desert garden, but take a look at what else he’s built with using items that most others would consider trash:

Bat shelter


BTW, did you know that bat poop is an excellent fertilizer, too? Greg’s been studying this stuff– first as a hobby, then as a business– for years. His passion for High Desert gardening has led him to build a bat shelter, which is positioned just above his square-foot garden. The plan here is to regularly attract bats, which will eat gnats and other insects that hang around the garden, and, in return, Greg hopes the bats will leave him a little “something” for his garden.

Greg keeps track of the climate in his High Desert garden with this handmade weather vane.


Zebra, Dog (these are actual chicken names, folks) and about 7 other feathery residents of the WorldWideWorm Farms rest here when the sun sets.


Greg says he makes the best homemade bread in the world inside of his handmade outdoor brick oven.


Greg admitted to being most proud of his latest creation, a windmill that he made using discarded pipe, metal, a treadmill engine and other materials that were going to end up in a landfill.


Handmade windmill


Pretty nifty, huh? And this windmill doesn’t just get points for its cool factor or for being a good conversation piece…it actually works! Greg’s hard work will more than pay for itself in the form of electricity powered by this incredible device.

A close-up of the windmill's handcrafted blades.


Last, but not least, a few snapshots of the gourds that Greg grew. Note all of the interesting shapes and sizes:


Gourds Galore!





To purchase live red worms or to learn more about high desert gardening, give Greg of WorldWideWorm Farms a call at 760-792-9660. And for more photos and information on vermicomposting, visit Greg’s blog at And be sure to tell my friend that Laura from the High Desert Blogging network says hello!

Let’s Hear It

Have you interested in High Desert gardening? Are you already well on your way to being a master gardener? What are your thoughts on live red worms, vermicomposting and all that jazz? Your comments are more than welcome in the space provided below.

You Really CAN Grow a Garden in the High Desert: Part Two

After my first failed attempt at growing a desert garden, I wondered what the secrets were.

Source: via Nicole on Pinterest


I dug into the garden magazines that seemed to hold most of the answers for the general gardener… but not the desert  types.   A call to my favorite gardener friend revealed that my methods did not tale into consideration how to conserve water.


Desert plants know how to do this. They developed adapted surfaces of their leaves for absorbing light, protecting the skin from too much sunlight, and conserving water. I had to do the same.

My best start was taking the garden area and raising the beds with wooden beams, or hay bales. Placing them in a rectangular pattern and filling the void  with rich soil would keep the water from draining away too quickly.

The Benefits of a Raised Bed

The raised beds also protected the tender roots from rodents. They apparently aren’t smart enough to burrow over and up into a specific point.

I can just see the plants lifting their roots up while a mole burrowed past. A raised bed also makes it easier for the gardener to tend to a few weeds, cull seedlings, and hand till the soil.

What seemed like a miserable chore,  was now fun to sit and weed and check on the baby garden. My water use remained lower than I had predicted, and my crops grew.

Even on those days of high winds, a little extra watering helped keep their young roots in the soil. And on days when the temps reached over 100 degrees, I would water several times a day to keep them from dehydrating.

Here’s a clever idea from a gardener in Florida, who keeps her cucumbers in partial shade by lifting and growing a frame of veggie vines over them.


Over all, my garden survived. I’ve learned some tricks and clever ways to outsmart the devastating desert sun while conserving water, too.

I had a harvest of decent proportions, and I could actually share some of my extra bounty with neighbors who stopped to ask me how I did it.

I’m not really a “Green Thumb’ … but I’m not a “Brown Thumb” either.

Rusty LaGrange

If you like what you see here, visit me at:

High Desert Gardens

You can pretty much count on one type of plant that’s not going away anytime soon in the High Desert. Cacti.

Autumn is almost here. I’m anxiously awaiting that day because that’s my favorite season. Spring is exciting because of new buds on the trees and a time to plant. But that season comes and leaves too quickly. Then summer arrives and lingers…and lingers. (Late summer flowers in my cacti garden have been making me smile, however.) Winter can bring extremely cold nights, early mornings, and snow. As long as I don’t have to drive further than down my street in the snow, I’m OK. Further than that is too far of a slippery drive for me. What I do like about winter, though, are the holidays. Holidays bring fun and sweet memories to me.

Back to autumn. I’ve been thinking of how ready I am for the season to hurry up and get here. But then I thought of my garden of beautiful climbing melon vines, tomato plants, and herbs dying in the winter. I wonder how I can turn that garden into a winter beauty. Got any ideas?

What do I like about autumn? The temperature isn’t unbearably hot. Holiday fun. Vibrant red, orange, and yellow colors. Flowers are still blooming. The cool of the mornings. I can think of more, but I think you get the picture.

Whatever the season, cacti will be around. Probably not the cactus flowers, but you can still enjoy your cactus gardens. Even in the snow, they look beautiful.

Winter Cactus








If the snow gets too heavy for them, cut them back in the late spring or early summer and plant more cacti. That happened to our cacti, and my husband transplanted what seemed like hundreds of little cactus plants.

Cut cactus at where the new growth begins








Desert and cacti. They do go together quite well, don’t they?



Natural Plants, Trees, and Flowers that Grow in the High Desert

Anyone familiar with this High Desert plant?

High Desert Plant


It grows out of a full spike-looking bush or cactus. The plume can grow much taller than even this one. I see this yard very often. Native desert cacti can be seen in a mini garden and growing wild on another side near a street.  When spring arrives, you can also see a square foot garden, tomatoes and other vegetables, snapdragons, lavender and other flowers planted there. But for some strange reason, I did not notice this plume that had come up until my husband asked me if I had seen it. “Where?” I asked him. READ MORE »

Frugal Living on Mother’s Day Weekend

Frugal things to do on Mother’s Day in the High Desert

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers reading High Desert Blogging today! Do something fun for yourself today. If it’s a lean time for you, fun can include frugal ways to enjoy this beautiful day. I’ll begin with a few ideas. But do me a favor, and add your own list in a comment. Let’s see how many ideas we can come up with. Here goes:

  1. Plant flowers to honor your mother – or just because you love flowers.
  2. Put a cutting off of a another plant into a glass of water.
  3. Sit outside in a chair in the shade for at least half an hour and just listen to birds.
  4. Make iced tea and take your favorite magazine to a chair; sit awhile and enjoy your tea and magazine.
  5. Walk around the block with a friend and enjoy all the neighbors’ flowers.
  6. Wear your favorite clothes.
  7. If your mother is deceased, sit down and write a letter to her and tell her how much you love and miss her.
  8. Light your favorite candle, or burn your favorite incense.
  9. Spray your favorite fragrance inside your house.

Who will make the next comment? Invite your friends to comment on this blog post today. Many mothers don’t have their children near, and many daughters don’t have their mothers with them anymore. It helps to have friends to make this day special and sweet. We can make each other smile today with pleasurable ways to enjoy the day.

This morning I planted flowers in honor of my dearest mother and mother-in-law who are no longer with us. Flowers always made them both smile. Planting flowers brings joy and happy memories to me – and I smile.


Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

iBlog Magazine for Professional Women Bloggers