Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Watermelon, Senna, Red Yucca

 One of the watermelons finally was ripe enough to pick. I read that when the tendril nearest the node dries out, the plant is done feeding the fruit. It's been huge for weeks. Turns out it's as big as a head.

The flesh was ok. Not some glorious fruit that defies corporate watermelon oligarchs. But it's mine, and that counts for something. It's a little less flesh, huge seeds.

I had removed a hesperaloe parviflora, Red Yucca, to make way for something else out front. I combined the whole plant in one big pot, that then started wilting and falling over. So I tied the whole thing up, it looked like a wave or an awesome hair cut. Fortunately no pictures or complaints from the neighbors. Yesterday, I divided them and put them in the ground in the gravel driveway.

The soil was so compacted and hard I could barely dig holes for them. Desert soil has a challenge called caliche. It's a layer of naturally forming concrete basically. I've never run into it before in personal digging. Definitely did this time. I wonder if the plants will have drainage issues, root rot or something.

I'm not sure I'm crazy about this location, but it's ok, adds some green, and it's easy easy to remove later. Again these have like bulbs for roots. I googled but found no results for edibility.

I found a desert Senna with seed pods a while back and decided to collect and plant. Yesterday they bloomed.

I collected the seeds at Apache Wash, the trailhead where my oldest rides mountain bikes with his team. (Did you know mountain biking is a sanctioned high school sport now days? It's a wonderful time to be alive!) I actually like this desert weed. It turned out great.

Inspired by Hoover over at Piece of Eden, I fixed up my hummingbird feeder, cleaned it, refilled it, moved it.
This is the view from the kitchen window. Hopefully we'll get some hummingbirds soon!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Peccary Pain and Corn Silk

We had some unwanted excitement Saturday morning. While walking the dog in the desert, Ginger (the dog) unexpectedly ran into a small javelina family of 4. Being that they are fairly blind and deaf, they were startled and defended themselves instinctually. This meant Ginger got 4 nasty cuts, some stitches, and the cone of shame.

It also was lucky she didn't get a punctured lung, arterial bleeding, or a one-way ticket to doggy heaven.
It turned out better than it looks. She's doing good, just recovering from a beating she took at the hands of some nasty homeless brutes.

On a lighter note, the silks in my corn plot came out this week and many of the stalks have ears now with silks.

The tassels are anthers, male flowers with pollen.

The pollen is wind born to the silks. Silks are the female flowers and each silk is a pollen tube for each kernel. Hopefully the ears will be full of kernels. I suppose I could try to manually spread the pollen. I did this morning give a stalk a shake and blow towards the other stalks, but that seemed futile.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bloom Day, August 2015

Being new to the garden blogging world I didn't realize there was a tradition of posting pictures of blooms on the 15th. Being in the desert in August really made me jealous. Not much is blooming. But here's what I have:
 Bouganvillea, always a sure thing.

 Aloe from a mother's day flower arrangement.

Lantana, but sure of the variety, but it's a big, happy, healthy plant.

Lantana, a different variety. A little smaller, not as robust, but doing well. Lantana and Bouganvillea are pretty reliable here for blooming.

This is a red verbena, barely hanging on through the heat, the only beautiful bloom in this hanging pot.

Russelia equisetiformis, firecracker plant. I just recently planted this where a red yucca used to be.

Now on to the blooms I'm excited about! My kitchen garden.
 This little flower, with a bee, grows into this....
Watermelon, beach ball sized! 

My mint in the herb garden is blooming.

Even though the sweet peppers are tiny, and need some supplemental calcium, they are still flowering and growing.

The 3 sisters garden is doing well. The tassel on the corn is a male flower technically, anthers.

 Just this morning the squash flowered for the first time!

Happy belated bloom day.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I was down in Tucson for a conference and squeezed in a lunch meeting with some old friends. I lived in Oro Valley as a kid and find it relevant to my current interests. You see, when I moved to Tucson, we moved from Colorado, and before that Utah. I'll I'd ever seen was mountains, pine trees, and green. The desert was brown and dead in my mind. (Plus I was 12, is there any more awkward time!) My parents took us to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. I walked out of there a desert rat, a desert lizard. I have loved the desert ever since, and have lived here or been trying to get back to here ever since.

The view of the Catalina mountains from Oro Valley is amazing. This photo doesn't convey the beauty I saw. It's one of my favorite views.

I noticed more barrel cacti down in Oro Valley were blooming. I also realized I don't see many, if any, fishhook barrels in the Phoenix area. (Edit: since writing this, I have seen a few, skinny and ragged, and not blooming. Perhaps a different species or too damn hot)

Blooming barrell.

After my meetings I stopped by a nursery that looked very inviting, Acacia Nursery.  The associate Rob, was extremely helpful. 
Any nursery with a crested saguaro has to be decent right? You have any idea how much a crested saguaro this size cost? Think nice used car. About $10-20 thousand!

Selection was decent, succulents, agaves, aloes. Desert adapted.

They had a nice full grown a. gentryi, "Jaws". I haven't seen the full size until here. I was passively introduced to Jaws by A Growing Obsession. I noticed in the comments, a. gentryi being given as a gift. 
In the office they had these 2 beautiful plants that the employee wasn't sure of their species. So I took this photo to look it up. You probably already know, but I think it is a euphorbia ammak.

The associate there gave me a pup of a partridge breast aloe. Hopefully I can keep it growing. When a nursery gives me a cutting, I'm loyal for life. Thank you!

Of course I had to buy something, but I wasn't sure what. Then I saw it! A. ovatifolia, Whale's Tongue agave. This is the last of the agave species I'm consciously lusting after. It's been hard to find. So now I have it! Just not positive I know where I want to put the beast.

On the way out of town, I luckily a red light. Luckily because I wanted to take a picture of the this bed of a. victoriae-reginaes. Pretty cool to see so many in one place.

Good bye Tucson and Picacho Peak. See you soon.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Prickly Pear Juice

This weekend the boys and I picked 5 gallons of prickly pears, many of them from this cactus.
Being careful not to get the tiny spines (glochids) in our hands, we tried a number of things.  First we torched some to burn off the spines. Then cut them open to taste. They didn't taste very good. Not horrible, but disappointing. A mix of kiwi, melon, grapefruit flavor. We juiced them by squishing them, then boiled the juice for 90 minutes. Strained it a dozen times I think. Added sugar. Eventually I admitted defeat the next day and poured it down the drain.

The corn is growing fast! 

My air layering experiment is ready to go. You may be able to see some roots there in the plastic.


I potted some octopus agaves, agave vilmoriniana and sedum morganianum (burro's tail)

Agave seedlings. In the left tray is agave parryi from seeds I collected by the Sunrise Library. The middle round pot has agave geminiflora seed I collected near Wal-Mart.

Taking a walk Sunday I saw this giant toad (unfortunately I think he was mortally injured, maybe run over?)

This morning, I pulled out this red yucca (hesperaloe parviflora) from the front yard and attempted to pot it. I filled this pot completely. I didn't realize red yucca is a tuber, like onions almost. I'm pretty sure this isn't an ideal way to pot it, we'll see how it goes. I replaced it with firecracker plant, russelia equisetiformis. I'll take a picture later.

 And finally, I consulted with an arborist, Erik Wilson, about my Desert Museum Palo Verde and Mesquite trees. He recommended a tree trimming company, Trees For Needs. They came out this morning and really did a great job. I wish I had a good "before" picture.