Friday, March 15, 2019

What's Fruiting Friday

Pakistani Mulberry putting out fruit just as fast as it's putting out leaves!

My earliest fruiting tree this year, Florida Prince Peach with fuzzy baby peaches!

Blackberry buds surrounded by thorns, birds beware!

Black Sapote, Mesa, AZ, March 15, 2019

Dwarf Black Mulberry fuzzy beginnings of mulberries!

Kadota Fig, Mesa, AZ, March 15, 2019

Bearrs Lime tree, Mesa, AZ, March 15, 2019

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


A happy bee at the Golden Dorsett apple blossoms,
March 6th, 2019, Mesa, AZ

Parry's Penstemon in full bloom, March 6th, 2019, Mesa, AZ

Dwarf Bonanza Peach blossoms, March 6th, 2019, Mesa, AZ

Borage blossoms, March 6th, 2019, Mesa, AZ

Busy Bee at Florida Prince Peach blossoms, March 6th, 2019, Mesa, AZ

Buster photo-bombing a shot of kale and kholrabi, March 6th, 2019, Mesa, AZ

Monday, March 4, 2019

Yellow Boots Yard Care

Jennifer Layton, owner of Yellow Boots Yard Care
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of spring gardening chores you need to get done?  Tree feeding, pruning, mulching, replenishing garden beds, planting, and maybe even grafting?  Or are you planning your summer vacation and wondering who you can trust to care for your garden while you are away?  Yellow Boots Yard Care can help you!

While most landscape maintenance and yard care companies are "blow-and-go" operations that just mow lawns, trim bushes and blow leaves, Yellow Boots offers more specialized care needed by vegetable gardeners and fruit growers.  Owner, Jennifer Layton, is an experienced gardener and is in the Landscape Horticulture Program at Mesa Community College.  Jennifer is the brains behind the operation and her husband Kimball is the brawn.  Together they make an awesome gardening team.  The proof is in their own yard where they have healthy tropical fruit trees, stone fruit trees, and 8 bountiful vegetable garden beds.

Hoop structure over very happy and healthy mango trees in Layton's garden,
provides cold protection in winter, and shade protection in our hot summer months.
The Layton's dog Nora warns me to stay away from her mango trees!

 The Layton's have 104 fruiting varieties in their yard (10 vines, 32 grafts, 62 main trees).  Most of their trees are tropical - 16 mangoes, 4 avocados, and 1 lime tree with 11 grafts on it! These two avid gardeners have experience with plant and tree installation, flood irrigation management, foliar feeding, cold protection of tropicals, shade structure construction, organic pest management, fruit tree pruning, and garden rehabilitation.

Kimball Layton grafting Black Mission Fig scions on to my Kadota Fig tree
under the supervision of my fearless garden-guard dog, Buster Brown

In February I was dreading having to make the decisions of what to prune off of my dwarf fruit trees and grape vines, so I called in Yellow Boots Yard Care to help.  I also wanted to graft more varieties onto my fruit trees.  Jennifer and Kimball did a great job, handling my young fruit trees with the care and attention to detail that they provide their own trees.  Kimball even brought scions for my trees and grafted them on using the Tongue and Whip method.  So far all of the grafts look good!

My Fuji Apple (high chill hours) tree now has Anna's Apple (low chill hours)
grafted on! Now I have a much better chance of getting fruit from this tree!!

I originally met the Layton's at a grafting workshop hosted by Don Olson at Greenlife Tropical Nursery.  Expert fig grower Jeannine Sander demonstrated how to graft.  From there Kimball went on to learn more grafting techniques from local expert tree grafter Jason van dem Bemd.  Together they grafted over 50 varieties of apple scions onto the Layton's huge Anna's apple tree!

The Layton's 20+ year old Anna's apple tree glistens with silver scion tags.

So go ahead and plan that vacation, just be sure to schedule Yellow Boots Yard Care to tend to your garden while you are away.  Jennifer will even send you photos of your plants to reassure you that all is well at your homestead!

Yellow Boots Yard Care
(servicing the East Valley and Scottsdale)
(480) 250-9982
E-Mail -

If you are interested in grafting and looking for scions or have scions to share, check out Jason van den Bemd's Facebook group Arizona Fruit Tree Scion Exchange.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Upcoming Co-op Workshops: Make Phoenix a Rainwater Haven

Did you know that you can join Watershed Management Group's Green Living Co-op, put in just 4 hours and get a 30% discount on our water-saving landscape services? Check out for more details and to sign up!
Pollinator Rain Garden in Apache Junction

Sat, Nov 10 @ 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Near Goldfield Rd & Superstition Blvd
Register (We need 14 more people!)
Join WMG's Co-op to help reshape a desert backyard into a pollinator rain garden! You will learn about the different types of pollinator plants and how to properly plant them, the benefits of mulch and how to apply it, and how to use small rock to help reduce erosion.

Backyard Rain Garden

Sat, Nov 17 @ 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Near 24th St & Indian School Rd
Register (Only 4 spots left!)
Help finish this Phoenix rain garden! We will be wrapping up the backyard by spreading a layer of wood chip mulch to retain the moisture and then begin working in the front yard. You will help plant a tree and vegetation to complete the front yard oasis. The heavy digging will be done prior to the workshop, so you can focus on the finishing touches to turn this urban front and backyard into an oasis!

Help Create a Pollinator Rain Garden

Sat, Jan 12 @ 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Curry Elementary School, Tempe
Join in the fun at this educational work party and learn how to create a pollinator rain garden that will capture rainwater to help nourish native and desert-adapted, low-water plants.
The heavy digging will be completed beforehand so the day activities’ are focused on fine grading of the basins and berms, planting trees, shrubs and perennials that will provide shade, beauty, and attract the pollinators for years to come!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Desert Harvesting

As the temperature rises this summer, the bounty from our gardens fall.  But the desert begins to flourish with legumes from the palo verde, mesquite and ironwood trees!

At a recent D.I.G. class Master Gardener and desert forager Kelly Athena served up a variety of food harvested from palo verde and mesquite trees.  From the Palo Verde trees Kelly had harvested the little green flower bud clusters, pickled them and served as capers.  You can also harvest the yellow blossoms of the palo verde and use in salads or pancake batters.

Kelly Athena harvesting Palo Verde pods at 
U of AZ Maricopa County Cooperative Extension
  The big surprise for me was how sweet the palo verde beans are when picked in time.  They taste like a cross between a sweet pea and edamame.  From the mesquite trees Kelly had harvested the dry bean pods and demonstrated how to grind the entire pods into flour.  First she ran the pods through a grinder (coffee grinder or magic bullet blender), then shook the flour through a sifter, to sift out the hard bean fragments so that only a sweet smooth flour remains.  If you would like to start baking with mesquite flour the general rule of thumb is to use 1 part mesquite flour for every 3 parts baking flour.  Mesquite bean harvesting will start in June before the monsoon rains.  Ironwood tree bean pods ripen through June and July.
Harvesting bean pods from my blue palo verde tree, mid-May 2018

Vegan taco salad topped with blue palo verde beans!
Prickly pear fruit will be abundant to harvest in August and the pads can be harvested on and off throughout the year.
Harvesting prickly pear pads (nopales)
There are more opportunities to learn about desert foraging coming up throughout the summer.  See list below.

Scraping off thorns from nopales before cooking.
Upcoming Workshops -

Mesquite Presentation & Harvesting Demonstration Wed, May 30, 2018 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Mesquite tree pods are some of our desert's greatest edible treasures. Mesquite flour has a low glycemic index and is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Come learn how to identify Mesquite trees and how to harvest, store, and process pods from Peggy Sorenson a Herbalist, forager, and teacher of edible and medicinal plant in the Desert Southwest.  This is an onsite talk and harvesting demonstration designed to help you to harvest from the mesquite trees you might have in your yard or neighborhood. Pre-registration requested and suggested $15 donation upon arrival. To secure your registration, you are also welcome to donate in advance if you like.   Audubon Arizona| Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center | 3131 S Central Ave| phoenix, AZ 85040

Harvesting Bean Trees - Hosted by Cactus Kelly - Sunday June 3rd at 5 PM - 7 PM - We'll meet in the Ahwatukee Foothills in SE Phoenix and harvest Palo Verde, Mesquite, and Ironwood beans. I've found all three types ripe in my neighborhood! Learn to identify the trees, how to harvest, how to prepare to eat, and how to store them. Take some home with you. $10 per person. Exact address given upon receipt of payment. Buy tickets HERE. Led by Kelly Athena, master gardener and desert forager

Desert Harvesters in Tucson has a whole series of workshops now through December covering topics such as harvesting and cooking with palo verde, mesquite, and ironwood bean pods, to prickly pear harvesting, milling mesquite flour, harvesting amaranth, cinchweed and desert lavender,  harvesting wolfberry, hackberry and condolia.

Cactus Kelly - Stay tuned for more opportunities to forage in the desert with Kelly Athena at her FB page

Superior Prickly Pear Festival - Saturday, August 18th, downtown Superior.  Learn to make prickly pear syrup and jellies, see cooking demos using prickly pear, and stay cool with a prickly pear margarita!

Available at

Friday, May 4, 2018

Let Watershed Management Group Help You Conserve Water and Energy!

Have you been wanting to start harvesting rainwater but the task seems daunting?  Let Watershed Management Group help you get started. WMG is seeking Co-op Workshop hosts who want to jump start their urban oasis, grow food more effectively, and conserve water and energy! An experienced WMG instructor will work with you to develop a design and lead a group of volunteers to implement green-living systems in a work party setting.  Co-op volunteers provide the labor, so you only need to pay for the instructor's time (at a discounted rate!) and materials.
Ryan Wood in the midst of a WMG Co-op Workshop

For more information on hosting a Co-op workshop, click here or contact Phoenix Program Manager Ryan Wood at or 602-618-6650.

One of the Co-ops I personally attended was to build a passive solar-cooling arched trellis on the west side of a home in central Phoenix.  The job was amazingly organized and everyone learned a lot from the hands-on experience.  I was so impressed by the results that we built an identical trellis on the west side of my home!  My grapevines have a happy home and the bedrooms on the west end of my house are cooler.
Here are a few photos from the WMG Co-op Trellis build :
All the tools needed to bend the re-bar were provided by the Co-op, and the
materials were all there and ready for the build to begin!
A few Co-op members had experience in building a trellis with re-bar
and cattle panels, so there was no guess-work. They showed us newbies
how it was done and put us to work.
Even the home-owner's Dad took part, and gave his seal of approval!

Here's a recent pic of my solar-cooling trellis, built based on Watershed Management Group's design:

See what the Watershed Management Group's Co-op has been doing to transform landscapes around the Valley:

Upcoming Watershed Management  Group Classes and Workshops:

Labor with Your Neighbor: Create a Courtyard Rain Garden on Fri, May 18, 7 a.m.-12 p.m. - Join us and help transform a courtyard landscape into a beautiful and functional rain garden that will slow, spread, and sink the water where it's needed to nourish the plants. You will learn how to create raised planting areas using retaining blocks, how to create sunken pathways edged with materials the home owner has collected over the years, and how to create an additional sponge for the rain by using wood chip mulch on the sunken pathways. If you are available on Friday, May 18 and would like to learn how to make the most out of a small space this workshop is for you!  Near 15th Ave and Myrtle Ave in Phoenix. Register ahead of time!
Hydrate Mesa: Hydrate Your Yard - May 1, 2018 - 05/1/2018 6:00 PM
 Hydrate Your Plants - May 8, 2018 - 05/8/2018 6:00 PM
 Hydrate Your Food - May 15, 2018 - 05/15/2018 6:00 PM
 Cruise the Canals - 05/19/2018 9:00 AM
 Hydrate Your Soils - May 22, 2018 - 05/22/2018 6:00 PM
 Hydrate with Greywater - May 29, 2018 - 05/29/2018 6:00 PM  

Monday, April 30, 2018

Ollas, Wicking Beds, and Sub-Irrigated Pipes! Who Knew?!

 I thought that I was doing everything possible to conserve water in my desert garden by harvesting rainwater, using drip irrigation, and heavily mulching my entire garden with huge loads of wood chips from Chip Drop.  That was until I attended Julie Knapp's Alternative Watering Techniques class last week at D.I.G. - Desert Institute of Gardening.  There I learned that I could reduce my garden watering consumption by up to 50% by using ollas, wicking beds, sub-irrigated pipes, and watering stakes.  Wow!

Ollas are clay vessels that you bury underground and plant your veggies around.  You keep the olla full of water and the water seeps through the clay and feeds the roots of nearby plants.  I am most intrigued by the automated olla system Julie introduced in class.  This system can easily be hooked up to a rain barrel!

Julie holding small hand-made ollas connected to drip lines for use in
an automated olla system.

You can make your own ollas with some silicone and clay pots as shown above, or you can buy them from a company in Tucson called Cutting Edge Ceramics

Another watering method from class that excites me are the wicking beds made using sub-irrigated pipes.  This too could be fed with water from a rain barrel.  What a great way to extend the use of my collected monsoon rainwater this summer!

Julie Knapp showing the perforated pipe wrapped in landscape fabric,
and a container for a wicking bed garden.

Master Gardener and desert forager Kelly Athena
starts building her own olla in class.

Making the ollas was fairly simple. First we used silicone to glue a glass marble over the drain hole in the bottom pot.  Then we sanded the rims of the pots to smooth out any imperfections so the rims would lay evenly together.  Next we spread silicone around the rim of the bottom pot and pressed the top clay pot down over the bottom pot. The final step was sealing around the outside with more silicone. 
Students in class using silicone and 2 clay pots
to build their olla.

If you decide to make your own olla, be sure to let it dry overnight, and test it before using it by soaking it in a bucket of water to look for leaks.  When you bury the pot, leave a few inches exposed above the mulch and after filling put a rock or pot tray over the hole to slow evaporation and keep bugs out.

Another watering method Julie introduced to class was watering stakes.  I had seen these before in gardening departments but thought that they would simply clog with dirt and be ineffective.  But Julie pointed out that there is a mesh inside to prevent the pipe from getting clogged with dirt.

 You can also make your own watering stakes/pipes by drilling holes in  2 inch PVC pipes and capping each end. Leave the top cap unglued so you can run the drip line through it.  Wrap and seal the tube with landscape cloth to keep the dirt out.  What a great way to ensure that you are deep watering your trees!

I will be implementing these methods into my garden over the coming months and will be blogging in more detail about automated ollas and wicking beds so stay tuned!

To learn more from Master Gardener Julie Knapp, read her blog -
The Transplanted Gardener.

Another great class from D.I.G. - the Desert Institute of Gardening - is coming up this Sunday May 6th, from 2pm to 4pm -  Harvesting Desert Bean Trees for Food & Medicine - Master Gardener Kelly Athena will give you a hands-on experience in becoming a desert forager of the three important bean trees in our area: Mesquite, Paloverde, and Ironwood. You will get to taste the beans and take away recipes for flour, syrup, jelly, edamame, tea, and more!