14 April 2009


It's always interesting when you discover how little you know about plants, or when a plant does something totally unexpected, but after it happens, it makes complete sense. This is the first time I've grown broccoli, so I've been watching it, wondering when it's time to harvest. Everything I read said to do it while the heads were compact, firm, etc. (But no book prepared me for what I saw when I returned.) That's what they were when we went away for a few days last week, but when we gat back, they were on their way to something completely new to me.

Soon after we got home, I took a walk through the yard, checking on plants, fish, etc. I noticed a couple of broccoli heads were loosening up and I figured I missed my window for harvesting those plants. It wasn't until the next morning that I noticed the flowers. Did you know that each little, tiny bud in a head of broccoli will flower? I had no idea! Actually, it makes perfect sense, but I never considered it.

So, I won't be getting as much broccoli from the garden as I planned, but it was definitely a learning experience. I'll be planting broccoli again this fall and I'll plan to harvest sooner to avoid the flowers. My wife and I were talking about how little of it we got from all of our plants this spring. I think when we plant in the fall, we'll plant lots more, spreading some of it around in the landscape.

02 April 2009

Drought Tolerant Garden

Over the past year, I've been collecting (accumulating) and getting to know a number of what some people call desert plants. I'm referring to cactuses, yuccas, aloes, sedums and the like. When we decided to landscape our front yard, originally I planned to incorporate these plants in with the other "normal" plants in our landscape. But there was a high, barren area, far from the house, calling me to plant a drought tolerant garden. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, so that's what I did.

I planted a prickly pear cactus near the center, because I expect it to get fairly large. Then I spaced some yuccas around the bed. I also put another cactus - Cereus peruvianus monstrosus - that should grow pretty tall. I went out and bought some Graptopetalum paraguayense and some Blue Spruce Sedum to plant along the edges. I still had a lot of ground to cover - literally - so I started looking around the yard for suitable plants. We have an old variety of lantana that grows throughout our neighborhood without anyone's help at all, so I planted that. It will flower during the summer, but will leave some interesting structure behind when winter arrives. I continued to look around for appropriate plants. I saw the rosemary and thought - it grows in dry, rocky areas of the mediterranian - why not? The bed began to fill up, except for a couple of areas near the outside, perfect for low-growing plants.

We have a horticulturalist around the corner who has a lot of drought-tolerant plants in his yard, as well as tropicals, such as palms, cycads and citrus. He was thinning out a bed of hardy aloe and had tons that he was going to throw away. He said I could take what I wanted, so I went back and came home with a couple of grocery bags full. I filled the bare spots with the aloe and I expect by the end of the summer, this bed will look like it's been there longer that a few months.

I expect to rotate in new plants in the future, as I find more drought tolerant plants that I want to grow. Until then, I just have to wait for summer and watch everything grow.