Good Fences Make Good Neighbors...I Need a Better Fence

This is not my garden. It's my neighbor's garden. It is, however, my driveway. Very pretty salvia plants but I wish they'd stay on her side of the fence.

The problem is this is where we park our car. The driver's door ends up right next to these plants, meaning we have to wade through them to open the door not to mention the scraping sounds we hear when we drive up.  Those aren't the biggest problems, though. 

All those pretty flowers attract hordes of bees and wasps. I'm not against bees and wasps in my garden but I do have a problem wading through a cloud of agitated, stinging insects when all I want to do is get into my car. Especially when I'm on my side of the fence.


I don't want to sound like I don't like my neighbor. I do. She's a nice lady but she's like a boundaries are more like "guidelines" to her. I'm constantly pushing her stuff back over the line when she stores her junk in the crawlway behind my garage and her plants encroach into my space bringing the bees with them.

I've told her my problem with the plants and once in a great while she has her gardener come over and cut them back bu, at least a couple of times a year, I have to take it upon myself.

Luckily, salvia branches snap off rather easily so I can go out and just yank out the branches leaning over my side of the line. Here is the plant by the driver's side door after I did just that.

A cleanup afterward (another chore I shouldn't have to do but I do) and I've got the prettiest yard clipping bin in the neighborhood. What doesn't fit in here I spread over my lawn, then mow it in, and let the grass feast of the finely chopped up organic matter.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Visitors to the Cheapskate's Garden

One of the benefits of gardening is the visitors it attracts. Here are a few of ours. Above is an acorn woodpecker swooping down from his utility pole to get a drink of water. Fun birds to watch, these characters can also do a lot of damage. We had to replace an entire wall of wood siding that they destroyed.

This lesser goldfinch is another of about 50 species we've seen in or from our backyard. My wife used to hang feeders for them but hasn't for awhile.

An Anna's hummingbird visits one of the four feeders that hang around our garden.

It's not only birds. On rare occasions, we've seen black bears on the hillside behind our house. Coyotes are not uncommon. Mule deer are a very common sight here.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

The Mother of All Oranges

The Cheapskate and his family are on the road this weekend but found something interesting for us and all you other gardeners out there.


  This is the Parent Navel Orange Tree in Riverside, California.

Brought to the city in 1870 from Bahia, Brazil, this is the original seedless wonder. All navel orange trees in California are clones from this original tree.

Propagated by cuttings and grafting, it started a big industry here in the state. One of two original trees, this is the one left standing, the other was transplanted by Teddy Roosevelt at the Mission Inn Hotel but it soon died and was cut up and sold as souvenirs.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Just Waiting to Go Postal...Taming a Gorgeous Plant that Just Wants to Eat Your House

Bougainvilleas are gorgeous plants. They bring a touch of the islands to your home and are seen throughout the world climbing over tropical ruins (like above), swallowing them up in a riot of color.

That's the doesn't take but a moment of inattention and they will go wildly out of control. Not far from where I live, the largest of these plants in the United States has established itself over three blocks of residential Glendora, California.

Still, they can be grown and kept under control in containers. I get a lot of compliments from my bougainvilleas...I have four different varieties with four different colors...but I keep a short leash on them.

Originally, I just planted like I did every other plant and then I noticed they will root right through the drain holes in the pot.  Not good...that's how they escape.

My solution was to get plastic pots without drain holes and drill holes in the side of the pot for drainage instead of the bottom to keep the roots contained.

We now have some very beautiful, well mannered bougainvilleas adding tons of color to the Cheapskate's patio.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

No Sex Please...We're Gardeners: Easy Plant Propagation

Yes, we're talking about reproduction here but not of the sexual variety. Gardeners have been cloning plants for centuries. It's a great way to preserve a highly prized specimen. It's also a way to give a friend your prized plants without giving them your plant.


There are many ways of asexual plant propagation, or cloning. Some are hard and some are easy. 

Let's start with easy.

Succelent plants are probably easiest plants to reproduce by cloning. You can just find a good one you like and pop off a couple of leaves.

Put in a small pot of mix, bottom down, water in, and put in a shady place.  Water every few days.

In a couple of weeks, the leaflets will sprout roots and you'll have a perfect copy of the mother plant.

Other plants that are easy to reproduce are plumeria, where we just stick a broken branch in the ground. It roots and next summer we have flowers...

...and euphorbia which, just like the plumeria, sprouts very easily when a cut branch is just stuck in the ground.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday Serenade...

It's the Day of Rest and we're enjoying the fruits of our labors. Garden chores were pretty much limited to mowing the lawn this week. Here's what's happening in our garden today. Mr. Lincoln (above) is giving us one final show before shutting down for winter.

As is Moonstone, not one of my favorite roses but it's looking pretty good today.

The bougainvillea is giving us great splashes of color.

Our hot chiles are loaded with flowers.  Hope to have a lot of spice in our lives soon.

Some can't wait and are ready now.


Helping in our goal of having something to eat out of our garden year round, our little citrus grove is getting closer to harvest too. 

The Meyer lemons are starting to show their colors... are our tangelos.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Recipes for a Cheapskate - Spicy Stuffed Bell Peppers

We're getting a bumper crop of bell peppers this year and they're growing  at a rate that we just have to harvest 5 or 6 a week...then we'll have another half dozen next week. Very tasty, too.

Here's one way I like to cook them. Think of this recipe as poppers that uses bell peppers instead of jalapenos.

First, bell peppers taste great but they need a little help with the spiciness (you may can skip this step if you do). These chiles from the plant next to it will help with that component.

I cut up the peppers as fine as I can. I up the spiciness a little more with a couple of these dried chiles that our aunt grew.  I have some left over bacon that I cooked with some eggs yesterday, so I take half a slice of cooked bacon and dice it up.

Next, I take one pound of cream cheese, that I left soften up to room temperature, and fold in the chile and bacon bits.

I cut open the bell peppers, remove the seeds, and place a dollop of my cream cheese, bacon, and chile mixture. The cream cheese blend also makes a good glue to keep the pepper shut so make sure you coat the knife slit with it.

We're using this as a side dish for our smoked tri tip roast, which we are cooking very slowly at a low temperature, and we add the peppers about an hour before it's done.

Let smoke for an hour.

This is what it looks like when it's done.

All that's left to do is put in on a plate and enjoy!
(Note: If you'd like the tri tip roast recipe, you can find it on our Facebook page)

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Fall Color in Sunny Southern California

What's blooming in the Cheapskate's garden? Well, this Calibrachoa that my wife put in a hanging basket is pretty spectacular right now.

The roses are going through their last bloom of the season. Here's Mr. Lincoln.


Some generic yellow rose without a tag that we picked up a a local market.

Angel Face.

On other fronts, the cymbidiums are starting to spike. Counted around half a dozen today.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Plants That Will Never Be In My Garden...Figs

Sometimes it might seem that my garden evolves in a haphazard way...just put something in the ground and see what happens. Actually, I do try to at least pick the proper plant for the proper area. I'm continually telling my wife when we're at the garden center to figure out where a plant will go in our limited space before she puts it in the cart.

Some plants I just won't allow. King among those is the ficus, the family of fig trees.

Oh, they can be pretty trees. Few cast more cool shade than a common fig but watch can have ghastly consequences when put in the wrong place.

The city of Los Angeles is currently facing a $1.5 billion dollar bill for fixing sidewalks throughout the city that have been destroyed by figs.  They are also trying to figure out a way to get homeowners to pay for it and get the city off of the hook.

You see, figs have very strong, vigorous, and just slightly sub-surface roots. Strong enough to destroy a sidewalk...strong enough to destroy a house (which I've seen happen too).

They're also messy and, since they're so shady, can stop anything else from growing underneath it.

The Federal Building in L.A. has figured that Jacarandas work better with their sidewalks

I would not plant a ficus anywhere that I didn't have at least 50 feet of open space in all directions from the tree.

So, for this cheapskate, no figgin' ficus trees in my tiny little garden.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Recipe for a Cheapskate...Sausage and Eggs - Garden Style

A lot of you enjoyed my earlier post on garlic chives.  Here is my favorite way to use them.

Cut a couple of leaves.


Chop up some sausage (I'm using Trader Joe's Chicken Andouille Sausage). Heat up in non-stick skillet (I spray with olive oil first at medium to low). Chop up your chives and throw on top of sausage. Mix two eggs in a bowl with a 1/2 teaspoon of milk and salt. 

Turn heat on skillet. to medium-high.When sausage starts to sizzle, pour egg mixture on top. Sprinkle about a tablespoon worth of shredded cheese on top. Scramble vigorously until almost done.  Plate it and wait 3 or 4 minutes for it to finish cooking.

Then enjoy!

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Au Revoir, Mr. Go-pher

This rose is Double Delight and is one of my best roses along my back wall garden. I love my roses but, unfortunately, so do gophers. The roots of the roses are like bacon-wrapped candy to a pocket gopher.

As you can see, my back yard backs right up to the foothills and the mountains just beyond. That area is home to thousands of critters...many of them gophers.  When we first moved in, I put in several rose bushes along the wall. 

They did very well for awhile and then suddenly died.  Digging the remains up, I discovered their root systems had been eaten by gophers.

I had read somewhere that gophers won't dig more than six feet if they can't come up for air. You can see, the paving of our patio is more than 6 feet and I do not have a gopher problem anywhere else on the property.


So what did I do?

Here is my grapevine that has similar problems with raccoons,  possums, and skunks eating the fruit. I put a cage of chicken wire around the base to keep them out. When the grapes are ripening, I cover the plant with loose netting to also keep the birds out.

Similarly, if you look at the base of the rose, above, you can see some more chicken wire sticking out of the ground.

When planting a rose...or any other valuable perennial along the back wall...I line the hole with chicken wire, then plant, folding the wire back over the root ball of the plant to keep Mr. Gopher away.

We both live in peace now...maybe we should ally against the deer.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

DINNER TIME! Dutch Oven Beef Stew

It can still get a little chilly at night here in Northern California. A hearty stew is just the thing to take the chill off. This reci...