Sow There! Bugs in the garden are easy to spot when you have a day off 8-6-15

  1. Aphids are slimy after being sprayed with soapy water. The Portulaca has not been doing very well after aphids and ants found the plant to be the perfect snack zone for the suckers.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

    I had an extra day off work this week and nowhere in particular to go.

    As a treat to myself I decided not to go to the gym, not to wash clothes and to forget about the dirty dishes in the sink.

    It seemed perfectly reasonable to spend my idle time staring at my plants.

    Just a few days prior, my beau had spotted the first hornworm of the season.

    Mom was visiting and I guess I was showing off. I grabbed the hornworm carefully between the blades of pruning shears and sashayed around the patio with the green gobbler.

    Mom cheered me on and shared the oft-told story of Uncle Jimmy and the hornworms.

    Long ago, mom’s grandmother offered a nickle per bug, which sent the grandchildren into a hornworm finding frenzy. Uncle Jimmy demonstrated exceptional zeal, laying his hornworms on the ground and systematically stomping on them: “five cents, 10 cents, 15 cents,” he chanted.

    In another version of the story, the hornworms are fed to the chickens after payment.

    Farmers are harvesting almonds this week, which is ahead of schedule. It may be my imagination, but it seems like tomato hornworms are ahead of schedule as well.

    If you have 8 minutes you can watch a video of the entire life cycle of the critter, from egg to gorgeous sphinx moth:

    This video was personally reassuring that I am not the only one who spends hours staring at plants.

    One reason we don’t spot hornworms earlier is because the eggs are tiny, about 1.5 millimeters. For perspective, the length of a flea is 1.5 mm.

    Also, the small, medium and large hornworms are the exact color of the tomato plant upon which they are feasting. The best way to spot them is to find a stem where all of the leaves are eaten, and travel with your eyes toward the center of the plant. Hornworms also give themselves away by dropping dark-green globs of worm poop. Look for the worm several inches above the leaf covered with worm poop.

    While continuing to stare at plants, I also found some great praying mantises in the sunflowers.

    The biggest bug jackpot was in plain view and sucking the life out of the poor Portulaca.

    Portulaca, also known as moss rose, is a great container plant known for surviving abysmal heat. As the petals drop, you can often find a little bundle of black seeds, which are fun to sprinkle in bare soil.

    I dug my fingernails into some black spots, only to find something black and sticky.


    Fortunately, I did not need to rush off to work this day.

    Almost every stem of the succulent plant was covered with tiny black bugs – aphids.

    Ants were also standing periodically, keeping care of the aphid herd to collect honedew (the excretion of plant-sucking aphids).

    Nature is fascinating.

    Similar to early ranchers in the Sacramento Valley, the ants saw this portulaca as a vast prairie, perfectly suited for aphid ranching.

    Never mind that a monstrous woman with a squirt bottle filled with soapy water would come along and dash the ants’ pioneering spirit.

    If I had a few more days off from work I would take an eight-minute video to show what happens to aphids after being sprayed with soapy water.

    After mom’s visit, my sister stopped by. I offered her a basil plant for her kitchen window, but she was afraid the pot might have bugs in the soil.

    I had no idea what she was talking about. The aphids, ants, hornworms and praying mantises were currently preoccupied with other greenery.

    Yet, when we reached for the basil plant, a particularly fuzzy spider made a quick exit.

    Over the next few hours I had fun putzing around the yard, offering my sister plants. Even though there were no more spiders, every once in a while I squealed as if a spider had jumped onto my arm. No matter how old I get, its still fund to tease my older sister.

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Sow There! Don’t buy the hype on specialty fertilizers 5-12-2016

Cacti may be remarkably different plants than others, but the still need the same type of food. Local nurseryman Jerry Mendon says you don't need to get fussy with fertilizer. Just give plants some basic food.
Cacti may be remarkably different plants than others, but the still need the same type of food. Local nurseryman Jerry Mendon says you don’t need to get fussy with fertilizer. Just give plants some basic food.Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Folks who have known Jerry Mendon since before pluots were invented, know that he’s a straight-forward type of guy. When I chatted with the long-term Paradise nurseryman a few weeks ago he was mirthfully annoyed by fertilizer hype.

What sparked the conversation was Jerry’s recent encounter with specialized palm tree food.


Jerry didn’t actually say “phooey,” but that’s what he meant.

“This got me to thinking,” Jerry actually did say. “To a plant, fertilizer is food. It doesn’t matter what kind it is.”

As a practical man, the idea of having 15 kinds of specialized plant food on a store shelf is irksome.

The Patriarch of Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise said it’s not just palm food. Gardeners can find azalea food, vegetable food, rose food …

“When a person says what kind of food do I need, I ask them what do they already have.”

The whole trend of specialty foods started in the 1950s, he recalled. Before that, there were just a handful of fertilizer brands, made by four main companies.

“About the mid ’50s, someone on Madison Avenue got the brainy idea that if we came up with foods for everything,” customers would buy more than one bag of plant food.

Now we have bulb food, citrus food, snapdragon food, Jerry said.

“They’re all in the same range” in terms of phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.

When you look at the numbers on the side of a fertilizer bag, you’ll see something like 5x5x5. That means 5 percent nitrogen, 5 percent potash (potassium) and 5 percent phosphate (phosphorus). Other combinations like 6x10x4 are right in that same ballpark, Mendon said.


While I had Jerry on the phone, I picked his brain for what to do in my own vegetable garden this year.

We have a black plastic truck bed liner used as a raised bed. Last year we filled half the bed liner with brand new soil, mixed with sphagnum peat moss, seasoned steer manure, organic (bagged) compost and a bunch of cheap topsoil (less then $2 a bag at a big-box store).

The bed liner is on a slope, and nutrients drip out the bottom.

My plan had been to add more steer manure this season.

Jerry, who was already on a roll from the fertilizer conversations, said the steer manure really wouldn’t do much and was “not worth the price.” Also, big animals are fed so many chemicals, I would be introducing all of that into my vegetable plot, he continued.

“The maim thing with soil is to get some sort of mulch in it,” Jerry urged. This loosens the soil. Next, add something that will provide “food” for plants.

He suggested a soil amendment called Paydirt , which contains a large percentage of aged chicken manure. Other ingredients are redwood sawdust and mushroom compost.

He also suggested mixing very good soil with an equal part of garden soil.

Mendon said he gives this same advice for people growing tomatoes in 10-gallon buckets.

Some plant advisers will say that adding soil from the yard is not the right choice. Yet, Mendon said he disagrees. Native soil helps with moisture retention.

Paradise is known for having heavy soil. Mendon said he sells a lot of Bumper Crop, a soil amendment that contains trace minerals and bark. The amendment is treated with nitrogen. Normally, as bark decomposes it grabs nitrogen from the soil. The extra nitrogen in this bagged product counteracts this issue.

For my half of a truck bed liner, Jerry recommended I add about six bags, which sell for about $8 each.


He said to also be wary of products that contain ammonia sulfate. This is a quick release fertilizer that can do more harm than good.

An article from the Almaden Valley Nursery,, notes that the product can make dull grass look green in two days. Yet, only the foliage was fed, not the roots. Over time, salts in ammonia sulfate can build up and change the pH of the soil, this article states.

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Sow There! Better friendships through food sharing 6-23-16

Donut peaches
Donut peaches Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record
CurrantsCurrants Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

I rarely go a week without visiting a farmers market. I love the colors, enjoy running into friends and I usually find something to eat. However, my freezer is packed with fruit and both crisper drawers in the fridge are full.

When I visited Mom, she showed me her new raised beds and sent me home with a bag full of squash.

Our paper’s advertising director, Fred, shared some of his plum harvest with his fruitless coworkers. My boss at work — even more squash.

Sharing food from our yards is one of the beautiful things about living in bountiful California.

My coworker Sally lives on the outskirts of town where residential streets blend into orchards. At times her neighbors have held garden parties. The friends begin the tour in one yard, spend a half an hour, and visit each gardener on the block. Because so many people grow food, people swap melons for tomatoes.


If you think about it, one mature fruit tree produces a barrel-full of fruit. Nobody likes to eat the same food day-after-day.

Yet, if each person on your block grew a different type of fruit, you could hold fruit-salad parties.


The Jesus Center 1297 Park Avenue, will also gladly accept your fresh garden edibles. You can take them to the back door near the kitchen, or through the front doors on Park Avenue.


We’re big into using the dehydrator when someone shouts out an offer to raid their fruit tree. Some of our favorites dried fruits are peaches, Roma tomatoes, persimmons, plums and apricots.

Dried fruit can be chopped into bits with scissors and added to salads or oatmeal.

You can also combine dried fruit, almonds and chocolate chips for a home version of trail mix.


LaDona Knigge sent me a note recently with an invite to pick some of her donut-shaped peaches.

It did not take me long to dig the dehydrator out of the shed and gather up the grocery bags with the strong handles.

LaDona is a clever gardener and her specialty is growing food in just about every corner of the yard.

Beginning in 2010 she and her late husband Willis Geer turned an ordinary home with a front lawn into a food oasis.

By the time the drought slowly crept into our lives, she had colorful balls of food growing right outside her front door.

It takes time and care to grow good among a home’s landscaping.

Her peach tree is near the street, with the heat from the sidewalk doing magic on the ripening fruit. She keeps the tree trimmed small for easy reach and no risky moves on the top of a ladder.

Most of the yard is mulched, which would earn her a gold star in a drought garden contest.

In other parts of her yard she might cut a branch here and there to allow plants the sunlight they need. Or she might tuck an herb in an area that has a nice mix of sun and shade.

The result is that a visitor can walk around the yard nibbling at just about every arm’s length.

In the front, bright red currants look like salmon eggs, ready to put on the end of your fishing rod. Dried or fresh there are many recipes that call for currants,

Along the fence, LaDona has two blueberry bushed that doubled in size since the last time I visited. The plants are under a redwood tree, which is fine because blueberry plants do well in acidic soil. She said she trimmed a redwood branch to allow the two to coexist.

Along her side yard she has artichokes and herbs galore.

On the other side of the yard, a neighbor’s apricot tree branches out onto her side of the fence.


I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds like a fun recipe found on,

Combine 1 1/4 cups dried figs with 2 1/2 cups additional dried fruit, such as applies, apricots, pears or prunes. Zip the fruits in a food processor until the mixture is like a paste. Mix in two tablespoons honey, two tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Next, roll into balls a little bigger than an inch wide.

I’m thinking while we’re at it, you might as well roll the balls in some coconut flakes.


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Sow There! Mid-summer veggies; what now? 6-9-2016

Just a few days after this picture was taken, these beauties are ready to be eaten, preferably while watering and while wearing my pajamas.

Summer vegetables are the sprinters of the plant world. They get out of the box at full speed — grow, produce, set seed and die — all within a single season.

Zucchini is just the best example. We put seeds in the ground in May. By early June the plants are growing several inches a day.

In mid July I will be picking one or two a day, try to find new zucchini recipes, choke down zucchini slices like they are popcorn, hand zucchini to friends, using the toaster oven outside to bake zucchini muffins, hand zucchini to strangers, plan to carve a canoe from zucchini that grew and grew …

Just about the time I remember how to actually spell zucchini without spell-check, the plants are tired and ready to die.

Is it worth it?

In addition to the plants in our black plastic truck liner raised bed, we have four tomatoes in 10-gallon pots. As of right now there are two medium-sized red tomatoes and about four golf-ball sized tomatoes. We also have dozens of dried, fruitless flowers.

“Is this worth it,” I said out loud while the cat circled around my ankles like a figure 8. “Couldn’t we just buy a tomato here and there at the store?”

Yes, my Handsome Woodsman confirmed. Yet, when was the last time I bought tomatoes and ate and enjoyed the fruit whole? When was the last time I treated a store-bought tomato like a sweet summer fruit?

He is right on this particular point. When I eat tomatoes I am standing in the yard, usually in the morning. I pick a fruit and let the flavor explode into my mouth.

If I make an omelete, I grab cherry tomatoes off the plant and throw them into the eggs whole.


When I called Jerry Mendon at Mendon’s Nursery in Paradise, I had several questions, but asked him about tomatoes as well.

“Are they worth it?”

I could tell he was wondering whether this was simply a rhetorical question.

After a pause Jerry said it like it is.

“I can’t stand store-bought tomatoes,” he said. The varieties are bred for mechanical harvest. The fruit has a tough skin. They are picked green for better packing, he said, among other things.

He’s right of course.


The conversation quickly shifted to dead tomato blossoms. Jerry confirmed that when it gets hot quickly flowers fade.

The reason has more to do with sudden change a in temperature vs. the actual temperature, he said.

Very soon we’ll have another flush of summer fruit, he predicted.

The best time for tomatoes to set fruit is when night-time temperatures are between 60-70 degrees.

Meanwhile, he suggested adding a heaping teaspoon of plant food about every two weeks to my 10-gallon containers. The first number of the plant food is nitrogen, and he recommended using fertilizer with a 4-8 as the first number. The other numbers matter much less.

As noted in an article about a month ago,, there’s no reason to buy specialty fertilizer for different plants, Mendon maintains. Plants can’t read the words on the bag, they just want plant food.


As for the rest of the raised bed, it’s probably time for me to add mulch. The problem is that I keep adding seeds to the open spaces in the soil.

Mendon recommended adding a mulch called Bumper Crop, which contains nitrogen. Mulch is always great for keeping in moisture and preventing weeds. However, as the mulch breaks down, it robs nitrogen from the soil.

Bumper Crop has the extra nitrogen to offset the depletion of nitrogen, Jerry explained.


Its not too late to plant basil seeds in the ground. Basil seeds grow easily. The leaves can be harvested for salads or to eat with tomatoes while you stand in the yard.

I personally always forget to plant fall-ripening food like pumpkins and winter squash. Now is a good time to place those seeds in the ground.

I was flattered that Jerry remembered I was growing things in a black, plastic truck bed liner. He said I should be careful not to plant seeds too close to the edge, which will be about a million degrees. His advice is to keep plants 10 inches from the edge. The good think about vines is that the leaves will grow over the edge, taking up very little space in the actual raised bed.

The vines can also be trained to climb as chain-link fence. Just be careful the vertical growth does not block the sun in your garden area.

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Sow There! Two is a crowd when it comes to cats in the yard, 5-26-16

Mystery kitty.
Mystery kitty. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Our cat, the Feline Unit, is a talker. She follows us around the house demanding wet food, saying hello, and demanding wet food.

Sometimes we hear her having long, soulful conversations with neighborhood cats. These aren’t the hiss-fits you hear when there are too many tom’s circling a dumpster. These are friendly little cat chats. I know it’s more than one gentleman suitor because I recognize their different voices.

Saturday evening I was in the yard salvaging the last of the kale and killing cabbage worms.

Up sauntered the most bizarre-looking lion kitty. At first I thought this orange cat had been shaved. It has a giant mane of hair and a ball of hair at the end of its tail. The rest of its fur is thin.

I looked up this bizarre cat hairstyle online. It’s called cat alopecia, and can be caused by mites, fleas, thyroid problems and cat neurosis.

I ignored the cat when it talked to me, but I recognized its voice. This was probably my chance to hiss, stomp my feet or throw pebbles. Yet, I was having a nice moment with my kale.

The cat hid under the wheel of my boyfriend’s car, telling me very important things.

Then it happened. I bent down to pull a mallow weed and the cat was on my hand faster than a racing pig at the county fair. It rubbed three parts of its body onto my extended hand before I had a chance to retract my fist full of mallow.

I started walking, fast mind you, toward my door. It followed, all of its meek disposition suddenly gone.

By the time I called Mandy, the cat was at the screen door, talking loudly.

“Congratulations on your new cat,” Mandy said. “What are you going to name it.”

Here’s the thing. There is NO way I am adopting a new cat, no matter how much my heart feels for this poor, very, very desperate, strange looking creature. We can’t have two feline units in the house.

I walked closer to the door while talking to Mandy. The cat’s cry increased four decibels and Mandy howled with laughter.

I’m thinking I’ll box up the cat and give it to her as a wedding present.

I can see how my kind-hearted friends end up with 12 cats in their yard. Every creature needs food. Every kitty wants love. Next thing you know you’re buying cat food in bulk at Northern Star Mills and walking around with multiple colors of fur stuck to your black skirts.

Wednesday night my boyfriend and I sat at the kitchen table when we heard the familiar sound of the cat door and kibble being nibbled.

However, our cat has a bell and a collar that clinks on the rim of the metal bowl.

Sure enough, the lion kitty had walked into the laundry room and was happily chomping.


I talked at length with Tracy Mohr, animal services manager at the Chico Animal Shelter. She said cats can have up to a two-mile roaming range. In all likelihood, this cat probably lives somewhere nearby. Cats often roam, she said. They might spend all day at one home, then spend the evening at another house begging for food and attention.

This makes sense, because I’ve been hearing this particular voice for a while. What’s new is actually seeing the cat. For all I know, it could have been been eating out of the laundry room for weeks.

My best bet, Mohr agreed, is to make my home inhospitable.

For the past 40 years society has trained people to take strays to the local animal shelter. Mohr said the reality is that only about 2 percent of lost cats are found this way. Most lost cats find their way home on their own, she said. The worst thing to do is to transport the cat to another part of town. Then the owner will never find their cat, she said.

This is a great time to make the pitch for having a microchip installed for pets. Mohr said I could bring the lion kitty down to the shelter to check if there is an owner nearby.


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Sow There! Organic pest control and mounds of free earth, 6-02-16

Do you want some free topsoil? Is that a rhetorical question?

Do you want some free topsoil? Is that a rhetorical question?Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

Last week I let myself wallow in melancholy.

I write a garden column and where is my garden?

I have a patio covered with potted plants, a mostly dead lawn and a few rosemary plants.

My vegetable garden is a black plastic truck bed liner, containing tired spinach and kale.

Then something amazing happened.

A neighbor who usually keeps to himself asked if we wanted to help ourselves to a giant mound of topsoil. I did not ask questions. I grabbed a five-gallon bucket.

My boyfriend was also inspired. He called me at work to reassert his love for eggplant.

Normally I would be hurt that he went plant shopping without me. Yet, in this case, I saw his solo spending as a time-saver.

When I came home there were a pepper plants waiting. He picked out a six-pack of beans because he loves me and knows I love beans. Of course we planned to plant squash and zucchini, a topic which did not merit discussion. He also bought two six packs of gazania flowers, which have doubled in size in less than a week.

Quite a workout

While the plants were still fresh in their six-pack containers, I personally hauled 80 gallons of soil from the neighbor’s front yard to our backyard vegetable area.

Anyone who says gardening is not hard work is invited to my house next time I need to haul 80 gallons of soil.


My how a mound of dirt can change your outlook on life.

My black plastic truck bed liner was no longer a poor-man’s solution to a terrible gopher problem. My raised bed is actually a great example of how to recycle and reuse. The bed liner had previously been about a third filled with soil. Now our growing area has doubled.


The hard part of all of this was tearing out the spinach and kale, which have served me so well since November. I hated to let it go when there might be one or two handfuls of leafy greens in the future.

Yet, the more I looked, the more I realized these plants were heavily infested.

My method of pest control has been hand squishing. Specifically, when I found clusters of eggs on the back side of the leaves, I squished the eggs between the leaves.

When I found worms, I cut them in half with the garden clippers. Earlier in the season these were fuzzy, green worms, which I determined to be cabbage worms,

This past week the worms I found were the same size, the same color, but decidedly not fuzzy.

I sent a photo to the ever-helpful Bob Scoville at Glenn County Master Gardeners. Scoville, the super sleuth, determined these were larvae for the diamondback moth. The distinguishing feature is the “prolegs” at the end of the worm, forming a distinctive V-shape. Bob referred me to the University of California IPM website:


I will give myself a big pat on the back for hand-picking pest control. However, now that I see more clearly what I’m battling, I’m bringing on the soapy guns.

Rodale’s Organic Life website,, talks plain about killing creepy-crawly with soap suds. The reigning organic writers also provide recipes for garlic water spray and using milk or baking soda, vinegar to kill without harsher chemicals.

One quickie recipe even is said to help deter deer: 1/4 cup milk, four drops natural dish soap or liquid castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s. Spray on the new leaves deer love to browse. Repeat every 10 days.

Paradise friends, let me know if this works. If it does, it’s new worth sharing again.

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5-22-14 Sow There! Cactus bloom is worth the wait

Thursday, May 22, 2014
Author: Heather Hacking @HeatherHacking on Twitter
I read somewhere that a certain percentage of our happiness is obtained in the form of anticipation. That makes sense.

Unless you are an Eeyore or a stress-monger, its a lot of fun to plan a trip, prepare for a party or simply dream big. The trick is that when the actual “moment” arrives, you’re able to enjoy it for what it is and not for what you had hoped.

Before my family trip to Mexico, I had a pile of terra-cotta pots that were no longer needed.

Terra-cotta is decorative, but I know myself. The pots absorb some of the moisture from the soil and the plants can dry easily.

If I left town for three days and my plants died, I’d feel I had done some heinous injustice to the plant world.

For cactus, however, the light orange containers are preferred by some cacti curators.

A website called “The Fuss Free Zone,”, notes that the weight of a terra-cotta container helps if the cactus is top-heavy.

Also with cactus, drainage can be a good thing.

When I offered my extra pots on Facebook, cactus queen Suzi Draper said she’d pick them up. I love when the idea of recycle and reuse really works.

Suzi, by the way, is the lovely gal who invited me over last spring to view her cactus in bloom. This was no ordinary cactus; this was luscious, soft pink cactus that blooms in the darkness. The plant sends out a tropical scent that should be captured and smeared on sheets at luxury hotels. I took a bazillion photographs last year and enjoyed every minute I spent with those plants.

Somewhere during the recent correspondence, likely an act of extortion on my part, we worked out a deal where Suzi grabbed the pots and left me a cactus.

Honestly, I was expecting a cactus pup, a prickly baby that would grow in a six-inch pot until 2020 when it needed a larger container.

I was thrilled and pleased when she left a 16-inch bulbous prickly mound that was about to pop. For weeks, I thought very little about the plant, except to water it when I was around.

When we arrived back from Mexico, filled with profound cactus appreciation, my new prickly friend was about to do it’s thing.

Or was it?

The furry little nobs on the sides of the cactus began to grow, ever so slowly, like a pimple you know is going to pop in two weeks, just in time for prom photos.

Each day I looked and the cactus had changed.

After a few more weeks, the nobs began to elongate each time I looked. I took photos at morning and night, just to prove that the protrusions really did move with the sun. After more days of daily observation, flower heads began to form, taking on a greenish/red tint, and shaped like large asparagus.

Would they pop today, I wondered each day.

Suzi sent additional encouragement and advice, and she warned me to the flowers would bloom at night.

Fleeting beauty

One busy day, I woke up and the flowers had the audacity to open without me. Twenty one blooms.

If I had known, I would have found a way to add “watching flowers” to my time card at work.

During an early lunch break I dashed back home and decided to drink in the fragrance and watch a fat carpenter bee do the same.

As for the scent, the closest description I can think of would be plumeria (a tropical flower that grows in Hawaii,

As luck would have it, the plant was willing to extend the show. Five buds remained that night. Some time about midnight, I checked for the umpteenth time, and the five blooms were dancing in the moonlight. More furious flash photography ensued.

Even after the show ended, I checked several times each evening as the long “stems” of the flowers faded, finally turning to flaccid stalks that draped over the side of the terra-cotta container delivered by Suzi.

The flowers may have only bloomed for one day, but this plant entertained me for at least a week.

To entertain yourself with photos, check out my Pinterest photo spread. Note, I’m not sure if I have the correct name of the cactus:

Some care and feeding

The newspaper, Arizona Central, has an advice column online:

The writer recommended morning sun, with protection in the afternoon.

Suzi, to whom I am incredibly thankful, says she adds some cactus fertilizer, including calcium, about every three months.

For more inane prattle, check out my blog at Other contacts, @HeatherHacking on Twitter and Facebook.

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New love the lowly loquat 5-5-2016

An aphid village is revealed as the vegetable garden is tended.
An aphid village is revealed as the vegetable garden is tended. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

I learned something this week: The beauty of loquats is in the eye … and in this case the mouth … of the beholder.

Recently I poked fun of the lowly loquat, a mostly meaningless fruit that ends up as goo on my walkway. A week after those words were printed, I was on top of the camper picking fruit for my coworkers.

Audria and Susanna wanted to know how loquats taste. Can you make them into jam? Can you use them like other fruit? With pork? In salads?

They didn’t believe me when I said they weren’t worth a trip up a ladder. They did not seem to care when I explained that even squirrels won’t eat them.

I’m not totally stupid; I knew it would be nice of me to bring them some fruit and let them decide for themselves.

Just so you all know, I am afraid of heights. My stomach starts to get queasy just looking at a tall building. \

To avoid that whole ladder thing, I climbed on top of the camper, which was parked under the tree after our recent trip to Yosemite. I climbed the camper ladder, pretending in my mind I was climbing out of a deep swimming pool. Next I sat on my rump and managed to reach the lowest hanging fruit, without standing up.

By the way, loquats bruise easily and should be picked when they are yellow, not orange. I learned this the hard way. By the time the fruit was delivered to my work friends, it looked like I had dumped my sack on the ground and hit the loquats with a hammer.

Apparently they still tasted good. Susanna said they were sour and sweet, like sour candy.

I tasted them as well. I agree, they’re different in a fun way. However, unless there is a natural disaster and I need to forage off the land, I think I’ll leave this particular fruit to the squirrels and these girls.

Audria found an article titled “Loquats: Here’s What You Do with Them,” from the Full and Content website,

Writer Lisa Rawlinson provides some great loquat recipes, some fairly straightforward and others combining lesser-eaten foods. Jam and loquat mojitos were on the list. Then she suggested a Brussels sprouts and prosciutto pizza.

I’m guessing Susanna and Audria would love this.


This is a fun time of year for playing in the garden. For the past few months we’ve been harvesting spinach and kale almost daily. With so many leafy greens, I stuff them into plastic snack bags and add them to my stash of frozen fruit.

Just as the plants have awakened to the spring weather, so have the bugs. It’s much less fun to harvest greens when you’re looking under every leaf for microscopic gray, green or yellow critters.

Kale and spinach are trying to send up flowers. I lop these off to save the plant energy. Within this tight clusters of leaves I find aphid villages.

They’re just aphids, but I don’t want them breeding in my compost pile. A squirt bottle filled with water and a tablespoon of dish soap is used to douse the aphid colony before I move on to inspecting the bottom side of leaves.

The next phase is summer veggies. As soon as we got home from camping, I planted crook-neck squash. My thought is that by the time the squash branches out, the lettuce and kale will really be done for the year.

I also planted “green squash.”

I wish I had more clues other than “green.” However, I can only blame myself. I grabbed the seeds from the local seed exchange a year ago. When I wrote down the name, “green squash” is all the description I could muster at the time.

In a way, I’m glad. It will be fun to let the mystery unfold.

Other contacts @HeatherHacking on Twitter and Facebook.

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Sow There! Thanks for the garden memories, Facebook 5-19-2016

Wild viola spreads into empty areas when they get a little rain in the winter.

Wild viola spreads into empty areas when they get a little rain in the winter. Heather Hacking — Enterprise-Record

I have a selective memory.

If I select to remember something, I have several options. I can write things down, and then try to remember where I placed the notes. I can review my innermost thoughts by reading my journal. Sometimes my sister takes it upon herself to remind me of things I might just assume forget.

So far, my selective memory and I have survived just fine, thank you very much.

Recently, Facebook has decided to give me friendly reminders from my past. For the most part, this is mildly enjoyable. I understand the social media giant is trying to keep it real, keep it lively and find new ways to sneak advertisements into my daily life. But really?

This week I received a collage from four years ago that reminded me that I looked a lot better when I was 10 pounds lighter. Facebook also sent me several images of my garden from before the drought. Is there a correlation? Did I buy fewer boxes of Girl Scout cookies when I was busy working in my beautiful garden.

In one series of images the very thin Heather is in Las Vegas with Uncle Bob and Auntie Joanne. We posed in front of the dessert buffet at the El Dorado. We posed with the rubber chicken in front of the “Pawn Stars” storefront.

My takeaway from all of this is that I really need to send Uncle Bob and Aunt Joanne a long, soulful correspondence. Maybe I’ll bake them some cookies.

Yet, what if the Facebook algorithm had provided a flashback to a time better forgotten? What if I suddenly had doubts about my career path, questioned my sanity or relived personal trauma? Could I call in sick and tell the boss I was suffering from Facebook-flashback-itis?

I’ll try not to worry too much about any of this. Before we know it, Facebook will have moved on to the next new thing.


Thank you Facebook, for reminding me why I love gardening and how much I have missed it.

Two years ago I left the little home and garden where I had lived for two decades. My new house is directly next door.

Over that time, the empty places in the yard have grown, due to drought and the fact that the new renters are not gardeners.

Those flashback Facebook photos reminded me that with a lot of work, the world can be beautiful again.

After just one season of nearly-normal rainfall, the sage is blooming in that yard next door, as are the roses. Wild viola is already moving in to areas where other plants have died.

I’m tempted to dig up some plants from the yard. Yet, last time I tried that I was caught.

The jasmine next door also bloomed as if it had been restrained for the past four years.


This reminded me that the jasmine is actually on both sides of our yards.

Last year I tried to take cuttings. I found a long list of instructions, some of which I followed. This included buying and using rooting hormones.

Nothing happened. The cuttings died.

Now I’m trying again. Instead of actually cutting the plants, I’m taking a long tendril that looks like it was going to grow roots on its own. I placed the portion of the plant with the mini roots into a pot filled with soil. This portion of the jasmine vine is still connected to the mother plant.

Once there are more roots, I’ll snip the connection of baby to mother.

We’ll see. I’ve had good luck with this method for Dusty Miller.

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Its easy to forget that privet is evil an invasive 1-28-16

Privet ...

Privet … Photo courtesy of University of California

If you live long enough, you might end up taking back some strongly stated opinions.

You may eat crow, swallow those words and see pigs fly.

I can’t remember if it was my mother, my sister or both who noted that I had allowed privet to grow in pots.

“What are you doing?”

These were not small, accidental springs or even a partially hidden volunteers.

As the plants in my pots have died, privet has taken over and I have continued to water the evil and invasive plants.

“I thought you said no one should ever, ever grow privet” the close family member reminded me.

She was absolutely correct. I’ve spent far too many precious moments ranting and raving about privet, yanking it out by the roots and adding it to the list of least wanted.

Most neighborhoods have one or more evil weeds that would take over all the soil if given a chance.

Mimosa trees, for example, are known to be take-over artists. In just a few short years you could have a yard with nothing but two-foot tall lacy mimosa shrubs.

My sister’s friend Debbie bought an older home in the Bay Area. The selling agent must have visited the home half an hour before potential buyers arrived.

When Debbie bought the home she learned the yard was so infested with ailanthus (Chinese tree of heaven). Shoots from the plant came up from the wooden deck, growing four feet each week. If you know this tree, you know this isn’t an exaggeration. Unfortunately, evil and invasive weed infestation is not one of the disclosures required in the real estate industry.

In Chico neighborhoods, people often battle Velcro weed, wild garlic, Johnson grass and wild grape.


In case you aren’t familiar with privet, its a hardy, quick-growing plant from the Ligustrum family, often used to form a hedge. You may be familiar with plant from films. If the character lives in a huge, New England manor, the mile-long driveways are often flanked with privet.

(This privacy factor is why I was considering putting some of those sprouts along my wire fence).

The plant can be a bush, if whacked back, or can disguise itself as a tree.

Underneath the bush or tree, you’ll see a pile of slightly purple, black berries.

After the birds gobble those berries, they drop their bird poop on light-colored cars.

My boyfriend’s car was so splattered it looked as if the clan of Duck Dynasty had decided to chew wads of tobacco and use my boyfriend’s car as a spitting target.

With the help of the birds, seeds are distributed throughout the neighborhood.

It’s no surprise the seeds made it to the empty pots near my front door.

“What’s the deal?” my family member asked?

I guess I wasn’t thinking.

It was easy to refresh my memory through an online search for information. I typed in “privet” and “invasive.”


We have not had a hard freeze in the valley, which means people still have plenty of lemons to share. Laura, my friend at work, shared her trick for easy lemon zest.

She keeps a lemon in the freezer. When she needs a little bit of lemon zest, she pulls out the frozen ball and grates enough for that meal or beverage.

You can also juice several lemons right now and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Most recipes, including my favorite lemon bars, require just a small amount of lemon juice.

Before discarding the lemon peel and remaining pulp, some people like to rub the citrus all over their sinks in the kitchen and bathroom. You can also grind up the fragrant fruit in the garbage disposal to freshen up the pipes.

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