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Talking Dirt By Cynthia Brian

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Talking Dirt By Cynthia Brian

You’re not a realist
unless you believe in miracles.
~Anwar Sadat

“Forgive me! I’m recovering from the holiday weekend but I need your help for the summer!” wrote a gardening client. The singular American summer festivity of Independence Day is a time for people to gather, celebrate, travel, and spend treasured moments with family and friends. Picnics, barbecues, swim parties, parades, concerts, and, of course, fireworks are the highlights of the 4th. As homeowners prepare their patios, porches, and backyards for the forthcoming celebrations of the summer season, I’ve been busy consulting with clients on how to improve their landscaping.

The number one problem in the gardens that I visit is the quality of the soil. Long ago my Daddy told me there is a difference between dirt and soil. We can be dirt rich and soil poor. Unfortunately, many gardens are filled with lots of dirt and very poor soil.

Mother Nature is a miracle worker, yet, it’s up to those of us who till to create the vision and set the groundwork for her to do her real work. In order to grow a healthy and beautiful garden, the richness of our soil is paramount.  Just as we wouldn’t build a house without first constructing a solid foundation, we can’t plant a garden unless healthy soil is in place. Over the years, times of droughts or seasons of heavy rainfall deplete the nutrients in our soil. When our fruit trees are not producing or our flowers aren’t blooming we question why this is happening. My first response is to gaze at the ground. When was the last time you added compost? Do you mulch regularly and fertilize when needed? Have you had your soil tested? Do you need to purchase clean soil?

I am a big proponent of having new, fresh, enriched soil delivered every few years to enhance the condition of the dirt. Home gardeners can have their dirt tested for a fee from a variety of labs across the United States to find out about the physical contents, contaminants, and chemicals. With this information, you’ll be able to optimize the growth of your plants and diagnosis any soil-related issues. Here is a sampling of places in California that you can contact. Visit their websites for more information or call to find out what is required.

A & L Western Laboratories, Inc.
Modesto, Ca. 95351

Control Laboratories
Watsonville, Ca. 95076

Dellavalle Laboratory, Inc.
Fresno, Ca. 93728

Fruit Growers Laboratory, Inc.
Stockton, Ca. 95215

Harmony Farm Supply and Nursery
Sebastapol, Ca. 95472

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply
Grass Valley, Ca. 95945

Soil and Plant Laboratory, Inc.
San Jose, Ca. 95128

Test results of soil samples may indicate an excess of salts, improper nutrient levels, too high or low PH, or problems with the soil itself. With the guidance provided by soil testing, gardeners will be able to fertilize properly and amend your dirt, creating the soil for optimum growing.

Dig in the dirt! Amend the soil. Miracles will appear.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Guide

HARVEST garlic. Dig the heads out with a spade. Don’t just pull on the stems. Move the garlic out of sunlight immediately to a shady, dry area such as a porch or a garage where circulation is good.  (My garage smells like a delicious Italian kitchen!) Garlic cures best with the leaves on. Don’t wash your garlic or scrape the dirt off of the bulb. .  Either lay flat or gather the stems into bunches to hang upside down to dry.  Braiding works with softneck garlic. Curing will allow you to enjoy your garlic into winter. You can eat the garlic immediately as well.  Save a few of your biggest heads to use as seed garlic for planting in the fall.

PLAY a lawn game that is new to you. How about the beanbag toss game, Cornhole, or the ring toss similar to horseshoes called Quoit? If you are not too adventurous, stick to croquet and bocce!

PROLONG the life of lemons by filling a jar with water, adding the citrus, and covering tightly. The fruit will last longer than in the refrigerator and the jar makes a pretty counter display. Limes work the same except they require refrigeration.

REHYDRATE wilted vegetables by placing them for fifteen minutes in a large bowl of cold water.

PICK carrots at their prime when they are still young, thin, and sweet. The bigger they get, the stringier and tougher. Carrots don’t need to be peeled. Scrub and go.

GATHER seeds from faded nasturtiums and four o’clocks to replant wherever you want more plants. Nasturtiums are beautiful cascading over a retaining wall or climbing a trellis while four o’clocks open their blooms in the afternoon at…surprise…4pm daily.

CUT rose rosettes to dry for a fragrant and elegant potpourri display.

WATCH for butterflies, especially yellow swallowtails. They are so intent on the flowers that they appear unafraid of the camera lens.

PICK plums and prunes.  Large crops may cause branches to break. Food banks welcome fresh fruit when you have extras.

ENJOY the bounty of fruits and flowering trees and shrubs of July.

SWIM and have fun in the sun this summer. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1110/Digging-Deep-with-Cynthia-Brian-Talking-Dirt.html

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

I’m a Flower Child! By Cynthia Brian

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I’m a Flower Child! By Cynthia Brian

“If you’re going to San Francisco…Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, sung by Scott McKenzie

In the summer of 1967 over one hundred thousand young people descended upon San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, and the Haight-Ashbury area to experience a season of love, peace, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.  The Summer of Love, as this counterculture revolution was called, celebrated with free concerts, performances, protests, and flowers.

I was never a hippie, but I’ve always been a flower child. This month as we reminisce about fifty years of the “make love not war” movement, I put on my beads, headband, rose-colored granny glasses, and wore flowers in my hair as I planned the July Gardening Guide.  No drugs are necessary to enjoy a euphoric trip down memory lane when the garden is brimming with colorful and edible specimens…magic mushrooms excluded. A romp on the wild side was a fun diversion as I plucked my first juicy tomatoes while watching the iridescent wings of the yellow swallowtails flutter between the violet blossoms of thyme and the budding tomatillos.

Bees are swarming the lavender and rosemary gathering nectar for their honeycombs. Because of the heat, I continue to rescue bees and ladybugs that have landed in my fountains. My clematis is chock full of large deep amethyst hued blooms glittering in the sunlight. Pink and white striped morning glory zigs and zags through the golden euphorbia, opening with the sunrise and closing at sunset. Not to be outdone, deep pink sword lilies, commonly known as gladioli, have unfurled their ruffled one-sided spikes amidst the blush Bonica and Dolly Parton roses. The kaleidoscope combination of forms, textures, shades, and scents throughout the landscape add a mesmerizing jolt of joy to each moment.

When I’m ready to relax, I only have to venture into my orchard where the daisy-like florets of the chamomile make for a calming tea, especially enhanced with a squirt of juice from my tangelos. Another excellent medicinal tea is made from foraging for red clover, a wild perennial rich in magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and calcium. The red or pink flowers have a mildly sweet flavor and are often used to ease stomach discomfort or menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. The leaves taste like alfalfa sprouts and can be tossed into salads along with dandelions, sautéed, or added to soups. If I’m in the mood for something a bit stronger, it’s always fun to muddle the mint into a mojito or mint julep!

Soon the fireworks of the Fourth of July will be flaring filling the night sky with the exploding whirls and swirls circa a 1960’s acid-dropping experience. Go into your garden, pick a few blooms, and wear flowers in your hair. If you are a gardener, you are a flower child. Welcome to s beautiful summer of love! Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for July

⎫ MINIMIZE back strain by keeping your back straight not hunched while planting or weeding. Avoid twisting and reaching overhead. ⎫ CREATE walking paths with gravel, stepping stones, or bricks throughout your landscape so that you never compress the soil of your planted beds by walking in them.

⎫ SUPPRESS weeds, retain moisture, and keep a consistent temperature in your soil by adding four inches of compost or mulch around your plants. No need to turn under the compost or mulch.

⎫ PICK tomatoes just as they form a hint of color allowing them to ripen on your countertops. This prevents them from being eaten by birds and insects. Never refrigerate tomatoes as they lose their flavor.

⎫ GET FREE recycled water, up to 300 gallons per trip, from Central San. Visit www.CentralSan.org. You’ll need to fill out an application and bring your own containers. Central San notes that water is very heavy at eight pounds per gallon and is not to be consumed or allowed into storm drains.

⎫ CLEAR away weeds, grasses, dead vegetation, limbs, pine needles, leaves, and debris from all areas around your house to safeguard your home from embers. It’s fire season and we need to be vigilant to reduce fire fuel laddering.

⎫ CUT a bouquet of roses for a punch of stimulation. Sunset colors are perfect for summer.

⎫ DECORATE your dinner parties with edible flowers including pansy, elderberry, calendula, chamomile, clover, daisy, nasturtium, rose, snapdragon, and violets. Most herb and fruit tree blossoms are also edible including apple, banana, basil, chives, citrus, peach, pea, pear, pineapple guava, pumpkin, radish, rosemary, sage, squash, sunflower, and thyme.

⎫ IRRIGATE early in the morning or late evening. Remember to water deeply and less frequently.

⎫ DEEP soak redwoods and magnolias before signs of stress appear or their roots will surface.

⎫ EMPLOY successive planting techniques to continue your crops of lettuce, radish, carrots, and greens. Every three weeks, plant more seeds as you clip and harvest for continual fresh eating through autumn.

⎫ REPEL pests and predators while attracting beneficial pollinators by planting aromatic herbs including rosemary, basil, cilantro, sage, fennel, and thyme.

⎫ ORGANIZE a flower power photo scavenger hunt. Provide a list of ten unusual specimens growing in your garden. Invite friends to find and photograph them for a special prize, perhaps a pot of petunias or a basket filled with gardening tools.

⎫ CONGRATULATE yourself on being a gardener. You are an authentic flower child. Enjoy a safe and electrifying Independence Day! Happy birthday America! Embrace your free spirit, dance under the stars, and salute the sunshine as you relish a stellar summer of love. Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1109/July-Gardening-Guide-Be-a-Flower-Child.html Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com Her new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener will be available soon! Hire Cynthia for your next project.   Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com www.GoddessGardener.com 925-377-STAR

Uprooting and Transplanted By Cynthia Brian

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Uprooting and Transplanted By Cynthia Brian

“What you plant now, you will harvest later.” Og Mandino

It’s the time of year when kids are excitedly looking towards the play-filled days of summer while parents are wondering how they will juggle all of their children’s activities-swim meets, fairs, camps, baseball tournaments, concerts, and, possibly a move. During the summer, many people are uprooted and transplanted to another location. Sometimes the disruption is just across town and sometimes it is across the country or across the globe.

It’s challenging and often a shock to our systems getting settled, making friends, and building a new garden. When plants, trees, and shrubs are moved, they also go through an instance of distress. It doesn’t matter if they are being moved from one part of the garden to another or across the continent to a new home, as directors of our landscapes, we have a responsibility to give the transplants a good foundation for their new environs.  Spring, early summer, and late fall are traditionally optimal times for this transition.  Follow the suggestions below for a successful uprooting and transplanting experience.

Transplanting Tips: When we transplant seedlings, trees, shrubs, or other plants, they experience shock. To diminish the negative effects of being moved, these easy steps will help provide strength and adjustment to the new environment.

1. Prevent shock effectively by gently uprooting. Dig up as many of the roots as possible and don’t shake the dirt off. Refrain from cutting roots, unless a plant has been root bound.

2. To strengthen the plant, cut it back about 1/3 and make sure to remove any flowers, dead leaves, or dying limbs. This will help the plant regenerate more quickly without exerting extra energy. Don’t over prune or you’ll worsen the effects of shock.

3. Provide clean, nutrient rich soil for the transplants. Buy bags of topsoil or potting soil, depending on where you are transplanting.

4. Before transplanting, boil eight cups of water with eight tablespoons of sugar. Stir and allow cooling to room temperature. Before putting the roots in the new soil, pour two cups of this liquid on the transplant.  Save two cups for each plant after the transplant. This recipe is good for two plants. Increase recipe to make as much as needed.

5. Dig a large enough hole for the transplant as a major cause of shock is placing a plant in too small of a hole and not providing enough water.

6. After planting in your new location or container, pour the remaining two cups of sugar water on the plant.

7. Water the transplant thoroughly. This helps the roots settle into the new soil.

8. Monitor water on a regular basis. Proper watering is essential for rapid recovery.

9. Wilted, shriveled, scorched, rolled, curled, or yellow leaves are indicators of shock.  An immune system booster for transplants is to treat with aspirin water. Smash two or three aspirins in a gallon of water. Trickle water on your plants to increase plant health.

10. Add three to four inches of organic mulch around the plants to reduce symptoms. Mulch will insulate the plant, maintaining a consistent temperature while prevent erosion.

11. Continue to water deeply yet be diligent not to drown the roots.

12. Give the plants time to recover and settle into their new home. Have patience. It’s shocking to be uprooted!

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Guide o WATER deeply and less frequently. As summer approaches our gardens will be thirstier. By watering deeply, you encourage strong roots. If you want to use a hose and sprinkler, buy a water timer that can be attached to a hose bib. Price is only about $23-30 and will save you time, money, and waste. o GROW roses on your patio or deck in containers where you have plenty of sunlight. Use high quality soil and tree rose of your choosing for blooms and beauty all season long. Cover a mailbox with a climbing rose to increase your curb appeal. o SNIP the tops off mint to enjoy in multiple refreshing uses including salads and mojitos.

o SPREAD the seeds of Love in a Mist after they have finished blooming. The seed pods can be crushed and shaken in areas where you want more flowers next year.

o PRIVACY screens are all the rage in neighborhoods. Prune privets to a height and width you want for a quick green fence or plant clumping bamboo. (This bamboo does not get out of control or tear up your concrete)

o GIVE the gift of living plant to your graduate. With care, a plant will be a constant reminder of your ongoing love.

o PROTEST water rate increases by writing a letter to let EBMUD. Send to EBMUD, MS218, PO Box 24055, Oakland, Ca. 94623-1055

o CELEBRATE Dad on Father’s Day. A well-made tool or herbs for his barbecue marinades could be right up his alley.

o WATCH for mosquito larvae in birdbaths and other still water. Empty water from all containers or add animal safe Dunks.

o WIN $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest, I encourage you to enter your best garden photo. The top prize is $50,000. Wish I could enter! http://www.americasbestgardener.com

o Harvest what’s ripe and ready: • Mulberries (you may have to battle the birds) • Cherries (Ditto to above) • Wild Plums • Nectarines, • Kale • Mints Enjoy our final days of spring. Summer sun and fun is quickly approaching. Congratulations to all of our graduates and a very Happy Father’s Day to all the great daddies. Kudos to you all. Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1108/Digging-Deep-11-Tips-for-uprooting-and-transplanting-gardens.html Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com Her new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener will be available soon! Hire Cynthia for your next project.   Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com www.GoddessGardener.com 925-377-STAR

Rooms of His Own By Cynthia Brian

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Rooms of His Own By Cynthia Brian

The only limit to your garden is at the boundaries of your imagination.”
Thomas D. Church

From the street, the white ranch style house of Michael Curtis belies the magnificence waiting to be discovered beyond the garden gates.  A collector of all things cast off and cast iron, Michael converts salvaged junk into artistic architecture that transforms his garden into an alluring adventure of discovery.

His grandfather founded L. N. Curtis and Sons Fire Protection and Emergency Response Equipment in 1929 and throughout Curtis’ life he has accumulated firefighting memorabilia.  Michael’s father introduced him to collecting rocks, minerals, glass, and old bottles as they explored abandoned mines and ghost towns together.  As a boy, one of Michael’s favorite jaunts was hiking the railroad tracks where he’d pick up discarded telegraph insulators. When he’d find anything that was made of cast iron, he was especially excited. All of these treasures were stored and as he traversed the globe as an adult, he added to his compilation. His heartfelt dream was to one day create a secret garden where all of his unusual trinkets would dance with the most colorful flowers in perfect harmony.

With his love of the English countryside, his first home boasted an English cottage garden, complete with an authentic red phone booth. In 2001, he moved that phone booth along with his beloved remnants from his industrial revolution fascination to a small house on an acre of land filled with diseased and dying trees.  After removing fifty-five Eucalyptus, Michael enriched the soil, and without any written plan or design schematic, began work on his inspired masterpiece using his vision and intuition as guides.

Smooth stones lead through a lush lawn to the iron arbor covered in the sunset oranges and reds of Joseph’s coat and flanked by white Alba tree roses. Chimes, bells, and hummingbird feeders dangle from the arch while a variety of birdhouses perch on poles, nesting birds darting in and out.  Rows of telegraph insulators lining the path are accentuated by two hand painted manhole covers, gifts from a trip to Japan.  With the flip of a switch, the insulators illuminate like Christmas lights.

Color is a driving force in the garden and the combination of textures and forms is mesmerizing. Michael built brick retaining walls and planters, filling them with an enormous diversity of rainbow flora including camellias, roses, impatiens, lilies, Daphne, birds of paradise, gerbera daisies, lobelia, salvia, pansies, violets, canna, petunias, daisies, lavender, foxglove, nasturtium, and a variety of bushes, boxwoods, and shrubs. The tranquil sounds of cascading water emanate from the nine fountains scattered throughout the property. Whether one turns right or turns left, an eclectic wood or metal gate directs attention to a divergent garden room sectioned by a growing privet fence and festooned with artifacts from Michael’s escapades to estate sales, fairs, salvage yards, and years of walking the rails. He even built a tree house from reclaimed barn wood adding a ladder, an antique loggers saw, and vintage signs discovered in the Gold country. An abandoned test missile rests against the fence awaiting its proper placement.

Gazing balls and a rusted butterfly grace the formal rose garden with the pièce de résistance being the round stepping stones Michael crafted using a wine barrel ring, concrete, colored glass, rusted tools, horseshoes, and other discarded items that captured his fancy.  Fire hydrants, water pumps, street placards, and railroad warning signs dot the landscape as well as inspirational messages.

The result is whimsical, magical, playful, and most of all, timeless.

Although his garden is uniquely his refuge, what Michael adores more than anything is sharing his garden rooms with friends. With a glass of wine in hand, he graciously guides while explaining the stories behind every artifact and every plant. Of course, if one wants to meander alone, he encourages the exploration. There is no worry about getting lost in this maze as every gate has a unique bell so that he can tell where anyone is at any given moment.

I attempted to glean a bit of gardening advice and came away with these tips:
1. Let your unique vision and your imagination be the driving force of a garden design. There are no limits.
2. Anything is art. Display your collections in an appealing manner to evoke conversations and questions. What may be trash to someone else could be a treasure to you.
3. Let color be king. Don’t be afraid to razzle dazzle and mix it up.
4. Add grace and relaxation with water elements. Fountains are fabulous.
5. Do the unexpected. (Who would think about showcasing an English telephone booth, a man-hole cover in the garden or adding lights to telegraph insulators?)
6. Offer shelter and food for the birds. You can never have too many birdhouses.
7. Don’t be afraid to try new plants. If you like it, plant it. If it grows, great. If not, move on. Planting is pure pleasure.
8. Create garden rooms, not just garden beds.
9. Welcome your loved ones to share your oasis with a glass of wine for walking.

Before I left this enchanted setting, I asked Michael what his plans for the future entailed. Since his right hand helper, Tony, will be retiring next year, he said he is contemplating selling this personal paradise.  “Won’t you be sad to leave all this beauty behind?” I queried. “Yes, but it’s time for me to be off on a new world quest,” he retorted.

At that moment, I could imagine him dashing to the end of the arbor pathway, entering his red English phone booth and, like other super heroes, flying off to rescue another forlorn and forgotten garden.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1107/June-Gardening-Guide-Rooms-of-His-Own.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

The Magic of May By Cynthia Brian

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The Magic of May By Cynthia Brian

The Magic of May

By Cynthia Brian

“Harmony makes small things grow.
Lack of it makes big things decay.” Sallust

By mid May Mother Nature has waved her magical wand sprinkling glitter and glory among her growing children. No matter where you look, shrubs, trees, and landscapes showcase a beauty and harmony that set this month apart from the remaining eleven. Herbaceous peonies are budding and will bloom for weeks offering outstanding companionship to mixed perennial gardens. Glorious bouquets of roses decorate pathways and arbors. Fields of bearded iris brighten the most mundane areas with their multitude of colors, gentle fragrance, and graceful arches. Horse chestnut, buckeye, and locust trees are overflowing with grape-like bunches of blooms. Get up close to examine the intricacies of their flowers.

The warmer weather has sped up the blooming season while only a month earlier the cooler weather slowed it down. My waves of bright blue forget-me-nots have settled into a sea of seeds that attach to any clothing that ventures near easily spreading the flowers to places unplanned. Along the creek beds, even the poisonous hemlock weeds sprouted several feet taller than in previous years with attractive clusters of flowers resembling Queen Anne’s lace. Tiny Alpine strawberries are red, ripe, and delicious as snacks or in salads. Better to eat these than any store-bought strawberry. Thanks to the unparalleled Pearl’s Premium grass seeds, my lawn has never looked so lush and lovely. If you want turf that is tough, drought resistant, low maintenance, and beautiful, start thinking now about preparing your ground for an autumn seeding of Pearl’s Premium. (www.PearlsPremium.com)

The Old Farmer’s Almanac recently contacted a colleague garden writer asking about what tools, products, and plants gardeners sought most this year. She posted a request for suggestions on our member community site and I reveled in the answers that I believe resonate with you, my garden guide readers. Here’s my abbreviated version of what we gardeners want.
1. We crave information that we can use on a daily basis.
2. We want to grow our own food for better nutrition and first-rate freshness.
3. We want to save money.
4. We want to bring pollinators into our gardens for an organically friendly habitat. We are putting out the welcome mat for birds, bees, butterflies, and bats.
5. We want to reduce waste by composting more.
6. We want tools that are sturdy, long lasting, yet not exorbitantly expensive.
7. We want to explore simpler to use, more environmentally friendly power tools that are battery powered and strong.
8. We want space saving ideas including container and vertical gardening techniques.
9. We want to learn to prune properly.
10. We want low maintenance, native alternatives, and drought resistant plants.
11. We want to ENJOY our garden rooms!

The wants of the national garden community echo locally as well. My promise to you is to continue to bring you the latest tools, tips, and tricks that will make your garden experience extraordinary.


In my opinion, one of the main reasons to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs is to know what is in your soil and on your plants. The USDA discovered 178 different pesticides on sample produce this year with the residue persisting even after the produce was thoroughly washed. Strawberries topped the list with over 20 different pesticides, one of the main reasons I grow my own strawberries and Alpine berries.

The cleanest and therefore the healthiest produce included:
1. Corn,
2. Avocadoes
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Onions
6. Peas
7. Papaya
8. Asparagus
9. Mangoes
10. Eggplant
11. Honeydew Melons
12. Kiwis
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Grapefruit

Pesticide residues are extremely rare on “The Clean Fifteen” so these are items that we can buy and serve without worry.

Known as “the Dirty Dozen” here’s a list of the worst produce culprits you can purchase:
1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Nectarines
4. Apples
5. Peaches
6. Celery
7. Grapes
8. Pears
9. Cherries
10. Tomatoes
11. Bell Peppers
12. Potatoes

Sadly, all of these fruits and vegetables are family favorites and generally considered to be healthy. Luckily we can easily grow all of these and if you don’t want to grow your own, make sure to buy organic.

Speaking of dirty, let’s get really dirty! In a year when we are finally out of a drought, reservoirs are filled to capacity and overflowing, EBMUD wants to raise our rates for both water and wastewater services! If you received a notice of a public hearing from the East Bay Municipal Utility District, read it carefully. Write a protest letter to let EBMUD know that you do not want higher rates. Send to EBMUD, MS218, PO Box 24055, Oakland, Ca. 94623-1055 or you can protest in person on Tuesday, June 13 at 1:15pm at 375 11th Street, Oakland, Ca. 94607.

I am vehemently opposed to another water hike when we have all been so diligent in saving and conserving water for the past several years. Our water rates are already untenable. Let EBMUD know you are against all rate increases. Give us a break, EBMUD!

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Gardening Tips

⎫ TUNE UP your irrigation system. Check for sprinklers that aren’t working, bushes or fences that are blocking sprinkler heads, broken pipes, clogged nozzles, leaky hoses and valves, and sprinklers that are spraying driveways and walkways.

⎫ MULCH for water retention and weed prevention. Three inches is recommended. Your soil will improve over time as well.

⎫ TAKE breaks while gardening to protect your back and knees.

⎫ PLANT summer blooming bulbs and seeds. There are over one hundred different choices of bulbs and two hundred perennials.

⎫ IMPROVE memory, lower cancer risk, and promote your heart health by planting a container of blueberries. Easy to grow as a patio plant, one serving provides 25% of your daily Vitamin C requirement.

⎫ WIN $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter your best garden photo. The top prize is $50,000.  http://www.americasbestgardener.com

Avoid decay and continue the harmony every day. Enjoy the magic of May. Have a magnificent Memorial Day weekend, too!

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1106/Digging-Deep-The-Magic-of-May.html

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

May Play By Cynthia Brian

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May Play By Cynthia Brian

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” Rachel Carson

The intoxicating waft of sweet jasmine filled my nostrils as I opened my front door and stepped onto the porch. Droplets of rain still clung to the leaves of the Japanese maple while the bright orb of sunshine broke through the cumulus clouds encouraging the clematis to reveal their splendor.

May! Magnificent May!

Between the copious showers and the solar assistance, spring is alive and lush with the grandeur of flora. My entire garden is bursting with surprises of color, textures, and forms. Plants are sprouting that I thought had long ago failed. The orchard trees are abundant with the tiny beginnings of the luscious fruit that will ripen in summer and fall. Scampering from branch to branch, squirrels entertain while stealing the bright orange loquats in their harried feeding frenzy. Birds, lizards, frogs, spiders, and other garden collaborators are active in their pursuit of the bounty of the month.

Yet, alas, weeds, weeds, everywhere. I spent every weekend in April in addition to hours daily before and after work pulling, composting, pulling, composting, pulling, and composting. The good news is that the soil is amenable, and although tedious and exhausting, I am able to pull most of these grasses and undesirables by hand. After all of my April preparations, including soil amending, I am finally ready for May planting. Seeds have been carefully sown for okra, beets, carrots, jalapenos, arugula, pole beans, bush beans, rattlesnake beans, peas, chard, corn, pumpkin, cucumber, a variety of lettuces, greens, and kohlrabi. On Mother’s Day I’ll plant seedlings of tomatoes, eggplant, and squash. I am excited to tend to this living family of friends.

When I was a child, this was my most favorite time of the year (Christmas excepted) because we were able to dig in the dirt, plant our vegetable garden, and moreover, savor the succulent smells of the soil of spring. When my children were young, getting them involved in the outdoor projects was paramount. Invite your children to plant a garden with you. Kids love getting dirty. We were told that we had “clean dirt” because after a day in the garden our bodies and clothes were washed. (My Mom used to brush us off with a broom, too!) Children will be fascinated with worms, bugs, frogs, and lizards. Gardening together forms family bonds with memories that will last forever, as you witness mine have.  We were given our own plot of land to grow whatever we wanted and I did the same for my kids. My son’s name remains on the gate where he began his “Veggie Garden”. Suggest that your child grow a pizza garden filled with tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil, and oregano or maybe a butterfly and bee heaven where pollinators will gather. Think easy to grow plants such as lavender, sunflowers, or poppies.

Make sure to spray yourself and your clothing with bug repellent. Ticks are ubiquitous this season hiding in the tall grass and shrubs just waiting to jump onto a heart healthy human and start the blood sucking. Mosquito larvae are already hatching. With all of the rain, get ready for mosquito madness. Scour your property for the tiniest accumulation of water in a container and dump it out. Old tires are notorious breeders of mosquitoes as water gets trapped in the inner rims and the larvae multiply and hatch quickly.

Spring is healing. It’s new birth. It’s a refresher course on living. Step outside your front door. Inhale the fragrance. Observe the beauty. Then get into your garden for a day of play. Hurray for May!

Cynthia Brian’s Goddess Gardener Tips for May

DIVIDE perennials, especially those that will bloom in autumn such as sedum and chrysanthemum.  Dig up the clumps , pull apart, and replant in other areas.

TRANSPLANT shrubs, trees, and other plants that you want in other places in your garden.  Make sure to get as much of the root ball as possible when digging, replant immediately. Water thoroughly.

PLANT okra, beans, watermelon, cucumbers, corn, amaranth, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, pumpkin, and whatever you love to eat.

REMOVE the bulbs from the potted gifts of narcissus, tulip, hyacinth, or Easter lilies that you received in April after the blooms and foliage die back and plant in your garden. You’ll be thrilled next year when the blooms and the reminiscences of the giver rekindle joy in your heart.

ADD nitrogen and organic matter while building the quality of the soil with a cover crop leaving no bare soil.  Radish, cowpea, sunflower, oats, and flax will provide lovely cut flowers, and prevent erosion until you are ready to plant something else for the summer.

USE the best tools possible for your gardening chores to save time and labor. A strong and well made hoe, spade, shovel, pick, pruning saw, pruning shears, hand trowel, and rake are essentials that when maintained properly will last for many years.  Recommend buying construction grade tools instead of just garden tools.

PRE-ORDER my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. Publishing was delayed in April but will be ready for May. All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity. http://goddessgardener.com/books

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter to win $50,000.  Show the world that your thumb is the greenest by showing the world pictures of your garden today! http://www.americasbestgardener.com

PLAN to attend the Orinda Garden Club Tour on May 11 where five Orinda and Lafayette gardens will showcase their spectacular outdoor living settings. Get inspired for spring. http://www.orindagc.ord/tour2017.

PAY your water bill with your credit card and accumulate those airline and hotel miles. EBMUD only charges an additional $1.99.  Best deal!

EMPTY all outdoor vessels of standing water. Even a teacup saucer will breed mosquitoes.

VISIT the Be the Star You Are!® booth at the Moraga Faire on Saturday, May 13th between 11-4pm to get a bag of complimentary spring potpourri. Bring your gardening questions and I’ll be there to answer them. www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events

INVITE your Mother for a day of garden strolling. Visit the Botanical Gardens in San Francisco (http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org) or go on a hike on your favorite trail.

Looking forward to seeing you at the 11th Annual Moraga Faire. Let’s talk about play in May.  My sincerest wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day to every Mom in our community. You are love and are loved.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1105/Gardening-Guide-Hurray-for-May.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

Purple Reign! By Cynthia Brian

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Purple Reign! By Cynthia Brian

“God gets mad if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  Alice Walker, The Color Purple

As I amble through my April garden, I know that God is very happy! Purple, the color of royalty, wisdom, and luxury is favored in the majority of my botanical blooms.  The nobility of the season is highlighted with the elegantly perfumed lilac, the scented grace of cascading wisteria, and the pride of the dark and handsome hellebore as it changes from its deep shaded amethyst of winter to the violet and chartreuse of spring. Bees are swarming, sucking the sweet nectar from the fragrant flowers of lavender, freesia, and the Chinese fringe.  Shades of indigo, mauve, and sangria pepper the landscape offering a powerful presence yet calming expression.

Purple bearded iris and Dutch iris tender their brilliance in the middle of the weed filled hillside where Jerusalem star, also known as goat’s beard thrive. Bulbs and rhizomes are the ultimate VIP’s of my garden. Once planted, I forget about them until they burst into bloom, a welcome surprise especially when other plants are failing.  If you are a beginner gardener, I highly recommend indulging in bulbs for all seasons. Most require little maintenance and effort with minimal water while providing maximum results. Some of my perennial favorites that are available in hues of purple include calla lily, gladiolus, oriental lily, bearded iris, Asiatic lily, dahlia, anemone, and naked lady.

I love the color purple and have dedicated this month to everything purple.  If you’d like to bring a bit more of the richness of purple into your outdoors, I recommend checking out a few of these favorite cultivars.

Agastache Violet Vision
Aquilegia Swan Lavender
Aster Kickin’ Purple
Astilbe Purple Candles
Buddelia Miss  Violet
Campanula Milan Lilac
Chinese Fringe Plant
Clematis Jackmanii
Delphinium Pagan Purples
Digitalis Sugar Plum
Echinacea Magnus
Hellebore Dark and Handsome
Hemerocallis Black Stockings
Heuchera Fire Alarm
Hollyhock Crème de Cassis
Hydrangea Let’s Dance Rave
Iris Superstition
Monarda Piurple Rooster
Nepeta Little Trudy
Purple Potato Vine
Phlox Laura
Prunella Puprle Daze
Rose Angel Face
Salvia May Night
Society Garlic
Sea Foam Statice
Tulips (Black Parrot or Victoria’s Secret)
Veronica Hocus Pocus

Ask your nursery if they carry inventory from Bluestone Perennials, Brent and Becky’s, White Flower Farm, and Proven Winners. While perusing the gardens, buy petunias, pansies, zinnias, and other annuals in the hues that will brighten your landscape.

“Purple haze, all in my brain
Lately things they don’t seem the same
Actin’ funny, but I don’t know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky!” Jimi Hendrix
I am kissing the sky with joy for spring. Get your purple haze on!

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for April

SPLASH your barbecue grill with white vinegar then scrub with half an onion to clean the grates and get ready for outside dining.

BUFF your garden tools by plunging them in a five-gallon bucket of sand mixed with a cup of vegetable oil. The sand will keep them sharper and the oil wards off rust. Small hand tools can be stored in the sand bucket.

PLANT frost tender plants as the weather warms towards the end of the month. Ground covers, citrus, bougainvillea, and summer annuals are available for purchase.

SOW seeds of scarlet runner bean, sweet peas, or morning glories to climb on fences and wire.

RESIST cutting back the dying leaves of narcissi and daffodils. The frongs are gathering their nutrition for next year’s blooms. Cut them back only when as dry as potato chips.

BAIT the snails and slugs, pick them off by hand, use copper barriers, or bowls of beer. These slimy crawlers will devour new seedlings.

BUY ladybugs from your nursery or garden center if you see aphids or other pests on your plants. Remember ladybugs fly to infested gardens.

VISIT the Be the Star You Are!® booth at the Moraga Faire on Saturday, May 13th between 11-4pm to get a bag of complimentary spring potpourri. Bring your gardening questions and I’ll be there to answer them. www.BetheStarYouAre.org/events

SELECT appropriate plants in one or two gallon pots for your shade garden. Smaller sizes don’t root as quickly. Hostas, ferns, vinca minor, anemones, begonias, and impatiens mingle beautifully without much sunlight.

PLANT purple anything this spring and be delighted all year.

WEED, weed, weed. Because of the heavy rains this year, weeds are ubiquitous, yet easy to pull. If they don’t have seed heads, add to your compost pile.

PRE-ORDER my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity.

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter your best garden photo. The top prize is $50,000.  http://www.americasbestgardener.com

BUY a beautiful potted purple lavender plant to show your love for your Mother or anyone’s Mom’s on Mother’s Day.

A heartfelt shout out to every Mom! You are the nurturers and our teachers. Happy Mother’s Day! Let it rain purple.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

Read more at https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1104/Digging-Deep-Color-me-purple.html

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

Grow Grass! By Cynthia Brian

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Grow Grass! By Cynthia Brian

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~Virgil

Yes, California passed Proposition 64 last November, however, this column is not about cultivating marijuana, although I am writing about the glories of grass.

Spring is spectacular with its wardrobe of rainbow blooms. Trees are covered with blossoms, the fragrance of freesia engages our nostrils, and the ubiquitous beauty surrounding us is awe-inspiring. We are so blessed that Mother Nature celebrates the re-birth of the seasons with a grand April entrance.

Because of the warmer soil, fall is the best time to plant or re-seed a lawn, yet spring runs a close second in popularity. If you haven’t torn out your swath of grass in the past few years during our dreadful drought, no doubt you are now looking at a runway of green in your yard thanks to the months of rain. To manage your efforts maintaining the health, beauty, and benefits of your lawn for the remainder of the year, get started this month with simple best practices.

Tips to Growing a Lush, Green, Sustainable Turf

⎫ Decide if you want to seed, sod, or re-seed. Seeding for the first time is best done in autumn when the soil is warm as germination is swifter. You can successfully re-seed, over-seed, and sod in spring, including those irksome bare patches.

⎫ Whichever you choose, your first consideration is to properly prepare your soil.  Check the PH level. Ideally lawns should be in the 6-7 range. If lower than six, add lime, if higher than seven, add sulfur to bring the PH down.

⎫ Pull the weeds. If you have lots of weeds, keep in mind that weeds mean that the soil conditions are imbalanced. Weeds provide homes and food for microbes but your soil must be improved before your new sod or grass seeds will thrive. Many “weeds” are actually gourmet dinner or tea ingredients including plantain, dandelion, creeping Charlie, mint, mustard, lambs quarter, and more.

⎫ Order several yards of enriched soil and compost to be delivered.  Ask the yard experts what is their best soil for improving your lawn. Soil is the foundation.

⎫ Add organic fertilizer to accelerate deeper rooting.

⎫ Aerate to loosen the soil. A core aerator will punch holes in the ground to bring air and water to the roots.  The finger plugs are to be left on the surface to naturally decompose.  Less compaction equals better drainage and absorption.

⎫ Consult your favorite nursery professional for a recommendation on the best seed combinations for you. I’m a huge fan of mixed growth lawns for year around enjoyment. I re-seed with Pearl’s Premium (www.PearlsPremium.com) interspersed with plugs of isotoma (blue star creeper) and white and red clover. Together they make a very attractive natural rug and the clover is a natural nitrogen supplier. Some people enjoy lawns laced with wild strawberry, violets, mint, or even planted with bulbs.

⎫ You may have to cover re-seeded areas with netting to keep the birds away. For small areas, discarded window or door screens work well.

⎫ Let the rainfall do the watering to get your grass established. If it’s later in the season when the rain has stopped, water deeply in the morning twice a week or as needed.

⎫ Mow your lawns with a sharp blade on a high setting without the bag allowing the cut grass to remain on the lawn. This is called grasscycling and is the most beneficial component of cultivating a lush, deep green, thick healthy lawn. If you are buying a new mower, buy a mulch mower, which will chop the grass. Grasscycling allows the clippings to be the fertilizer that provides nutrients to your grass. Scientific research indicates that the content of typical grass clippings by weight is Nitrogen (N) 4%, Potassium (P) 2%, and Phosphorous (K) .5%.  By recycling your grass clippings back to your lawn, you use 25% less additional fertilizer.

⎫ Mulch the re-seeded areas to create a strong turf.

⎫ Stay off the grass while it’s growing!

⎫ For those of you who are “Ex Lawn Rangers”, you can create an inviting mosaic with massed groundcovers and low growers including dicondra, ajuga, creeping thyme, golden creeping Jenny, dwarf cinquefoil, or even sedum.  You’ll need to clip, snip, and maintain.  Most groundcovers are not foot-traffic friendly.

Benefits of Maintaining a Lawn

Although many people tend to discourage lawns in landscapes as a water conservation method, I am a firm believer that the humble grass shoot offers benefits to our health and wellbeing.  Besides the fact that children and animals enjoy a safe, comfortable place to tumble and toss, lawns contribute to better air quality by trapping dust and smoke particles while cooling the air from the ground up. Our environments are made more habitable by the generation of oxygen absorbing the pollutants of carbon and sulfur dioxide. Lawns clean the air we breathe. Erosion is controlled because water can’t carve deep recesses in a thickly planted lawn. Water filters through turf grass making our ground waters safer and cleaner for the environment. A patch of green soothes the eye when viewing a landscape, offering a resting space between the color explosions of flowers and shrubs. Lawns offer a buffer zone in fire prevention. Several years ago when one of the biggest wild fires in our national history hit the forests of Northern California, our family cabin’s grassy meadow became the safe zone for dozens of firefighters from around the country. That lawn literally saved lives and the forest from the raging blaze.

Prepare your grass for healthy growing this spring, and get ready for the fun-filled days of croquet, ball games, picnics, sprinkler baths, or just staring up at the clouds.

Remember that maintaining your lawn enhances the environment, improves your health, and optimizes your enjoyment of the great outdoors. And that’s great grass!

Cynthia Brian’s Goddess Gardener Tips for April

BEWARE of ticks.  Check your body, hair, and clothing after gardening. On a rainy day in mid March when I was covered head to toe in clothing, a tick bit me on my neck. The golf ball size lump is still painful.

TURN houseplants a quarter round every week to give adequate amount of sunlight to all parts.

BAIT for snails and slugs.

VISIT the Wagner Ranch Wildlife Festival on Sunday, April 23 for FREE family fun. Honeybees, goats, turtles, birds, garden activities, food, music, nature tours, arts, and crafts.  350 Camino Pablo Rd at Bear Creek Road in Orinda.  https://fwrna.org/wildlifefest/

Peruse Flower Photography: Award winning photographer Anne Morrison Rabe’s Spring Flowers exhibit is showcased now at Homemade Kitchen, 337 Rheem Boulevard, in Moraga.  Almost all of Anne’s photographs were shot with an iphone. Eat, drink, and enjoy the art.www.Amr-Photogrpahy.com

PRE-ORDER my forthcoming garden book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, Book I in the Garden Shorts Series. All pre-orders will receive extra goodies such as heirloom seeds, bookmarks, and more. Email me for details, Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com. 25% of the proceeds benefit the 501c3 Be the Star You Are!® charity.

Win $50,000 for your Garden:  As a judge in America’s Best Gardener Contest. I encourage you to enter to win $50,000.  Show the world that your thumb is the greenest by showing the world pictures of your garden today! http://www.americasbestgardener.com

Happy Gardening! Happy Growing!

Read More

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is a New York Times best selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Available for hire for any project.

Fresh Ideas in the Garden

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Fresh Ideas in the Garden

Wild Mediterranean Garden

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for May
Spring Forward with Fresh Ideas
By Cynthia Brian

“Now every field is clothed with grass, and every tree with leaves; now the woods put forth their blossoms, and the year assumes its gay attire.” ~Virgil
peony in vase
With all the rain we’ve enjoyed this season, spring has birthed the most spectacular garden displays experienced in years.  The air is fragrant with the scent of jasmine, emerald green hills are decorated with golden poppies, and pretty peonies populate our plots.  Songbirds chirp as they feather their nests, butterflies flit from blossom to bloom, lady beetles and bees are busy with their business. A lovely turkey feather poked out from under my fig bush by my living room window. When I went to grab it, I realized it was attached to a wild hen sitting on eggs! She wasn’t even startled and I’ve continued to enjoy watching her daily.

Our natural world has found its equilibrium.

My Pearl’s Premium lawn is finally looking lush and full. The secret was constant re-seeding, daily moisture, and netting to keep the birds at bay. This summer will tell how drought resistant the grass is. One thing is for certain, it has definitely forced out weeds and dandelions. Whereas I used to pick at least a hundred dandelions a day to feed the quail, I am now down to half a dozen or even less. Thus far I am impressed with this grass seed and will keep you posted as the dry weather sets in. (www.pearlspremium.com)
azalea close up
I’ve been busy planting seeds one by one, a very tedious task, as I’m not one to start my seedlings indoors. Instead I use an egg carton and pour the various seeds I want to plant into the egg holders, then, I meticulously plunge each tiny seed into its own hole. Some seeds, like Echinacea, are smaller than a pinpoint. One has to have serious dedication to growing a variety of specimens when sowing. My preferred method is to scatter a big bucket of seeds mixed with sand and see what thrives. Cinda McKinnon of Orinda has used this method successfully on her wild Mediterranean hillside.
Turkey hen
My March 23, 2016 article about cultivating a wildflower meadow sparked immense interest from across the country.  One of my favorite descriptive notes arrived from Ron in Texas who wrote:
“What a wonderful article on growing wildflowers. I’ve always loved wildflowers, remembering the trillium that carpeted the Wisconsin forests in the spring and the daisies, black-eyed Susans, and other wildflowers that covered any open field all summer long. Later, finding wild azalea in the Georgian woods and now, in Texas, going to see the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, as well as finding every vacant lot here in Houston filled with 7 foot tall sunflowers. Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson, planes seed most Texas highways with beautiful wildflowers largely in the spring before the heat and drought of summer and their beauty. I always let my yard grow wild in spring so that many wildflowers there can bloom and reseed.”

And that is the secret to spring wildflowers-allow them to bloom and reseed.

The simple pleasures of spring are available to all of us to savor. Get moving and get into your garden.
lilies-pearl's premium grass

REFRESH your dirt with a few yards of new, enriched top soil and compost. Good soil is the foundation for a healthy, happy landscape.

TILL your cover crops of vetch, mustard, clover, or fava beans into your soil. If they have grown to large to till, pull them out, run them over with a lawnmower, then return them to the soil for all of the nutrients they will provide your produce.

SEPARATE seeds in an egg carton for ease in sowing.

POKE holes in the soil with a pencil or stick to plant a variety of small seeds including sunflowers, hollyhock, cathedral bells, purple hyacinth beans, and perennial sweet peas.

SOAK morning glory seeds for 8 hours before planting or nick with a fingernail clipper to assist in rooting.

DISCOVER spring by scattering wildflower seeds. Allow them to bloom and reseed themselves for another display next season.

GATHER a bouquet of peonies or even a single stem to create a stunning and long lasting floral arrangement.

BUILD simple raised beds to grow your bounty of vegetables. Even a small 3 x 3 foot redwood box will provide space for plenty.

SHOP for vegetables and herbs at your favorite nursery or garden center. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, watermelon, pumpkin, zucchini, beans, and cucumbers are available in four-inch pots and six packs at reasonable prices.

PULL weeds on a continuous basis. Weeds zap the moisture from the plants we want. Don’t let them form seed heads.

EMPTY standing water from pots, tires, neglected ponds, pools, or any place where mosquito larvae will breed. With all the rain we’ve had this year, mosquitoes could spread West Nile virus. If you have a pond, the Contra Costa Mosquito and Vector Control will provide free mosquito fish by calling 925-771-6196. California authorities are monitoring the activity of West Nile virus and request that any dead birds or squirrels be reported to 877-968-2473.

SEED and reseed your lawns specifically when it’s raining. Make sure to keep the seed moist until it sprouts. Pearl’s Premium may be the answer for a lush, green, drought resistant lawn. www.PearlsPremiumc.com

DANCE the snail stomp, a dance my children and I invented one very wet winter years ago. Go out at night with gloves on, flashlight in hand, and a bucket to pick up slugs and snails. Find an area to dump and dance. (If you don’t like to dance, fill the bucket with soapy water and the dirty deed is done.)

TOUR gardens when you are not enjoying your personal backyard. Check the newspaper for garden tours around the Bay Area. You’ll find inspiration in what others have designed and accomplished.
cherry blossoms
Enjoy the splendors of spring while you dream of a personal journey through nature. Salutations for a fresh start!

Happy gardening. Happy growing!
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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
LIVE Wednesdays 4-5pmPT on VoiceAmerica Network, Empowerment Channel
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

Peony-bowl of beauty

April Garden Guide by Cynthia Brian

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April Garden Guide by Cynthia Brian

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” William Shakespeare

cynthia brian -wisteria
The siren song of spring calls my soul to the outdoors as swiftly as the mermaid lures the sailor to the depths of the sea. The fragrance of the blossoms, the colors of blooms, the chirping of the birds, the croaking of the frogs, and the scent of green grasses speak to my deepest being. Our precious earth is in the process of re-birth and no matter how many years I’ve witnessed this evolution, I am always in awe. My camera captures thousands of photos, most of which looked so much better with the naked eye, yet I want to record the beauty. I am obsessed with the lilacs, wisteria, iris, freesia, fruit trees, wildflowers, and, especially the soothing sounds of the cascading creeks.

Spring-how I love thee!
frog fountain
As wild turkeys gobble gobble along the hillsides and into our streets unaware that turkey season is open for those who seek to bag a bird for a barbecue and as the deer begin to nibble our budding roses, it’s wise to consider protecting our delicate plants from our indigenous predators.  Wire, netting, and fences are our most effective armor.  El Nino has been a blessing in quenching our thirsty gardens, especially our lawns, yet the prodigious weeds, if left unattended will compete with our flowers for moisture in summer. Now is the time to take action.

Every morning as I walk my property, I tell myself I’ll spend only an hour in the garden after work. However, the hour quietly melts into three or four and soon I’m weeding by flashlight. This is love. It’s springtime in our gardens and fun is pending! Go out and dig.
Oriental poppies
⎫ ADD edible flowers to your dining experience. Plant seeds of hyssop, nasturtium, violet, leaf fennel, daisy, and calendula.
⎫ SCATTER seeds of zinnia, cosmos, and marigold seeds for summer blooms.
⎫ WEED, weed, weed. Don’t let seed heads develop or you’ll have more invasive plants next season.
⎫ SOW onions not only for eating but also as a natural pest control in your garden, especially for brassicas including cabbage, broccoli, collards, and kale.
⎫ MIX flowers with edibles to attract pollinators to your spring garden. Make sure to plant in groups so that the birds, bees, and butterflies see the dinner you are serving.
⎫ BUILD hugels while the soil is moist. You will find them invaluable this summer when water is scarce. (See October 7, 2015 issue for instructions)
⎫ CHECK trees for damage. Many trees are suffering or have died during the drought. Ivy growing up the trunks, mushrooms at the base, and mistletoe are signs of trouble. Call a certified arborist.
⎫ PLANT purple! Compounds called anthocyanins in purple produce have anti-inflammatory effects would could help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. Think purple kale, purple potatoes, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple anything.
⎫ NATURALIZE aquilegia, commonly called columbine. These delicate star shaped petals will self sow if planted by others to cross-pollinate. They come a range of bold colors including blues, rose, yellow, white, pink, crimson, fuchsia, and many bicolors.
⎫ SHADE gardens lend themselves to the lush green to bronze foliage of astilbe. Spires of pink, red, scarlet, and white add summer grace.
⎫ CUT bouquets of Oriental poppies mixed with lilacs for a stunning indoor offering with a heady scent.
⎫ PHOTOGRAPH your garden. If you have a stellar masterpiece, send me a jpeg with a description. Who knows, we may publish it! Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com
⎫ WELCOME home the migrating birds with fresh water in the fountain and new seed in the feeder.
⎫ REPLACE woody lavender bushes. After six years or so, lavender is ready for the compost pile.
⎫ BE friendly to native bees by incorporating native wildflowers into your landscape. (See March 23, 2015 Digging Deep-Cultivate a Wildflower Meadow)
⎫ CARE for your lawns. The continued rains provide an opportunity to re-seed. I am sowing Pearl’s Premium on rainy days then making sure the seed is watered daily until it sprouts. To protect the germinating seeds from hungry birds, our publisher, Andy Scheck suggests putting old screen doors on the patches. I’ve used old window screens. By summer the roots will be fourteen to twenty inches deep and drought resistant. I’ll keep you posted on my success or failure.
⎫ RAISE your mower to a higher setting and forget the bag this month allowing the grass clippings to add nitrogen back into the lawn.
⎫ CLEAN the patio. Sweep and wash furniture. Enjoy the sunny days.
⎫ START tomatoes if your soil is warm. You may get a jumpstart on summer juiciness.
⎫ PICK tangerines, Meyer lemons, and tangelos as they ripen.
⎫ COMPOST, compost, compost. The more nutrients you put into your garden, the more spectacular your scenery.
⎫ MARK your calendars for wine and books event benefiting Be the Star You Are!® charity on Saturday, April 9th from 1pm until 4pm at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting room, NW Corner of 7th & San Carlos, Carmel-by-the-Sea.http://www.bethestaryouare.org/#!events/kgh2e
⎫ PROGRAM your DVR’s to record Wheel of Fortune on Monday, April 11 at 7:30pm on ABC for a fun local experience. Make sure to watch to the final wave goodbye!
apple blossoms
A PostScript
Have you followed my December 15, 2015 advice about making hard copies of your garden photos as well as other collectibles? My Digging Digitally article hit a chord with so many people, including those in other countries. This note arrived from Ireland.

“As regards your article about Digging Digitally and making hard copies of precious visual memories, and I so agree with everything you write. Last night I spent an agreeable evening perusing 100-year old photo albums from my husband Per’s family, and it was so lovely to see the photos and read the handwritten comments. Those long-dead grandparents, aunts and uncles and their lives and interests came to life again.
chickens, geese, goat
I am obsessive about making paper copies of everything that comes my way digitally – photos, even interesting emails.(And before emails, I have saved almost every letter I ever got!) Technology changes rapidly, and the visual records are so much more readily accessible,–no waiting for your computer to boot itself up and install a million updates, while all you wanted was a quick look at a particular photo. So keep on preaching the message to the younger generation.” N. Daly

It’s never too late to start a garden journal or actually print out our photographs. (If you missed the article, find it here)
Pictures of your most beautiful specimens make terrific art pieces when framed appropriately.

Let’s pray for April showers to bring more May flowers. Put a bounce in your step, sing, dance, and be young.
goose eggs
Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!

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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
LIVE Wednesdays 4-5pmPT on Voice America Network, Empowerment Channel.

Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

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