Tag Archives: landscaping


In my landscaping project, I’m getting to the point where things are starting to get very heavy.
Could it be that maybe I’m getting really tired?! Nah 🙂 Either way, this week, I hired Salvador.
He’s the son-in-law of someone I know really well and wow…he works as hard as I do!
His first job was to move 6 tons of rip rap. I helped a little but my job is to spread it out.


He’s also built a small concrete wall and then put stone caps on all the walls which involved
cutting some of the caps to fit. How handy is it to get a guy with all his own construction tools!
Salvador is an out of work construction worker who knows how to do everything so I have
plans for him to be doing a lot more than just moving rocks. If you haven’t figured it out,
I’m very impressed by him. Here’s someone who’s used to making a lot of money yet
you can tell he takes pride in his work whether it’s shoveling dirt, moving rocks or building
a house. I’m sure it won’t be long before someone snaps him up. Me first, though 🙂

4 tons of topsoil

When I was cycling, I used to ride up to 200 miles a week. On really long rides, endorphins
kicked in causing a euphoric state of mind. I wondered if I could ever get that feeling again.

I can! It’s called “landscaping”. Digging/lifting/lugging/planting can put me in that same
meditative state which explains why I was actually excited as I watched the dump truck
unloading 4 tons of topsoil. (In case you’re wondering, the endorphins balance out the pain) 🙂

I forgot to get a shot of the full pile but here it is after removing 25 wheel barrel loads.


Front yard piles:


Back yard:


It’s been very hot so progress is slow. For every hour or so of work, I take a half hour of rest.
The last few weeks were spent on contouring ground for better rain runoff and implementing
other water harvesting techniques. I’ve also planted several native shrubs and two trees.

On my breaks during the last few days, I took photos of all the things that are blooming now.

First is the Little Leaf Cordia which has turned out to be a great wildlife attractor!


Yes, Joan...they do look like they're made of tiolet paper :-)
Yes, Joan...they do look like they're made of tiolet paper 🙂

Next is a Golden Barrel bloom. They’re so small that I sometimes miss them.


Then the red Candy Barrel. Only two blooms opened but check out that ring of buds! I’m hoping 🙂

As it turns out, I have 5 of our native Candy Barrel Cactus. I forgot about this one. Yummy.

The prize capture of the day, though, was this precious Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria).

(Sorry if it took a lot of time to load these images. In hindsight, I should have given you a slideshow. )

setting boulders

Since the crane company charges for travel time as well as site time, I worked hard to make
sure I was completely prepared so we wouldn’t waste one single minute. Being prepared
ended up saving over an hour of time thus saving lots of money.

Time and money savers?:

First: A detailed plan. Second: Photos of each and every boulder with measurements on photos.
Third: Holes dug for boulders. Fourth?: Chris! He dislikes (INTENSELY!) anything to do with yard
work so this was a HUGE favor on his part. I’m very grateful because it saved me from having to
hire someone to help me position the boulders (takes 2 people).


crane arrives and has to make a 3 point turn at dead end
crane arrives and has to make a 3 point turn at dead end
Pam the Boulder Girl rocks! :-)
Pam the Boulder Girl rocks! 🙂



thanks Chris :-)
thanks Chris 🙂

I can hardly move this morning but all in all it was SO much fun 🙂

nearing completion

Next to photography, there’s nothing I love more than gardening so that will never end.
What IS nearing completion, though, are the largest of my landscaping projects. Yea!
This shot shows the holes I’ve dug for the boulders in the back yard. From above, they
sure don’t look like they required much work. From my complaining, you know better 🙂


Tons (literally) of boulders arrive tomorrow and I’m so eager to see the difference they’ll make.

more progress

Another landscaping progress report. Lifting these blocks has been tough hard but not as hard as chipping through caliche on this berm! Singing chain gang songs while working helped 🙂

Before: a boring wall

Chip, chip, chip!

After: So much better! How do you like my metal boulders? They’re a work in progress.


This week, I’ve been redirecting things. I’ll start with this recently purchased Ocotillo. I couldn’t resist it because it was actively growing in a pot which meant a higher likelihood that it would survive. See the green plant tape? It’s my attempt at coaxing the stalks to relax from vertical to a more natural position. Not very professional looking, I know 🙂


If you’ve ever bought an Ocotillo, you know the stalks are typically tied tightly together with wire and have probably been tied for some time. With dry bare root stalks, it can take a long time before they start to relax. However, in the case of this actively growing specimen with green stalks, I think my Bonsai-esque technique might just work to redirect them!

Another redirection job this week has been of water lines. Many had been put right next to plants and trees which has caused roots to wrap around them. Not good. By far, the most valuable thing I learned in Desert Landscape School was that you should move the water source out from a tree as needed to keep it just under the canopy edge. If you’re using spaghetti lines, all you need to do is just shorten it as needed. If water is only getting to the root ball, roots have no need to venture out so it’s probably not going to grow in a healthy manner. This explained why a couple of my trees have grown very little in two years.


Digging was not fun! Soaking the ground first really helps.
Digging was not fun! Soaking the ground first really helps.


Because I insist on doing all the work myself, progress on this property is slow but there is progress! In this first photo, the green line indicates where the wall was before I started. I relocated a few plants and moved the wall farther back giving a little more room for a path. More interesting, don’t you think? I’m also adding a water retention area to take care of a little flooding that happens a few times a year (see below).


If you can't fight it, make it into a decorative pond :-)
If you can't fight it, make it into a decorative pond 🙂

Next shows progress on a problem area where the bank was cut away at a very steep angle.
The ground is mostly caliche so nothing will grow. Rocks seemed the best solution.


In case you don’t already know, I love this stuff. I just don’t remember it being so brutal on my body 🙂

javelina cafe closes its doors

Found this latest victim of Javelina in the driveway yesterday.
Found this latest victim of Javelina in the driveway yesterday.

I’ve always said I didn’t want any fences on this property. I wanted to encourage wildlife, not discourage it. After all, they were here first and and the bonus was the photo ops! Well, after a few years of dealing with uprooted plants, new growth being chomped off and buds disappearing before they had a chance to bloom, I’ve decided that about 250 square feet will be off limits to Javelina. This is the area that has such great soil so I’ve been putting flowering cactus there. I can’t blame the Javelina for not being able to resist these plants! Most are not native to our area so they can’t control themselves when they get a whiff of the aroma of this juicy stuff. It’s like us trying to pass by an open door-ed bakery without stopping 🙂


There’s nothing like doing a job yourself to gain new respect for people who do it for a living. For instance, I couldn’t just unroll the fence and attach it. I wish! Because of the elevation changes, I had to cut sections and attached each to the posts so it took me two days to finish. The fence isn’t very attractive but the shrubs will grow making it well disguised. In the meantime, I’ll add some big boulders at some of the more open areas because the fact is that unless it’s a concrete wall, the most I can hope for is that the fence and boulders will discourage the Javelina. If they’re really hungry, my little fence won’t stop them 🙂


I’m looking forward to planting a Queen of the Night and several other cuttings that now might have a chance to grow. Time will tell!

helping thirsty trees

This past week, I implemented another technique I learned in landscaping school. It’s a way to direct water from a drip line straight down to the roots of a tree. This Sweet Acacia has struggled since I planted it two years ago so it was high time to help it out. This technique will also solve the problem of the other plants getting too much water.


I started by digging 9 holes about 1 foot deep and let the water run for a few hours.
I could almost hear the tree roots sighing with relief as they were slurping up the water 🙂


Then I gathered up nine 1 gallon pots (save everything!) and cut off the bottoms.


Next I positioned the pots in the holes so the tops were just above ground level and held them in place while filling with small rocks. This let the rocks fall deeper so the pots were then sitting on the rocks.


The last step is to put a drip line into each pot and then cover them with decomposed granite.


I should add that I put in about twice as many holes than were needed but this was to give the tree a boost. As it recovers, I will plug up about half of the drip lines.

By the way, this area has the best soil on the property so my plan is to continue to plant flowering cactus and succulents there. I call it my Macro garden. Unfortunately, it’s also known as Javelina Cafe 🙂

Next on the agenda? Fencing.


Besides unearthing various bugs while working on the rock wall, I almost destroyed a little homestead yesterday.
When I saw the tiny cave, I grabbed my camera, zoomed in and waited with high hopes that something would come out to investigate!

The cute little guy below appeared for only a few seconds so it’s a good thing I was zoomed in and ready to shoot. It’s difficult to say for sure what it is but it appears to be a mouse of some kind. Anyway, I did have plans to cut into the bank a little farther but didn’t want to be responsible for displacing a family 🙂
Update: It is more than likely a ground squirrel.