5 Essential Garden Products

5 Best Gardening Tools from The Wanderer Guides. #gardening #gardenideas #ideas #cool #garden

Gardening, just like any worthwhile pursuit, requires work, and when we work in the garden, it can be a sweaty affair. Today let’s go over five favorite products to make our labor of love a little more lovely (especially on my lower back…):

  1. Spade Tipped Large Shovel. Spade tip shovels are pointy enough to cut through tough ground and roots but with a large enough head to transfer dirt efficiently. I tend to break the wooden handles on these guys with the clay soil we have in San Diego. The one I recommend is the True Tough Longhandle from Lowes. This beauty has a fiberglass handle with great grip and has taken the hardest loads I can deal out. Plus it’s got a great wide step to push in to the ground so you don’t slip off or hurt your feet.
  2. Multi-Use Hand Trowel. Hand trowels were always my least favorite tool because I wanted to use it for more things than just moving dirt from a bag to a pot. The one I’ve got now is a true renaissance tool…the Corona Hand Weeder can do it all! It’s called a weeder because it has a forked end on it and a great curve that helps you pry up the most stedfast weeds. It’s got a serrated edge that works great to open bags of soil and cut roots and even small branches. And it’s perfectly designed to transplant since it easily cuts through dirt and the curve helps lift the plants from the bottom.
  3. Strong Loppers. There’s a ton of options for cutting tools in the garden but if you’ve got a good set of loppers, you can tackle most tasks. I bought a pair of Corona’s heavy duty orchard loppers. Strong loppers are a great all around trimming tool. They cut through everything with ease and have withstood some of the thickest branch cuts on our old lilac tree.
  4. Pruning Saw. These guys come in handy for all the limbs that are too thick for those loppers. The best pruning saws cut in both directions–you cut as much when you pull as when you push. The best I’ve seen in the area are made by Florian and I got them at the Del Mar Fair (it will never be the San Diego County fair to me). These guys not only cut in both directions but they don’t get stuck when the saw bends a little. We used these this summer to fell a 50-foot tall macadamia nut tree. I prefer the non-folding kind: less parts to break! 
  5. Hand Pruners. Hand pruners are the final tool I keep in my belt (I even have a folding one in my work bag for pruning on the go). I’ve got several pairs of these guys but the ones I like the most are Centurian’s Classic Pruners. They have a Titanium blade that holds its sharp edge forever and the locking mechanism seems to withstand even some occational rusting (Don’t let this happen! Clean and put away your tools!). The grip is nice and it has a sturdy construction that keeps the blades from bending.

What to Plant in San Diego in September


After a brief hiatus, The Wanderers are digging in again. Here’s our advice on what to stick in the ground this month. Remember: in San Diego our growing season never ends.

Plant these seeds directly into the garden:

  • carrots
  • radishes
  • beets
  • peas
  • spinach

Start seeds in flats for:

  • cabbage
  • chard
  • onions
  • scallions

Keep beds moist.

In San Diego, it’s still awfully hot. The sun is extra brilliant so when starting the leafy veggies and greens, more filtered sun is needed than your mid-summer crops (like tomatoes).

It’s important to stay super organic and mild with your fertilizer for fall crops where you’re eating more of the plant (roots,leave,stems) as opposed to the fruits (tomatoes, cucumbers). We recommend a highly diluted organic fish emulsion possibly supplemented with a compost tea (available at City Farmers Nursery). Apply two to three times from the second week (when you see your little plants poke up) until the time you harvest them.

Happy digging!

The Wednesday Dig: Your Guide to Backyard Birds

How to Create a Backyard Flock from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #garden #urbanhomesteading #birds #backyardgarden

Let’s talk about chicks.

One joy of raising a garden is seeing the local wildlife enjoy everything you’ve planted. We’ve spent many afternoons watching birds flutter around our backyard and our dogs hanging out next to lizards and dragonflies. Recently, in our quest to become more self-sufficient (and also because we happen to be suckers for any animal), we’ve inherited a chicken, a turkey and a duck.

How to Create a Backyard Flock from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #garden #urbanhomesteading #birds #backyardgarden

Our girls aren’t the typical backyard flock. Let me go into how to create a small flock of chickens to supply the average family with eggs.

Backyard chickens are all the rage these days and it’s partly because the health benefits and peace of mind delivered by having organically-grown, cruelty-free eggs. It’s also partly because chickens are tons of fun and relatively easy to keep.

In most parts of San Diego County, it’s legal to own up to three hens in a household. Something we didn’t realize before we got our chicks is you don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs; they do it quite readily without any boys crowing near them.

Chickens are cheap to buy and care for, they make relatively no noise and they have great personalities. From a gardening perspective, they are excellent pest control guardians…as long as you keep in mind they might take a bite out of your plants in their efforts to find tasty bugs.

What You Need to Know While They’re Chicks

When chicks are young and covered in fluffy down, you need to:

  • keep them indoors in a small container with plenty of ventilation.
  • keep them under a heat lamp (they like it about 90 degrees until they are about 4 weeks old).
  • keep them over an easily removable bedding. (You can get this at any pet store. We used a recycled cardboard material).
  • food and water should be provided in containers that aren’t easy to tip over or walk in (there’s several plastic models you can buy at most pet stores/feed stores).
  • clean the cage every night.
  • make sure they have food and water in the morning and night (especially if you can’t check on them for a few hours).

When the chicks are fully feathered (have normal feather-looking feathers), it’s time for them to go outside!

How to Create a Backyard Flock from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #garden #urbanhomesteading #birds #backyardgarden

The fun part about chickadees is bonding with the little guys. We held our little ones from the day we got them, and they are like part of the family now. When I’m out gardening, they follow me around. Our chicken will even fly up onto my shoulder if she’s feeling needy!

We house our flock in an old chain link dog run with shade fabric covering the top to keep out predators. Chickens should have three to five square feet each to roam and a safe place to sleep at night. Our birds sleep in an old dog house. Chickens begin laying eggs around the 9-12 month range and a flock of three will lay way more than one family needs.

How to Create a Backyard Flock from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #garden #urbanhomesteading #birds #backyardgarden


The best part is watching these feathery little goofs and we hope you give it a try!


The Wednesday Dig: Annuals vs Perennials

Today we’re going to look at some common garden terms and their definitions.

Annuals are a type of plant that goes through its entire life-cycle (from seed to flower) in one season. They are almost always outdoor plants and usually refer to plants that live one Summer and die. An easy way to remember an annual plant is you have to replant them ANNUALY. This category of plant includes most food plants and several ornamental plants that grow in the Spring and die by the time late Fall rolls around. Some examples are: corn, marigolds and lobelia.

Annuals vs. Perennials from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #gardenings #gardeningideas

Because annuals are such short lived plants, they require a semi-different version of standard plant care:

  • Fertilize at least twice during their growing season, once when they start to leaf out and once just as they start to set flowers.
  • Prune often! Pinching weak stems off and taking off the flowers that are fading will keep your annuals producing longer.
  • Keep them well watered! Annuals generally need enough water to provide a great deal of growth in a short amount of time.

Perennial is a tricky term. It refers to plants that have a life-cycle longer than two years–this can technically mean a lot of plants. However, as you see in nurseries on plant tags, it generally means smaller shrub-like plants (aka not trees) that have a longer life than two years (but that die back during the Winter). This includes plants like Mexican Sage bush, lavender, and Chrysanthemums.

Annuals vs. Perennials from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #gardenings #gardeningideas

Perennials are hardy plants that don’t die back completely but leave you feeling like you get a whole new plant every growing season. As such, care for them in the following ways:

  • Cut these guys back at the end of their growing season. When you cut them back, you want to cut back to where the bark of the stems is harder and more woody. Stop there and it will sprout all new growth the following season.
  • To extend the flowering season, pull off fading flowers and feed once a year at the start of the plant’s growth cycle.

Happy Digging!

The Wednesday Dig: Plant Profile

Harry Lauder was a Scottish comedian famous for his biting wit and fierce Scottish pride. He performed on stage for kings and common folk, and during WWI, he took his piano to the French front to entertain the troops amid artillery drops.

He was nighted in 1919 for raising over a million pounds for the war effort and to this day, his songs are anthems for football clubs across England.

What does he have to do with gardening in San Diego? Well the man performed with a famous crooked walking stick made from a contorted filbert tree that is our focus for our first plant profile.

The contorted filbert tree or Corylus avellana is a very odd plant, usually grafted onto the more sturdy roots of a normal filbert tree (Corylus colurna). This small tree generally reaches only 10 feet tall in our climate. During the summer months, it’s covered in dense green leaves that curl and contort themselves into picturesque shapes. Its flowers are long fluffy tails called catskins and are followed by filbert nuts. What really makes this tree awesome however is its corkscrewing branches that become visible when the leaves drop in the fall. This tree truly provides yearlong interest to any garden.

Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, as it’s now commonly called, is a relatively low maintaintanence plant. Our climate can sometimes be a bit to warm for it so its best to plant it where it won’t bake in the sun but where it can still absorb about six hours of light a day. We have ours planted in a large pot on our patio in well draining soil (a mix of succulent potting soil and Miracle Grow potting soil) and we water it whenever the top inch of soil is dry.

Pruning is relatively unnecessary and I love to see the crazy branches twine around each other. If you do see any small straight branches growing from the base of the tree, they are probably suckers from the root tree and should be removed. San Diego’s truly a wonderful place to garden and this awesome specimen tree will be the highlight of any landscape. Plus, if it gets big enough, you can make a walking stick and start telling jokes in a kilt!

The Wednesday Dig: Progagation or How to Get Free Plants

Propagation or How to Get Free Plants! from The Wanderer Guides Blog. #gardening #gardenideas

Propagating is a thrifty gardener’s best friend–it’s a way to breed more plants from already established mainstreams or even from kitchen scraps from your very own garden.

Let’s define propagation:

Propagation: the process of growing new plants from already established plants.

Now how do we do that?

  1. Select a branch that is at least four inches long and has some leaves. In general, the best kind of branch is a new growth branch (aka a green branch that has just grown for this season).
  2. Cut the branch at a 45* angle so the tip looks like a small spear.
  3. If the plant you are propagating has flowers you must snip those guys off so the plant can devote its energy to root production.
  4. If your plant has many large leaves consider limiting them, either cut them off or cut them in half; plants lose a lot of moisture through their leaves.
  5. This is optional: if you’re new to propagating, I highly recommend it.  Get some rooting hormone (we use Rootone Powder) and dip the cut end of your cutting in it.
  6. Stick the cutting in a sterile mix of one part vermiculite (little white pebbles in most potting soil) and one part peat moss (aka regular not nutrient-filled soil) and keep moist. You want the soil to always be wet so water accordingly. If you aren’t going to be around to spray your cuttings regularly with water, consider covering them with a plastic cover. We find that plastic milk jugs or water bottles with the bottoms cut out works rather nicely.

These rules do not apply to succulents–we’ll go into that topic next week. But for this week here is a list of plants that can easily be rooted:

Abelia Abelia spp.
Arborvitae, American Thuja occidentalis
Arborvitae, Oriental Platycladus orientalis
Azalea (evergreen & semi-evergreen) Rhododendron spp.
Barberry, Mentor Berberis mentorensis
Barberry, Japanese Berberis thunbergii
Barberry, Wintergreen Berberis julianae
Boxwood, Littleleaf Buxus microphylla
Boxwood, Common Buxus sempervirens
Camellia Camellia spp.
Ceanothus Ceanothus spp.
Cedar Cedrus spp.
Chamaecyparis; False Cypress Chamaecyparis spp.
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp.
Cryptomeria, Japanese Cryptomeria japonica
Daphne Daphne spp.
Eleagnus, Thorny Elaeagnus pungens
English ivy Hedera helix
Euonymus Euonymus spp.
Fir Abies spp.
Gardenia; Cape jasmine Gardenia jasminoides
Heath Erica spp.
Hemlock Tsuga spp.
Holly, Chinese Ilex cornuta
Holly, Foster’s Ilex x attenuata ‘Fosteri’
Holly, American Ilex opaca
Holly, Yaupon Ilex vomitoria
Holly, English Ilex aquifolium
Holly, Japanese Ilex crenata
Jasmine Jasminum spp.
Juniper, Creeping Juniperus horizontalis
Juniper, Chinese Juniperus chinensis
Juniper, Shore Juniperus conferta
Leyland cypress x Cupressocyparis leylandii
Magnolia Mahonia spp.
Oleander Nerium oleander
Osmanthus, Holly Osmanthus heterophyllus
Photinia Photinia spp.
Pine, Mugo Pinus mugo
Pine, Eastern white Pinus strobus
Pittosporum Pittosporum spp.
Podocarpus Podocarpus spp.
Privet Ligustrunum spp.
Pyracantha; Firethorn Pyracantha spp.
Rhododendron Rhododendron spp.
Spruce Picea spp.
Viburnum Viburnum spp.
Yew Taxus spp.
Azalea (deciduous) Rhododendron spp.
Basswood; American linden Tilia americana
Birch Betula spp.
Bittersweet Celastrus spp.
Blueberry Vaccinium spp.
Broom Cytisus spp.
Callery pear Pyrus calleryana
Catalpa Catalpa spp.
Clematis Clematis spp.
Crabapple Malus spp.
Crape myrtle Lagerstroemia indica
Cherry, Flowering Prunus spp.
Dawn redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides
Deutzia Deutzia spp.
Dogwood Cornus spp.
Elderberry Sambucus spp.
Elm Ulmus spp.
Euonymus Euonymus spp.
Forsythia Forsythia spp.
Fringe tree Chioanthus spp.
Ginkgo, Maidenhair tree Ginkgo biloba
Goldenrain tree Koelreuteria spp.
Hibiscus, Chinese Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
Honey locust Gleditsia triacanthos
Honeysuckle Lonicera spp.
Hydrangea Hydrangea spp.
Ivy, Boston Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Larch Larix spp.
Lilac Syringa spp.
Maple Acer spp.
Mock orange Philadelphus spp.
Mulberry Morus spp.
Poplar, Aspen; Cottonwood Populus spp.
Poplar, Yellow; Tulip tree; Tulip poplar Liriodendron tulipifera
Quince, Flowering Chaenomeles spp.
Redbud Cercis spp.
Rose of Sharon; Shrub-althea HIbiscus syriacus
Rose Rosa spp.
Russian olive Elaeagnus angustifolia
Serviceberry Amelanchier spp.
Smoke tree Cotinus coggygria
Spirea Spiraea spp.
St. Johnswort Hypericum spp.
Sumac Rhus spp.
Sweet gum Liquidambar styraciflua
Trumpet creeper Campsis spp.
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Weigela Weigela spp.
Willow Salix spp.
Wisteria Wisteria spp.

Now you are well on the way to creating the garden you want for free. Make sure you ask before you take a cutting or wear your running shoes so you can get away from the plant’s owner.

The Wednesday Dig: Ways to Get Rid of Garden Pests FAST

Today we’re going to focus on quick fixes for those of you who are too lazy to go the IPM route (see last week’s Wednesday Dig post) or for the occasional problem that slips past your best defenses.

The most basic, most widely effective and most natural spot killer for your little buggers is very easy to make:

Step 1
Heat enough water to fill a squirt bottle to the temperature of a nice warm bath.

Step 2
Add these ingredients to the water:

  • One teaspoon of dish liquid (we use Dawn)
  • One teaspoon of vegetable or canola oil
  • A pinch of salt and a pinch of Epsom salt (about a 10th of a teaspoon)
  • Step 3
    Shake the warm mixture in the spray bottle and commence spraying all your unwanted invaders

    That’s all!

    It works well on aphids, spider mites, scale (to a certain degree) and mealy bug. My favorite way to use this is to squish all the bugs you can see before you spray–it’ll help make sure you cover as much ground as possible. Also, squishing the bugs releases hormones that warn other bugs to stay away.

    Getting Rid of Slugs and Snails
    Slugs and snails can wreak havoc on a beautiful garden in the blink of an eye. The best control for them is prevention. If you’re gardening in raised beds, like The Wanderer Guides, an easy way to keep these slimy jerks out is to put a strip of copper around the planter–slugs and snails won’t cross copper. It’s easy to make a decorative strip around the planter by gluing pennies around it. (Pre-1982 pennies work best since they are 95% copper whereas newer ones are just copper-plated…both should work well enough). Garden centers also sell copper tape that adheres to planters.

    We also sprinkle chili flakes and crushed egg shells around our tender plants to keep the slimy guys away. The capsaicin in the chili is uncomfy and the egg shells are too sharp for them to crawl over. Diatomaceous earth works like the egg shells.

    Getting Rid of Ants
    Ants are annoying. Whether they’re in your pants or your garden, they annoy you and protect pests that suck your plants dry like aphids. To deter them from hanging out, we sprinkle cinnamon all over the soil.

    If they’re really annoying you, put a few piles of cornmeal within easy reach of these little critters and they will bring it back to their nest. This works because ants can only truly digest decaying food. Even when they eat fresh food, they throw it up when they get back to the hive and wait for it to decay. Since cornmeal has strong antifungal properties, it seriously hinders the decay of all the food the ants bring back and causes them to either starve or move to a more suitable local.

    Before taking any extermination measures with pests in your garden, take time to consider what those little guys do in the long run. If you have caterpillars eating radish leaves, why not leave them be? You most likely aren’t going to be eating those leaves and the radish itself will be fine (because who doesn’t love butterflies after all). Remember–everything is connected and though it may be annoying, these guys have their places too.