Category Archives: Garden

Re-thinking Life during the Pandemic

Stay-at-home . . .

I listened anxiously a couple days ago as Arizona’s Governor Ducey extended the stay-at-home order for the Coronavirus pandemic through May 15. For the past 30 days, this has been a familiar piece of legislation limiting the number of people in a building, social distancing, and leaving home only for necessary items.

I’m 62-years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this. The past few months have been eye-opening. Certainly, I’m not the only person re-thinking life.

As a community of people, we tend to get stuck in everyday living—work, school, church, and friends, forgetting that life can turn on a dime for any number of reasons. A pandemic, war, or ecological collapse. “That is not possible,” we tell ourselves.

Now, we know it is.

So, what do we do about it? Continue reading Re-thinking Life during the Pandemic

Emergency Toilet Paper

This Coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

My grandmother, Mamaw, though was a baby during the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak. She grew up on an Arkansas cotton farm, so she definitely knew how to deal without toilet paper — usually a Sears catalog in a drafty, smelly, dirty outhouse.

Something tells me the phone book is not septic safe.

And … do you ever think that filling your toilet tank with fresh drinking water, crapping in it, flushing, and sending it all to a treatment plant is a bad idea?

The outhouse is also a poor solution that sometimes taints the drinking water supply.

For people off the grid, there is a much better, safer alternative with composting toilets.

Check it out. You might be surprised.

Watershed Management Group

What is an Heirloom Plant?

You probably use the word heirloom when talking about great-grandma’s quilt or some other treasure passed down in your family from generation to generation. Plants are the same.

When you hear the word heirloom, think old, precious, rare.

An oft-heard story goes like this: “Great-grandma, Rita, grew these tomatoes in her garden all of her life. Her mother gave them to her and showed her how to grow them. They’ve been in the family for generations.”

Read more…

Saturday Fair and Plant Sale (Oct 29)

015 Jewelry


My book, Baskets for Butterflies.

Come join the fun!

Free Admission

Metro Tech Fall Festival and Plant Sale

October 29 (Sat)

Metro Tech High School
1900 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix
(Corner of Thomas and 19 Ave.)


My daughter and I will be dressed like hippies! Continue reading Saturday Fair and Plant Sale (Oct 29)

Fall Garden Festival and Plant Sale (Oct 29)


My daughter, Tiffany, and I will be at this event with bells on, literally — dressed as Hippies (my old leather-strip vests, ankles of jeans split up the sides, headbands, and more).

But we won’t come alone, we’ve been busy making all sorts of crafts which we will have for sale. We’ve reserved two adjoining spaces to accommodate all of the great stuff!



My book, Baskets for Butterflies.

Come join the fun!

Free Admission


About the event:

October 29 (Sat)

Plants grown by Maricopa County Master Gardeners, Metro Tech students and invited growers.

  • Food, fashion, gardening implements and more from Metro Tech student clubs.
  • Garden accessories from local garden clubs and vendors.

This premier Valley gardening event also features trained Master Gardeners providing how-to demonstrations and expert advice to help your plants succeed. The fundraiser supplements Metro Tech’s student programs, and supports community outreach and education by Maricopa County Master Gardeners, under the auspices of the University of Arizona’s Continuing Education and Extension program.

Metro Tech High School
1900 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix
(Corner of Thomas and 19 Ave.)

Monkees Concert in Mesa


The Monkees concert in Mesa last night was Groovy!
We sang, we screamed, we danced. . . .
Micky Dolenz was scheduled to appear with Peter Tork, but the latter member had to cancel due to family issues. (I hope all is well with Peter.)
Unfortunately, we lost Davy Jones a short while ago. (I miss him a  lot.) Mike Nesmith doesn’t often join the concert due to business responsibilities relating to other than ‘Monkees business.’

Continue reading Monkees Concert in Mesa

Healing and Seed Saving in a New Mexico Pueblo

As a clinical therapist in a New Mexico Pueblo, Jennifer talks about the healing properties of gardening and seed saving within the culture of her people. The piece is 16 min long; listen to it as you answer your emails or just sit back and hear this gentle soul describe her fear of losing, not only the seed, but the stories, songs, and agricultural practices surrounding them. For another perspective on similar information, read my article from October 19, “Heirloom Seeds, Garden Knowledge, and Folklore.”

Bitter Lettuce and Talking Plants

Loose-leaf lettuce_______________________I go into my Arizona garden each morning with a knife and a colander to gather the day’s harvest. _______________________

I bend over to slice the central stem of a pretty, green, loose-leaf lettuce. White liquid pools up in a circle on the severed stalk. I hesitantly guide a leaf into my mouth to taste.

“Ptooey!” I spit it on the ground.

Why does lettuce turn bitter?

It has to do with the turning of the earth over eons of time. Continue reading Bitter Lettuce and Talking Plants

Extend the Harvest with Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap PeasI’m in the garden this morning picking
Sugar Snap Peas.


So many tender sweet morsels cover each vine. I love peas!

When I order seeds for my fall garden, these guys always make the list. The plants produce prolifically throughout the mild Arizona winter but stop when the weather becomes too warm. Continue reading Extend the Harvest with Sugar Snap Peas

Asparagus and the New Year

Asparagus yellow and dormant
Asparagus yellow and dormant

I start each New Year by cutting down my asparagus plants.

These perennial vegetables may live for 15 years or more. The yellow stems show they’ve gone dormant for the winter. Now I can remove existing dead foliage in preparation for new, tasty shoots to emerge in spring. This is also the time to establish a new asparagus bed or expand an existing one.

The delicate, lacy foliage of this plant presents a false impression that the beauties are tender and require a lot of loving care to survive, especially in the hot, dry desert summer. In fact, these hardy guys love the searing sunshine, even during the hottest part of the year. Once triple-digit temperatures arrive in my Arizona garden, asparagus is one of the few crops that can withstand the extreme conditions.   Continue reading Asparagus and the New Year

Virus Attacks Banana Crop


A serious virus threatens the most popular variety of banana found in US supermarkets, the Cavendish. This plant disease causes concern worldwide among growers, distributors and consumers.

See link below for a host of great information from the University of Hawaii.

Photo courtesy of:
University of Hawaii at Manoa
College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Continue reading Virus Attacks Banana Crop

Artichoke — Survival Techniques

Artichoke sprouting from root (year 3)
Artichoke sprouting from root (year 3)

Most gardening books say that artichokes cannot be grown in the low desert of the southwestern United States.

As summer air temperatures routinely surpass 110 degrees, the hot soil can rise to around 150.

Being a curious person, I tried transplanting one specimen anyway, from a 3” pot, into one of my rows at the onset of fall. It grew miraculously fast! Then the hot summer came and it died. I removed it from my garden—a failed experiment. Continue reading Artichoke — Survival Techniques

How to improve the germination of seeds

broccoli seedlings
broccoli seedlings

As cool, moist fall air banishes the hot, dry summer, my Arizona garden breathes a sigh of relief—and so do I. I’m busy at work, but my time in the garden is pleasant now.

Although my rows look empty from a distance, a close inspection reveals a bounty of tiny seedlings. My main fall crop is broccoli, accompanied by staggered plantings of beets, cabbage, lettuce, turnips, and other semi-frost-resistant veggies.

I planted the first row and four days later sowed another with the same mixture of seeds. Today, several weeks following the initial sowing, I stand between the rows with the startling realization that the seedlings planted most recently are at the same level of development and hardier than the earlier ones.

How can this be true? The seeds planted first should be farther along, right? Continue reading How to improve the germination of seeds

Where was Gnome?

A bedraggled gnomeCrazy weather lately!

After the last storm left so many trees damaged, I thought our time of monsoon was spent—but, evidently not.

Tuesday afternoon I looked up into the sky and saw a small (but very black) cloud floating among a few other fluffy white ones. It looked a bit out of place but didn’t seem noteworthy.

I went inside my home office to work on presentations for my upcoming events. I’m a focused sort of person and, therefore, ignored the rain when it began to fall. My task involved a word processor on the hard drive, so I also didn’t notice when the wireless connection went down along with the internet and telephone.

Once, a low rumble of thunder caught my ear, but it was far away.

There was just one little cloud in the sky. No wind, little thunder. How bad could it be?

I kept working . . . and working.

What I didn’t know was that the rain was coming down in a quiet torrent.

Looking back now, it reminds me of a story my friend, Lora, once shared with me. She had gone into a pizza parlor, placed an order, and waited for her food to be prepared. She passed the time by playing a pin-ball-type game that sat in the restaurant. Like me, Lora was focused. Once or twice a fellow tapped on her arm. “Go away, buddy,” she told the person. “Not your turn.” Not until the blunt end of a gun knocked her in the head did Lora realize the store was being robbed!

I’m a lot like Lora—focused.

By the time my husband, Jimmy, came home from work that evening, the rain had subsided. I opened the front door to let him in. He stood on the outer threshold, shoes stuck in several inches of mud, which covered the front porch.

“Good grief!” he said. “The water almost got inside the house.”

What else had I ignored?

The next morning, the goats, chickens, and turkeys whined for their meal as soon as the sun came up. It was their normal feeding time, and they became anxious. As I cared for the animals, I kept an eye out for any damage to the property. The last storm uprooted one tree and broke major branches in a dozen others.

Heaven knows, we’re still chipping the wood from that incident!

The more recent rain, however, was quiet, without ripping winds and lightening. All of the trees appeared fine . . . but other damage was evident everywhere.

Gravel drivewayOur gravel drive, for example, hid beneath deep sticky mud.

Did the stones wash away, or did the mud just cover everything?

Two large boulders blocked the pathway behind my truck. I picked one up and grunted. One at a time I moved the heavy rocks off the drive. It was difficult to believe the force of water had moved these stones.

Tuesday was garbage-collection day, so the filled container was waiting at the side of the street when the rain came. The next morning, I found the bulky item half-way down the road lying on its side in a rain-filled gutter. Mud caked my tennis shoes as I drug my property out of the ditch and struggled to empty the dirty water from within. There was no sign of trash. Either the garbage truck picked it up or the junk was all in the Gila River by now. I hoped for the former.

I stored the trash container in its usual place. Then I went in the back yard to check on a small orchard positioned on high ground between two normally dry creek beds. In Tuesday’s torrent, the channels merged into one torrential river. Several inches of mulch (wood chips) washed away, leaving strange, wavy deposits of mud. The current scoured trenches and partially uprooted three chili peppers in a circular planting bed. I bent over to pat soggy earth protectively over the exposed roots of one when I realized something was missing.

Where was Gnome?

My concrete garden gnome normally rested beneath the leaning mesquite tree in the corner of my garden near the rear of the property. However, a storm several weeks ago dropped a number of branches on the little guy. I thought he needed some clear sky and sunshine, so I brought him over to this circular area by the peppers.

Where was Gnome, now?

I frantically searched the property, following the two creeks downstream. The little fellow was constructed of two separate parts—a pair of shoes sticking up in the air and his main body. I found his feet stranded on an elevated section of land near a bush. I cradled my first prize carefully while searching for the rest of my friend. I followed each creek bed to where it dipped beneath the cyclone fence and disappeared. My eyes focused beyond the wire perimeter, following the jagged muddy line as it traveled toward the Gila River.

Realizing the entire property must have been submerged, not only the creeks, I followed the western fence line all of the way down toward the turkey run.

At last, I found my garden buddy! He was covered in dirty mulch, wedged halfway under the fence, face pointed downwards into the wet muck.

Poor Gnome!

I gathered him up and carefully placed him back beneath the leaning mesquite in the corner of my garden, where he has rested for twenty-some-odd years. Gnome wasn’t likely to go visiting the rest of the property again soon.

Broccoli seedlingsMy attention then turned to my newly planted fall garden. Several days ago, I seeded two thirty-feet-long rows with broccoli, turnips, lettuce, Tohono O’odham onions, and more . . . and then there were 100 Solo cups with onions and other flowers and veggies.

Onion sproutsMy muddy feet paced up and down between each row, still covered with wood chips—delighted to see tiny first leaves of newly germinated seeds still emerging from the planting beds. All of the little cups contained healthy sprouts as well. The garden was, in fact, pristine—nothing disturbed.

“How can the rain cause so much damage in one place and so little in another?” I asked Gnome.

But my friend wasn’t ready to talk to me yet.

1,000 Pounds of Wood Chips

The pic shows wood chips between the rows. My asparagus row has a top dressing of straw.
The pic shows wood chips between the rows. My asparagus row has a top dressing of straw.

I’m not sure who wore out first, us or the machine.

Since the last storm, my husband, Jimmy, and I have been running fallen wood through the chipper. Yesterday we hit the 1,000-pounds-of-chips mark.

Although the equipment was rated for a three-inch diameter branch, we fed only items half that size. Still, the metal feeder shuddered and shook so badly that the hinge finally broke.

“Thank goodness!” Did I say that aloud?

Every muscle in my body aches. I’m accustomed to hard labor in the garden and around the property, but the constant bending required for this task is more difficult than it looks. Jimmy is complaining, too.

It’s just as well that the equipment stopped working. My fall garden still needs planting, and I also need to prepare for upcoming events and trainings. (I need the break!)

Equipment awaiting repairMy husband will take the machine for repairs. The cursed thing will probably be fixed by the time the events have passed.

We still have another tree to remove!

Join me at these events!

Donna Hamill, authorLook for me and my book, Baskets for Butterflies,
at these garden events.






Oct 10/11 (Sat/Sun):
Rocker 7 Farm Patch (Fall Festival & farmers’ market
19601 W. Broadway Rd.  (Buckeye)
I have a vendor table (selling & signing books) from 9am-6pm
I’m teaching a class at noon (Heirloom Gardening/also selling & signing Baskets for Butterflies)

Oct 17 (Sat)
Metro Tech Fall Festival and Plant Sale
1900 W. Thomas Rd. (Phoenix)
I have a vendor table (selling & signing books) from 8am-1pm

Oct 18 (Sun)
Rocker 7 Farm Patch (Fall Festival & farmers’ market)
19601 W. Broadway Rd. (Buckeye)
I’m teaching a class at noon (Heirloom Gardening/also selling & signing Baskets for Butterflies)

Oct 24/25 (Sat/Sun)
Rocker 7 Farm Patch (Fall Festival & farmers’ market)
19601 W. Broadway Rd. (Buckeye)
I’m teaching a class at noon (The Fall Garden/also selling & signing Baskets for Butterflies)

Oct 31/Nov 1 (Sat/Sun)
Rocker 7 Farm Patch (Fall Festival & farmers’ market)
19601 W. Broadway Rd. (Buckeye)
I’m teaching a class at noon (Seed Saving/also selling & signing Baskets for Butterflies)

Nov 7/8 (Sat/Sun)
Rocker 7 Farm Patch (Fall Festival & farmers’ market)
19601 W. Broadway Rd. (Buckeye)
I’m teaching a class at noon (Garden Mistakes/also selling & signing Baskets for Butterflies)

I hope to see you there!

Preparing for the Upcoming Fall Festival (Oct 17)

Newly planted onionsEach year, Metro Tech High School coordinates with the Maricopa County Master Gardeners to present the Fall Festival and Plant Sale (Phoenix).

Once again, Gnome’s Heirloom Garden will host a vendor table at this popular event, scheduled for Saturday, October 17. I’ll bring lots of books to sell and sign. My daughter (and editor), Tiffany, will also join me.

In the meantime, I’ll be nurturing these cups full of Tohono O’odham I’itoi Multiplying onions (newly planted and not yet spouted). Some will be for my table (possibly for sale) and the others donated to the plant sale.

Since master gardeners host the event, many of the plants available are rare and unusual (like my onions).

Don’t miss this!

Me and My Shovel

Me and My ShovelThis is me, preparing the garden for the fall crop. I don’t own a tiller.

Oh, I purchased the contraption once—under the mistaken impression that every good gardener should have one. It was expensive . . . hard to start . . . at the repair shop more often than not. It was loud, heavy, and whipped up the soil like my KitchenAid mixer with cream.

It’s not good for the garden bed to be disturbed that way. Continue reading Me and My Shovel