This weekend I'm hoping to go to the local nursery and purchase a couple of grape plants to put in the back yard. I've been wanting to plant grapes for a while, but I really wasn't sure when the best time to start them would be. Since I was talking with the Master Gardeners about my orange trees (see my previous post), I asked them about grapes at the same time. They said that right now it's still a little too hot to put new plants in the ground, but that I could buy them and keep them on the patio for a while and then plant them when it cools off a bit. Which works out well, since I need to work a bit on building up the soil in the area where the grapes will go. I plan to plant both green and red seedless grapes.

When we moved into out house, there was a wooden structure in the corner of the yard where the previous owner had a big wisteria growing. The wisteria was alive, but it never bloomed. And it was surrounded by lots of dead brush:We worked at cleaning up all the miscellaneous plants and dead things, and eventually that area of the yard looked like this:We have since moved this little arbor thing to a different area. We cut the legs, so it's now only about 5 1/2 feet tall (before it was more like 7 feet). I plan to put green grapes on one side, red on the other, and let them climb up over the top. According to what I've read, you're not supposed to let the plants bear fruit the first year. Instead you're supposed to carefully prune them to help them grow strong, thick vines. Actually, all the articles I read said that you're supposed to "ensure they grow thick, strong wood." But that phrase made my inner 12 year old giggle, so I'll just call them vines. Hee!

Our orange tree is invested with woolly whitefly. It's disgusting and I hate it. This photo shows what woolly whitefly does to the leaves of the orange tree. I also have nasty photos of the white fluffy goop that's also globbed all over the green baby oranges. But those are especially yucky, so I thought I'd spare you. The amount of whitefly yuck seemed to come and go over time. I'm sure it probably has something to do with the season. But every time I would see an improvement I would think that the problem was going away. What can I say? I can be a master of denial sometimes. I'd heard that using a soap solution could take care of the problem. But what kind of soap was I supposed to use? And how was I supposed to apply it to the tree? How long would it take to work? I tried looking around online a bit, but finally just decided to ask the San Diego Master Gardeners.

Apparently, the woolly stuff is the egg casings from the whitefly larvae. There are lots of beneficial insects that prey on whitefly - but those beneficial insects are often chased off and/or killed by ants. There are tons of ants in our orange trees! Apparently, the whitefly suck sap (or whatever it is they eat) from the orange tree, and excrete this stuff called "honeydew." It has a lot of sugar in it that the whitefly get from the tree but cannot digest. The sugar attracts the ants. The ants kill the insects that eat whitefly. So the ant and whitefly have a good thing going, I guess. But I am determined to stop this vicious cycle. The Master Gardeners suggested I use ant bait to get the ants out of the tree. Then they told me the type of soap I needed (a special insecticidal type) and to use a garden sprayer to coat the tree and leaves with it. The soap will kill the whitefly, but won't harm most of the beneficial insects. They also said that it would be good to prune the tree first to open it up so that the soap would get to all the leaves. Because I work all week and can't get to the nursery to look for insecticidal soap, I just went to Amazon and purchased both the soap and a garden sprayer. They arrived a couple days ago, so I'm ready to get to work tomorrow! I'm hoping it will get rid of the whitefly problem and ensure lots of big, healthy oranges for us in the coming year.

I've had my eye on a tumbling compost bin for a while. I know that you don't really HAVE to get any special equipment to start composting. You just make a pile of stuff somewhere in the yard! But we have a smallish yard, and I was concerned about attracting pests (specifically rodents). So I liked the idea of having something enclosed. The Mister and I looked around at several compost bins both in stores and online. I was pleasantly surprised with how enthusiastic he was about getting a compost system started. So, ultimately we decided to purchase the Envirocycle Composter. It's a big drum which collects compost tea at the bottom. I think it's going to be perfect for our family. At least, I hope so! I think it's supposed to be delivered sometime today. Just in time for all the clippings from Saturday yard work!

Back when they were just wee things fresh from the nursery, I said that if I could get just one single tomato from my tomato-growing efforts, I would consider it a success.Success was served on a bed of Romaine with some chopped cucumbers this week! If I'm being honest, the tomatoes were a bit on the bitter side. But you'd better believe I ate them all, and was mighty proud. The Mister looked at me like I was crazy when I was taking photos of my salad. Clearly, he doesn't understand blogging.

I work full time and I have three children. Two of those children are in school, and they both play sports. One of those children is also involved in Cub Scouts. We are all quite active in our church, and spend lots of time with extended family. I'm a one the board of directors for the soccer league. My husband is a league referee. Thus, like most families, we are very, very busy! Thank goodness I have a job that allows me to take breaks - sometimes that's the only "spare" time I have! Because I am so busy, convenience is a big deal for me. For example, I do most of my shopping online. I don't want to spend the time driving around to various stores looking for something, when I could easily find it with just a few keystrokes and then have it delivered to my door within a couple days. When my daughter needed a new soccer ball, and really wanted it to be pretty and yellow, I didn't bother going to any sports stores in town. I just went to Amazon. When I needed a gardening hat, I didn't bother looking around in local stores. I just found what I wanted online and had it delivered. It's convenient.

Convenience plays a part in the foods I eat, too. Stuff that's simple and easy to grab is usually favored over stuff that needs preparation. I'm more likely to grab a couple pieces of fruit leather from the pantry rather than put together a salad. And at night when I need to cook for my family, I'm no stranger to pasta from boxes or Rice-a-Roni. Because they're convenient.

And, really, convenience is a factor in my green efforts, too. It takes effort to change habits. It's not really always convenient to avoid plastic bags. Not always convenient to use the library rather than buy a book. Not always convenient to maintain a garden. Not always convenient to save your kitchen waste for composting. Definitely not convenient to make things from scratch.

After giving it some thought, I'm realizing that "convenience," in my case, has become an excuse for laziness. Yes, I'm a busy person. And sometimes I think that striving for convenience is justified (in other words, I refuse to stop shopping online). But, everyone in their own way is busy. It would be great if everything was easy. However, no one ever made any progress by staying firmly within their comfort zone.

Convenience has been my mantra for too long.