My Summer Reading List

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I have to admit, I am not very organized with my gardening. I try at times, but I end up gardening more like an artist than a scientist (and that aggravates my engineer husband at times). I fertilize and water the plants based on how much I feel they need, not calculated amounts. I try to keep on a schedule but I always loose track. I decided that going forward, I am going to get a lot more organized with my gardening. I have tons of gardening books that I refer to when needed, but I decided that it is time to go through, really get in depth with these books, and start creating a more organized approach to my gardening. I’m pleased with how my gardening entries did this year at the Orange County Fair, but I would like to be more organized about it next year and come home with even more ribbons. 🙂

If you are new to gardening, and looking for some book recommendations, I put together a short review for each of the books that I have in my reading stack. Each book in my stack is great, and they cover a variety of topics.

Starting from the bottom, the Sunset Western Garden Book is one that I have had for years. This copy used to belong to my grandmother, and it was given to me after she passed away. At the time, I did not have a flower garden, but I started reading through its’ wide expanse of information and bookmarking pages. If you live on the West Coast, the Sunset garden books are a must-have. Someday I will probably upgrade to a more modern version. 🙂

Western Garden Book of Edibles This is another great one, with information about pretty much any fruit or vegetable that you can grow here on the West Coast.

Sunset Big Book of Garden Designs You may have noticed a trend…I am a big fan of the Sunset gardening books. 🙂 They are very well tailored to gardening here on the West Coast. I got this book after I planned our front and back gardens, but it has some great ideas if you are planning a complete garden makeover. It gave me some great ideas for the garden I am planning in our downstairs yard. 🙂

Modern Essentials This is technically not a gardening book, but got thrown into the mix because it is something I am trying to learn more about. This book is wonderful for anyone interested in learning more about using essential oils. I have been using lavender oil and fresh herbs for a variety of things for years, but I recently incorporated a lot more essential oils into our routine, and it is something I absolutely love. I am going to be blogging more about our journey with essential oils soon.

DIY Projects for the Self Sufficient Homeowner This book has some great ideas for projects that I would like my husband to build eventually. 🙂 It has helped me show him step by step instructions for some of the things I would like him to build eventually. Some of the projects I am not 100% sold on, but that is up to personal preference. For example, we don’t like the idea of planting edibles in plastic containers that may not necessarily be rated as food safe (we try not to use plastic much at all to be honest). I was also disappointed that the book got me excited to try to build a solar food dehydrator, only to later realize that we do not live in a climate that is conducive to solar food dehydrating (so then I immediately ordered this electric dehydrator for preserving). Otherwise, the book has some really great projects!

Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening This book is my favorite out of all of my gardening books, hands down. It has such a wealth of information, and covers so many topics. It has monthly checklists that I am determined to actually go through each month from now on. This book usually sits on my nightstand, next to my Bible. 🙂

Mini Farming This book has great in-depth information about various home farming methods, and detailed information about the benefits to the various methods. Reading this book has motivated me to get more precise with my vegetable planting in our raised beds. I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in growing your own produce.

The Backyard Homestead This book packs in a ton of information about edible gardening with limited space. It includes information about warm and cool season planting, proper soil preparation, how to cultivate a variety of types of fruit and vegetables, pruning guides, sample garden designs, preserving information, and lots more. The sample garden designs are one of my favorite parts of this book, and we drew inspiration from this when we did our first round of planting with fruit trees when we first bought our house.

The City Homesteader This book is a must-have for those with limited space who want to get started with edible gardening. The first few chapters are great for those who are new to gardening, covering all of the basics, and the later chapters have more detailed ideas even seasoned gardeners will appreciate. It gives a breakdown on which fruits and vegetables are well-suited for growing in a small space and which are not. It also gives great step-by-step instructions for a variety of projects that will help you live more self-sufficiently and Eco-friendly. There are chapters on beekeeping, raising livestock in a small yard, making cheese and yogurt, building a root cellar for storing produce, and more. There is even a chapter on foraging for wild foods which has become so popular lately. 🙂

Flower Gardening Secrets This is another older book that used to belong to my grandmother. It has some great, time-tested tips and techniques that will get you on your way to growing a beautiful flower garden.

Soil Mates This one is not pictured, but it is one I always keep on hand during planting time. It has cute little drawings of vegetables, and my son loves looking at this book. I assume I couldn’t find it at the moment because he probably ran off with it again. 🙂 The book may read as a bit silly at first (kind of like a soap opera for vegetables), but it really carries some very useful information about what vegetables are good near each other, and what to plant far away from each other.

If you enjoyed my book reviews and would like to order any of these books, please consider purchasing through the links provided. The price is the same as if you went through the main Amazon.com homepage, but they are affiliate links, which means ordering through those links helps keep this blog running!

Backyard Garden Tour Continued – Garden Structures

Continuing my detailed tour of our backyard garden makeover! This post features all of the various structures that we have in our garden.

The first structure is our big wooden pergola. My husband built this when we were at our old house that we were renting. He built is so that he would be able to take it apart and bring it with us. The diagonal pieces needed to be replaced, so my dad cut us some new ones (they still need to be painted though). I planted some David Austin Malvern Hills rambling roses in big terracotta pots around four of the posts on the pergola., and eventually they will be climbing all over the structure (this is a photo from a few weeks ago, and they are growing like crazy now!). The pergola is extra special since we had our smaller wedding reception under it in the patio at our old house (we had two wedding receptions…long story). 🙂

Under the pergola is the artificial turf that my husband installed. He started with laying down a layer of base gravel, leveling and compacting it down, then a layer of decomposed granite, also leveled and compacted down. The fake grass that he chose was from a local supplier, Thompson Building Materials. My husband compared artificial turf at a number of places, including big chain stores, and liked this one the best. Apparently it is Thompson’s own product. It is super thick and soft, and has a 15 year warranty, which is much longer than most other artificial turfs that are available. If you are in Southern California and thinking about replacing your lawn, I would definitely recommend checking out Thompson’s.

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Part of my original design included a couple of gazebos with climbing roses. I wanted a smaller gazebo for this area, with this little table and chairs, and I found this one on Amazon which was an amazing deal (available here). We just spray painted it white, and the whole thing cost less than $100! I added one of the little chandeliers that was leftover from our wedding decor. 🙂

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There are David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted around this gazebo. 🙂
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Originally, the thing that started this whole garden makeover was the fact that I saw an amazing bridge at Home Goods. I took a picture of it and texted it to my husband. I also saw an amazing gazebo and a cute tripod trellis, and I sent him pictures of those too. That started my planning and convincing for the whole project. 🙂 We ended up getting the bridge, and painting it as well. It is in an unfinished area for now, but eventually we will be building a pond-less waterfall behind it (pond-less since it conserves water and is not a drowning hazard for small children).
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We also ended up getting the tripod trellis, which got spray painted (like almost everything else). I planted a non-toxic version of jasmine on each corner. If you are planting jasmine and have animals or kids, be sure that you select a variety of jasmine that is not poisonous (some are poisonous and others are not). The ASPCA website is always my go-to resource when I am unsure if a plant will be toxic to our furry kids or our son.
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When we were planning our wedding, we purchased a metal arbor at the Rose Bowl Flea Market to set up at the entrance to our wedding reception. We loved the idea of incorporating decor that would later become part of our garden at home. We brought the arbor with us when we moved, and it is in the center of the garden.

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It also has David Austin Generous Gardener climbing roses planted on it and a chandelier from our wedding. 🙂
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Last major garden structure is our big gazebo! This one was a big ticket item (also from Home Goods), and it took a bit of convincing before we brought it home. 🙂 The one that I originally saw there was actually sold out by then, but we ended up liking this one a lot more. It is the only thing that we didn’t paint white or cream, and I kind of like it that way. It has a beautiful shabby chic, chippy finish already, and I love the muted green color on this one. This gazebo has iceberg climbing roses planted on each corner (purchased from Armstrong Garden Center). Like the others, this gazebo also has a wedding chandelier. 🙂 This is where we keep our fire pit and we have had some cozy nights under this gazebo already.

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All of the roses have really taken off since I took these pictures! Once I am a bit more caught up, I will post more updated photos. 🙂 Lots more garden details coming soon! If you are on Instagram, be sure to follow me @aliciainwonderlandphotos for lots of regularly updated photos of the garden. I even have different hashtags for all of our different gardens throughout our property. 🙂