Garden Life

Perennial Tree Collards

After some extensive searching I finally found a place to buy tree collards in my area.  For years I have watched you tube gardeners John Kohler from growing your greens  and Jake Mace the Vegan Athlete talk about them, but wasn’t confident enough to try a mail order source for cuttings.  I found Michael,  a Master Gardener in phoenix with rooted plants available  He is a very knowledgeable and generous man.  He had about 100 plants in various sizes.  I bought 3 1 gal. plants from him and as we were leaving he gifted me the huge one in the picture above. Exciting huh?  It is a beauty!!  We haven’t come up with a name for him yet.DSC03863

I learned a lot from Master Gardener Michael.  The plants take a lot of water and shade in the Arizona sun.  It is only April, but he said it is too hot to put them in the ground now.  His advice is to leave them in the pots until fall and then move them to shady spot in the garden.  Finding a shady spot in my garden is going to be a challenge, but I have 6 months to find a way.  It is probably because I live in the desert, but these plants are more particular than I imagined they would be. All the info I found said they were easy to grow.  Day 3 I didn’t water the big boy enough before a warm day and he wilted.    It was scary.  With water and sunset he perked up and is doing fine again.  They will need to on a drip system with a twice daily schedule this summer. My larger plant will probably out grow his 15 gal. pot soon too.  Michael had ground planted about 10 of his bigger plants in full sun and mulched with a foot of straw.  His garden looks like a tree collard forest!  He said it was an experiment, but hoped they would do well since he put them out when the weather was still cool and they have time to acclimate before the temps in Phoenix hit 110+. He also told me to pinch off the new top growth to encourage side shoots to make cuttings for propagation.  There are quite a few videos on you tube demonstrating how to take and root the cuttings.  I will try this later in the season and let you know how it goes.   For now, I will just let my big boy grow.  Remember Hey, Hey, Hey….. Fat Albert?  I think the big guy has a name!

Tree collards are Brassica oleracea, like cabbage and broccoli.  The 3 types I am familiar with are the Green Tree collard (like mine),  The Purple Tree collard and Tree Kale or walking stick kale.  The Green and purple tree collards don’t bolt very often and when they do the seeds may not be true to the parent plant.  Planting these seeds is a gamble.   The Walking stick kale flower and seed every year, the seeds grow a true walking stick kale.  They grow straight and tall, perfect to make a walking stick with after the season is over.  Several seed companies offer the seeds online.  Maybe next year, I will try some.  There may be other varieties that I haven’t come across yet.

Perennial  Tree Collard leaves are rich in calcium (226 mg per cup, cooked), vitamins B1, B2, B9, and C, as well as beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A).  They are high in soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties: diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. The leaves are very fleshy, almost succulent like.  At first the taste didn’t impress me.  The smaller tender leaves taste like cabbage and the larger leaves are tougher and bitter.  It feels and tastes like chewing on the core of a head of cabbage.  Either the flavor improved now that Albert has had a few days to settle in, or I am just more tolerant of the bitterness.  I munched on a larger leaf as I worked outside today and actually enjoyed it. The gardeners on Jake Mace”s Facebook group had lots of suggestions and recipes for me to try.  Tomorrow for lunch I plan to stir fry a leaf with some garlic and see how it tastes.  If I think it will pass as food for my husband, then next weekend we will have a corned beef and Tree Collard feast.




Garden Life

Snake in the Garden

This camera shy guy has made daily appearances around the garden for the past week or so.  I am pretty sure it is a California Kingsnake.  According to my internet research, they are docile critters that can make nice pets.  They are highly resistant to viper venom and often make a meal of rattlesnakes.  Sounded like a good addition to my garden, so I let him be.  Unfortunately today he decided to come out of the garden and trek across the yard.  Sugar (rowdy St. Bernard mutt) noticed him before I did and attacked.  She grabbed the snake and tossed it into the air before I could contain her.

The snake wriggled around a bit, curled up and hid it’s face.  DSC03827
I thought she had killed the poor thing.  Eventually, with the dog housed he did uncover his face.

dog puncture






Sugar did a number on this guy, puncturing his side.

The snake slithered away and hid in a weedy aloe vera bed about 100 feet away.  And then we saw it a couple of hours later going back into the garden on the other side of the acre.  So, maybe he will be OK.  There isn’t much on the internet about care for a snake bit by dog… search just turned up care for dogs bit by snakes.  Well the dog is fine, not so sure about the snake.

I got these pictures as he rounded the garage, they will give you an idea of his length.  He is probably a little over 4 feet.  Beautiful huh?



With a little luck, I will see him around the garden soon.  Hopefully he will stay in the garden and not go back into dog territory.

Garden Life

Procrastinating in the Garden

There is a bright & beautiful California King snake living in my garden.  Since they are suppose to eat rattlers, I have decided to let him stay. Yes, it freaks me out a bit, but hoping to get more comfortable as time goes by.   For the past week, I have been trying to get a picture of him.  He’s fast though and disappears before I get my camera.  This morning I pledged to keep the camera with me all day and keep an eye out for him.  He never showed and I played photographer all day, making no progress in the garden.

 It was a pleasant day and I find the pictures inspiring.  So I have decided to create this little blog in an attempt to remain inspired and record my progress.  I want this year’s garden to be my best!!

Last Weeks accomplishments DSC03799

I deconstructed an old box spring to make a little raised strawberry bed and border for my lemon tree.  The strawberries are looking a little wilted, but misting them daily and hoping for the best.  I think I need to trim them back a bit so the plant can concentrate on new growth without the stress of keeping the wilted leaves alive. DSC03798

These poor roses got totally butchered.  They were so overgrown that I had to prune them back to about half of what they were.  Not the best job, but it is done.  Now the strawberries, east of the roses can get some sun and the snake can’t hide here anymore.


This was project that I put off for too long.  A rotten redwood trellis had let my grapes down and instead of replacing it with another, I decided to upcycle some metal off of an old futon and create a new trellis.  The grapes should have been pruned this winter, but of course I procrastinated too long, now they are starting to fruit.  The other side of the arbor is going to be tricky, but needs to be done soon.

I gave the pomegranates some well needed attention, got some plants in, did a bit of weeding and started my container potatoes. DSC03818






Projects for another DDSC03806ay

More overgrown roses need pruning….or maybe just totally removed?  Not sure yet, it is part of my snakes habitat.


Bermuda grass aka hell!!    It is a little gift from an attempt at straw bale gardening. For the past 2 years I have removed it all and it just keeps coming back.  I stopped watering this part of the garden last August to kill off the grass.  But heavy winter rains have made this year worse than ever before.   The monster weed is a desert broom that has to come out as well as the dead cukes and luffa that are clinging to the fence.  I am seriously considering just putting down a thick layer of cardboard and creating raised beds over this whole part of the garden.  My heart just sinks every time I look at this mess.

What to do with a massive pile of rose prunings?  Too wet to burn & too thorny to bag.

Broody Blue Rock:DSC03821  This little girl is 5 or 6 years old and probably doesn’t even lay any more.  But she still tries to hatch the other hens eggs.  Collecting the eggs totally ruined her day (she cried).

I am off!!  Have a great day!!

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