Paperwhites in the Garden The Prudent Homemaker

Temperatures for the second half of the month are warming up quickly. This week we should have highs in the low 60’s, if the weatherman is correct. This month and next month are my busiest times of year in the garden.

I have a ton of pruming still to do. I can only do so much each day, but thankfully the trash is picked up twice a week. My plan with pruning is to make sure I get the trash cans full with branches before the trash is picked up each time. Depending on how much trash we have from inside, this means I have 4 to 5 cans to fill each time. Last week I managed to fill 4 cans twice, so 8 cans of branches, but I have barely gotten to the trees (I’m still pruning bushes and vines).

I need to get the trees pruned, and then sprayed with dormant oil before the buds open. I use an organic cottonseed oil to spray them once a year.



1. Prune at least 8 trash cans full of branches

2. Spread 5 bags of manure in the garden

3. Dig out bulbs from center circle that have multiplied and replant them somewhere else

4. Dig holes in center circle for rose bushes. I want to have the holes ready when the plants ship.

5. Dig holes for the other 6 rose bushes I will be planting in the back. These can’t be dug until I’ve pruned the trees that are above them.

6. Plant lettuce seeds in a row

7. Thin and plant thinned beets in a couple of rows. These are the beets that self-seeded in the garden.

8. Continue to work out digging out errant tree roots.

9. Repair drip lines 

10. Cloche a few seedlings in the garden



1. Bake bread three times

2. Make a batch or two of beans in the crockpot and/or the solar oven (we’re having a few cloudy days, which stops me from using the solar oven to cook my beans, so I’ll use the crockpot instead



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  1. Hi Brandy, I was working in my yard recently and thought about your post probably a year ago about thinning out plants with fruit. I’m also working on shaping young lemon and lime trees, as well as a pomegranate tree. It felt so wrong to trim the trees, but I know I’m helping shape them to be a desirable shape I want in the future and by pruning and plucking the fruits and tree will be so much healthier.

    Thank you as always for sharing so much information with us!

  2. As a northener, I get so jealous of your temps this time of year…. our ten day forecast has ONE day where we get above freezing… a whole whopping 34. Time to bust out the flip flops!!!
    However, I could not handle the heat you deal with in summer, so I will just shiver a bit longer, and live vicariously through your pics.

  3. Pruning also helps make sure you’ll have bigger fruit instead of small fruit that are more seed than “meat”. 😉

  4. I realize you live on a small parcel of land. However, I do not ever see where you compost. The branches you cut can be cut down into much smaller pieces and the investment in a composter would be beneficial to your garden and a help in reducing trash at the landfill. Manure is terrific in itself but it does not provide the same assortment of minerals and loam that compost does. In your climate you may be surprised to see how quickly your garden and kitchen waste will turn into garden gold. After years of composting I can promise you a compost pile will not smell or attract vermin or insects if cared for properly.

  5. I’ve had good luck cooking beans by soaking them overnight, changing the water, bringing them to a boil and then putting them into my cooler packed with some newspapers or magazines and closed tightly. After 8-12 hours in the cooler they are soft and ready to serve, but I only had to use the stove top for ten minutes to get them to boil.

  6. Hey! I have been reading your blog for about 1 1/2 years and want to tell you what an inspiration you are! Keep up the good work. We live in SD and we have a small farm and always garden in the summer, but we are trying to get into the whole greenhouse thing so we can save money year round. I am going to attempt to start lettuce under huge grow lights that we scored off craigslist for 5$ Have you ever used grow lights or have any tips?

  7. Becky, I know the feeling. We are buried in snow. I have a new troy bilt cultivator that I got for Christmas setting on my front porch that I am so excited to use. I cannot handled the big rotatiller so my family went together and got me a small one. It will work well as I am limited on space and it will help with not having to cultivate by hand so much. So for now I am enjoying your beautiful flower pictures Brandy and taking this time to get extra jobs done in the house which is encouraging. My goal for the next few weeks is to go to our indoor pool at our school and excercise off the weight put on with having to be indoors and all the holiday goodies hanging around. The kitchen and cupboards are emptied of temptations and the new healthly snacks are being made. Have a wjonderful week!

  8. I do compost, but I don’t have the space to do these. Unfortunately, it has taken much longer than everything I have read, even in our heat. Our lack of humidity makes it very hard; the compost pile dries out. I know someone who has a composter here and he has to water inside it every day. I have two trash cans in which we compost. I also do some trench composting right in the garden. The branches would take up a HUGE amount of our land. I live on a .24 acre lot, and I don’t have room for more than the 2 trash cans for composting. Branches would take years to break down. If our city did green pick up, we would do that, but they do not. Some of these branches are best burned because of disease, but that is illegal here. We will fill trash cans and then take the larger branches to the dump, and those will fill the trailer. I’ll have several trailers’ worth of branches when you include the amount that has gone in the trash cans. There isn’t room for that kind of composting here, nor do I have a wood chipper to break these down.

    I will be spreading the compost in the garden, but I am going to have to dig and then bury it, as it did not break down almost at all last year. I’ll probably do that next week. I wish I had better success with it, but it just isn’t breaking down, and I’m doing small things–shredded paper and kitchen scraps.

  9. Jennifer,

    Unfortunately I have had no success with starting seeds indoors. I don’t have a good place to do it, either. Research “winter sowing” which can be done outdoors or in your unheated green house. Also look into row covers inside your greenhouse, which give you a second layer of protection and warm it up like a second zone. Eliott Coleman’s books are great for learning more about winter gardening in northern climates.

    I know there are great tutorials out there on using grow lights; search Pinterest and you should find several. That is a wonderful deal on them!

    One of my readers in ND starts seeds indoors and then moves them into the greenhouse when it warms up a bit out there for cool-season crops.

  10. I have 2 questions:
    What does the dormant oil do?
    When planting the roses under existing bushes or trees do you ever run into issues with the tree roots in the ground? Do you just chop through them or try to gently remove the dirt around the roots and not bother the roots. (I know I would want to just whack through the roots, but would wonder what harm I am doing the plant.)
    Thanks to whomever has time to answer 🙂

  11. Just a thought: In Texas fruit wood is highly prized by folks that smoke meats. Perhaps one or more of your children could earn a bit of spending money by selling neat, tidy bundles of fruit tree trimmings. My father especially enjoyed using cherry wood when smoking. We saved all of our peach tree trimmings for him. My mom kept an old apple tree that never fruited in the side yard just for him to have a steady supply of apple wood. Again, just a thought.

  12. I’m with you Becky. You know you live in the North when the temperature rises to just above freezing and it feels like you should be breaking out the shorts, and start opening up all the windows in the house! Whoohoo, spring is almost here!!!:D

  13. My compost never decayed fast either, and I live where it should do so easily in summer. I did use a started when my husband was putting grass clippings in it for most of the vegetation, but that gets pricey too. He now composts directly by not putting the bag on the mower at all!

  14. I found that covering the compost heap with a sheet of plastic keeps in the moisture. Not saying it won’t dry out, but it won’t do it as quickly. It is also becoming much more common for people to use the urine of male family members (easier to harvest, so to speak) on compost because it adds nitrogen and moisture and speeds decomposition. Really, you can find a number of reliable sources that discuss this, as well as diluting urine 10 to 1 with water and using it as a natural fertilizer. A number of public gardens in the UK ask their male staff to urinate on bales of hay, which speeds their decomp and then they are added to compost. They also found out that this saves on water because the toilets in the men’s room are not flushed as frequently. Finally, the fertilizer industry has been experimenting with using urine instead of petroleum to make fertilizer because it is cheaper. They all it pee-troleum.

  15. Brandy,

    Do you use dormant oil on all types of trees including citrus? Do you wait until the freeze threat has passed?

    Thank you in advance!

  16. Amy,

    I prune my trees in January, a month before our last frost. Then I spray them. I do not spray my citrus (at all), nor do I prune them at this time. Citrus should not be pruned until after all threat of frost has passed. Then I prune them into shape and cut back anything that died from a result of frost (usually outer branches) as well as anything that isn’t growing where I want it to. The trees will put forth lots of water spouts (branches that shoot straight up), especially at the center of the tree. I cut those off. I also cut lower branches as the tree gets taller; I don’t want fruit that touches the ground, but some people like their citrus to be more bushy. You can choose what you want.

  17. Hello Brandy and all from sunny hot summer country Australia :). Well it is 31 – 34oC here at the moment and yes oppressively hot. Gardening here at the moment is before 10 a.m and after 5 p.m only as we risk heat stroke if we go out in the middle of the day. I do however sometimes work in some shaded by large tree areas from about 3 p.m in the vegetable patch till the shade goes, but while the shade is there we get a nice breeze blowing across the paddocks.

    Plans in the house this week –
    – Sort out the freezer and group all of the frozen vegetables into the drawers to compact them and make more space.
    – Mop the vinyl and tile floors which I have just done.
    – Do the usual clothes washing and clean bathroom toilets etc.
    – Use all grey water from showers and washing machine to water lawns with, vegetable steaming water for propagating seeds.
    – Generally tidy up the house and clear clutter. With vegetable gardening, callings and service our home can get well let’s just say that “lived in country dirt harvesting look”. Our children are grown but it can still get rather cluttered being such a small home.

    In the garden –
    – Pick & price 2 vegetable orders I have from the garden & deliver one to a friend to give to one lady at church, while I attend another chapel with my husband. He is an Elders Quorum President and is travelling to another chapel in our ward to do interviews and see the overall welfare of our more distant members of the ward.
    – Weed some more vegetable gardens and mulch to protect them from heat.
    – Plant some more cucumbers and snow peas.
    – Pick lots more beans, snow peas, tomatoes, pumpkins and strawberries that are ripe.
    – Bring in seasoned onions picked from the garden indoors from the veranda and put in a cool cupboard for use in the kitchen.
    – Pick more sweet & Thai basil, parsley, sage and hang in brown paper bags to traditionally dry on the veranda.

    Socialising –
    – Been invited to lunch by some church friends on Sunday and will be travelling some distances to visit other members and church friends. Our ward stretches over 2 states part in Queensland and part into New South Wales. Some of our members travel 2 1/2 hours each way twice a month to get to our main chapel where we attend church. Such dedication by them indeed !.

    Fuel –
    – Keep watching the prices of fuel and fill up empty fuel containers when they fall further.

    Have a wonderfully productive week one and all :).

  18. Hi Mable and agree with the plastic over the compost. We have extremely hot weather here and it does keep in the moisture. We still do have to add water to it every 2 – 3 days with the watering can to keep it moist and help it decompose.

    With our branches we have a branch chipper and mulch branches from trees we have pruned that aren’t diseased. We then place these under our black plastic to break down for a few months and use them as chunkier mulch for our ornamental flower gardens etc.

  19. I have seen fence designs where it’s two fences side by side with maybe a foot in between, then the twigs and leaves and branches are dropped inside to decompose. I would imagine that looks…rustic, nice for a farm but not practical for you. We have a problem getting our compost to break down but it’s because I always forget to turn it. Maybe you could add worms?

  20. My week is reshuffled as all three children are sick. So I only have one goal now. I have to bake and freeze the stollen for my son’s International Night at his school. It’s very up in the air because of the coming storm. My neighbor said I can store all five loaves in her freezer, thank goodness.

  21. I took a worm class here from the extension service. Worms have to be kept inside, as it is too hot outside for them here. Even the garage will kill them.

    I have my trash cans with a lid, but we have less than 10% humidity, and very little rainfall (3-4 inches a year, officially, but our area of the city is closer to 2-3). My attempts at composting have been so unsuccessful that my husband is ready to quit entirely.

    A lot of things, like roses, should not be composted, as they can spread disease. I cut quite a few rose bushes (I currently have 14, but am adding 10 more this year).

    I know what kind of composting set up you’re talking about. I can easily fill that very quickly with grass in the summer in a month, but there needs to be a higher ratio of brown, and I don’t have that. Branches are not something that is going to break down easily, and I would fill that entire thing with branches in a week, and still have loads more. I have over 40 trees to prune. They would have to be chipped. Compost needs to be smaller to break down; branches are going to take years.

  22. Brandy, you do more in a week than I can do in a month. I wish I had your energy.

    Right now I am still feeling so bad I don’t get near as much done as I would like. We are having lot of beautiful weather right now and I wish I could get out into the garden and get some work done. This weekend my husband and I are going to the local city area and get a truck load of mulch. It is FREE if you show a city water bill. I also got some big 3X3 stones to go under my clothes lines. Sometimes after a rain going to the clothes line is muddy. The stones will be a big help.

    I got a big bag of pecans from my sister in law. I plan to get them shelled and into freezer bags. I will put them into 1/2 cup portions. That is usually what I need for a recipe. I also plan to make my husband a sugar free pie. He has diabetes and often craves something a bit sweet. Store brought things have so much artificial “junk” that I don’t want to have him or anyone else eat it.

    I plan to get our taxes filed too. We have all the forms together.

    If I can get these things done with the other normal things a family needs I will have done a lot.

  23. I had questions too about the dormant oil. Do you spray the whole tree? I think you are doing an amazing job for such a small lot, you have an incredibly,productive spot there and you really work hard on it. You are an inspiration to me as an amateur gardener.


  24. Yes, you spray the whole tree. I pay special attention to any areas where I’ve just cut, but you should spray every branch, all over the branch. The oil will make it so the overwintering insects can’t live. It’s not much oil–just a tiny bit that you mix with a couple gallons of water–but it works well.

  25. Well, the seed catalogs are all here and it’s time to plan the garden. This is where I get lost. I’d really like to plant food within the overall yard like you do. How do you plan your garden? Do you do it on paper or use an online planner? I’d sure love to see how you do it.

    Costco has espalier fruit trees right now and I’ve been looking for someone with a truck to help me get them home. I already have a meyer lemon, but would love to add an espalier orange, lemon and lime across the back fence.

  26. Good call–:)I don’t think worms in the house would be worth it!

    I think sometimes it’s very wise to put my efforts into something that will bear the most fruit for my time. No matter how much I might wish that something would work for me, sometimes my time is better spent on another activity that will give me more gain in return for that precious time. It sounds like you are at that place with composting!

    It’s a good thing you are so good at so many things–no one can do it all or do everything the ideal way–and you have many, many other things that save you money and give you a hight quality of life for all of your efforts. I love reading your blog. There are so many good ideas.

  27. I agree, Becky. Not everything works for everyone. For instance, Brandy’s family enjoys meatless meals, but when I even suggest trying meatless, my family balks and fights me at the idea. It just doesn’t work for us, despite it being a frugal choice. Brandy can grow gardens nearly year round in her climate, where we have brutal winters and shorter growing seasons. On the reverse, we have no problems with drought or humidity.

    I love this blogging community for all the amazing ideas and suggestions everyone has. However, I have to personally decide which ideas will work for my family, my climate, my budget and my personal situation. Sometimes ideas are great and work perfectly for me, others may need to be adapted to fit our situation and while other times, the ideas I read just don’t work for me. Regardless, I’m so glad that everyone shares what has worked for them. I never know what might inspire a new frugal accomplishment!

  28. Brandy my sister is in Arizona. She uses the tumble type of composter. It sits on the ground and you can tumble it with your hand or foot (or in your case with kid labor!!) on its base. I advised her to buy several container of live worms at the tackle store and add those. You may need to check on the compost for some dampness at first but once it starts going it will work. My sister also bought a very small leaf/limb shredder. She shreds the leaves for the composter and the branches are shredded and used under the “pretty store bought and colored”” mulch to add additional material for breakdown and help hold moisture. She said her neighbors are amazed at how much color her plants have in comparison to theirs and how little she waters her garden and yard area. She told me that the land that the house was built on 10 years ago was the consistency of broken brick. Not today and she will tell anyone she is not a very good gardener. I realize your life is very busy but I know that my boys (all 4 of them) thought that the compost pile was a new type of eden when they wanted to look for worms!! Blessings.

  29. My weekly goals are out the window this week. I have a sick kitty that needs the vet (this afternoon) and a major conflict going on between my daughter and husband so my nerves and ability to focus are shot. Here is what I still hope to get done:
    1. Set up the fish tank.
    2. Make up and send out the feed sack tote that sold.
    3. Finish the last camping dog bed and put elastic in the waist of a couple of pairs of my jeans.
    4. Make up Freya’s raised feeder (this was on last weeks list and never got done). I use a hinged Tidy Cat litter bucket and cut out a hole large enough to hold her dish. I will weight is with some weights we have sitting around collecting dust. These also work great for camping since I can fill the bucket with their food as well.
    5. Catch up on “dog laundry” – some people have pukey kids – this week I’ve had pukey dogs (if they’s quit eating stuff they shouldn’t like socks and foam this wouldn’t be a problem!!)
    Hopefully, I can get at least that stuff done…..we’ll see

  30. Well–we checked the compost today. It’s completely dry and not decomposed at all. We wanted to use it in the garden. I will have to bury it to make it useable.

    Arizona is different than here–14 inches of rain a year compared to our 4 (and my part of town gets closer to 2-3 inches a year). I only know one person who composts successfully here, and he has a drip line that he runs to water his compost tumbler every day.

    Red worms (the compost type) won’t live in outdoor compost here, according to the extension service class I took on worm composting. They have to be kept indoors so that they don’t cook. The garage won’t work–they have to be in the house.

    A lot of what I cut needs to be tossed because of diseases, like powderey mildew and black spot. Those should never be composted.

    And I don’t see us buying a wood chipper for the masses of branches from the trees.

    The ground here is hard—like concrete. People jackhammer holes in the ground to plant trees. We brought in new dirt for planting everything and dug out the old dirt. New soil is essential.

    Compost would be wonderful (I do know how good it is), but we have tried a lot, and with these last two batches not breaking down after an entire year, I think I’m about done trying. Manure, occasional good soil additions, worms (I have bought regular garden worms in the past), occasional trench composting, and organic fertilizers will have to do for our garden.

  31. Hi Brandy and relate to the hard as rock soil, we started with similar hard sandstone and had to amend with cubic metres of both horse and cow manure.

    There is also one school of thought on compost where people dig the peelings straight into the soil along the rows with a hand trowel when planting or along the side of existing rows of vegetable plants already growing, as well which may work for you. One of my friends used to cut all her scraps up finely and then just dig them straight into the soil with her hand trowel. Her strawberries, flowers and all things seemed to grow very well.

    Another school or thought I read on the internet is to chop finely and leave on the soil surface and let it just decompose and work it’s way down. I would probably lift up the mulch and put it on the soil and throw mulch over the top though, just my thoughts.

    Everyone has different climatic conditions and has to work out what works best for them.

  32. I have a few items I am listing this week to sell on a Facebook page. I want to spend one afternoon making freezer meals. I love having meals that are frozen so I can use on busy nights. I also want to go shopping at a couple stores this week. I have noticed coats are being clearanced out and I need to find a winter coat for my son next year.

  33. Yes, that is called trench composting, and I have done it before. That way works fine for me. Unfortunately it is difficult to do under the trees 🙂 but it works fine in the other areas in the garden. That has been the one way that composting has worked for me.

    Since my other compost is still not broken down, I will be burying it in the garden in this way.

  34. I understand completely, Brandy. I have the opposite problem. My soil is swampy, rain clogged, and part of my yard looks like a pond at times. In addition, I get very little sunlight in my back yard (and my front yard for that matter) because of tree cover from the neighbors. We just do what works and do the best we can. I had to haul in gravel to keep my car from getting stuck. We cannot park on the side of the street here. I have to haul in gravel about once every year or so, because it just sinks into the soil. The foundation of the house is not built on a slab, it is on a raised peir foundation and was built in the 1950’s. Considering the high water table, that is good. On the plus side, I get to hear lots of frogs……lol.

  35. Hi Maria and I am not Brandy :p.

    What I do is mud map it out on a piece of paper, I look at what is a companion plant for another plant and try and put them next to each other. In the front yard for instance I have predominantly herbs growing, but also in between herbs I have vegetables. So with my strawberry patch, I have dwarf green beans growing as the beans put nitrogen into the soil and companion well with the strawberries as they are heavy feeders and require a lot of nutrients. I also have oregano growing in the same circular garden.

    In another I have sweet basil growing with tomatoes, which are good companion plants and at the back I have sage growing. The mixture of herbs and vegetables look fabulous together too.

    Well that is how I do it and I look at the best companions to go with each herb or vegetable I plant and go from there. It works for me and everything is producing in great abundance.

    I also rotate my plantings each year and never plant the same thing in the same place, to avoid disease.

    I hope this helps.

  36. When my oldest girl was in college the house she lived in was very agricultural as that was her major and they had worm bins, compost bins etc. There were 2 guys in the garage apartment and 6 girls in the house. The entire back yard, front yard and minimal side yards were, and still are a garden, every window had something growing in it in the winter, there were cold frames and a homemade greenhouse and they grew food vertically on fences and railings and hanging from branches and stands. There were chickens in the garage (coop was built into the side of it with an enclosed run. Their city has allowed backyard chickens since 2004. The garage was really just for storage of tools, feed, supplies, bikes. They added bees last year, I heard.

    She no longer uses worms as she has plenty of room here for multiple bins and plenty of chicken manure to add. Same with us and at our oldest son’s house. I can see how it would be much easier to compost in a climate such as we have with cold and snow for long periods than for the super dry climates that some have. Moisture is so important, not so much heat. We can see steam come off the compost piles here in the winter as they just keep perking along.

  37. When my oldest girl moved back here with her husband 3 years ago she resurrected the old greenhouse. My maternal grandpa built it for my father to use. My father was from a “warmer” climate and was used to a longer growing season. It is attached to my husbands workshop/business (that used to be my grandfather’s) and is made mostly of old doors and windows. They got it all back into shape and she started minimally with it last year and much more this fall/winter.
    One side is against the workshop which is heated in the winter. It also has vents that can be opened to let heat into the greenhouse if needed, from the workshop.

    The Four SEason Harvest by Elliot Coleman is very good. I have a pretty old book that was my father’s, Crockett’s Indoor Garden by the Victory Garden people from public TV. That is flower related but we need both.

  38. That is true. My cousin collects all the apple branches for their smokehouse, and I know others that do too, plus the branches from the hickory trees.

  39. She is a Harlequin Great Dane – just turned 5 months old and weighs in at 52 pounds and is about the size of full grown female Golden 😀 She is eating 8 cups of food a day right now (and would eat more if we let her – trying to keep her lean to avoid joint issues)

  40. I’m always so impressed with your goals! Way to go!

    This week my goals are to write a few articles for some freelancing jobs, plan out February meals and grocery lists, and figure out what to do with our bonuses and refunds that come in March. Not a lot 🙂

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