Yard Work = Yuck Work

I like putzing in the garden. It’s relaxing. I do not, however, like yard work. It’s not like we have a lawn to mow … we’re totally desert-scaped. Read that … rocks instead of grass. We do, however, have several bushes and shrubs that need trimming, the cacti need attention and there are weeds to pull. Since the guys are still working on the deck, I felt a little guilty about leaving all the yard work for them (although the thought certainly crossed my mind).

 They let me loose in the front yard with an electric hedge trimmer ... Yahoo!

They let me loose in the front yard with an electric hedge trimmer ... Yahoo!

Having never trimmed bushes with electric hedge clippers before, I figured I’d give it a whirl. Marcie Scissorhands, at your service!  I asked David for any sage advice. ‘Start from the bottom and work up and don’t cut the electrical cord’ were his words of wisdom. And so it was that I headed out into the front yard with rake, hedge clippers and pruning shears to tackle the front yard and do some springtime clean-up.

topiary vs gone wrong.jpg

The results were somewhere between a fine topiary and a hedge-trim gone wrong. Actually, all came out okay. Nothing creative, but nothing that a few months growth won’t cure.

front yard.JPG

Then there were the weeds … lots of them. I pulled and pulled and yet there were more. We have a hard time with flowering plants, but growing weeds in this arid land is evidently pretty easy based on our bumper crop. They pop up everywhere. I really need to spray with weed killer, but that’ll wait for another day.

I cleaned up most of the dense bed of brown needles from beneath our pine tree and disposed of an unknown quantity of pine cones. I noted many more growing on the tree which means my job is secure for at least another season. I trimmed the aloes and the yucca.

 Prickly pears are vicious!

Prickly pears are vicious!

The biggest challenge, however, was the prickly pear. First of all, they’re vicious plants. They have long spines that keep you at alert and tiny, hardly noticeable insidious hairs that seem to jump on you when you least expect it, are hard to remove and hurt like the dickens.

 Cochineal scale ... aka mealy bug infestation

Cochineal scale ... aka mealy bug infestation

It seems our prickly pear is covered in a white, cottony, sticky substance which I thought was a fungus. Au contraire … it’s infested with cochineal scale (who knew?), a type of mealy bug that really enjoys prickly pear. It appears the way to confirm this infestation is to scrape off some of the white stuff and squeeze/smear it. If it’s bright red-purple, it’s cochineal scale. The Spanish used to dry the stuff and sell it for big pesos back in Spain as a much sought after dye.

 Confirmation of cochineal scale ... that ain't raspberry jam!

Confirmation of cochineal scale ... that ain't raspberry jam!

The first order of business was to hose it off with a hard water spray which I did. The on-line cactus doc also suggested scrubbing each individual pad with a toothbrush and an insecticidal soap … which I did not (and will not … just sayin’). It appears I can also purchase a stronger insecticide and spray it on … which I might do. Better living through chemistry.

 Hard water spray washed away the bulk of the scales.

Hard water spray washed away the bulk of the scales.

All in all, the front yard is looking … well, it’s looking better than it did. I always like to leave room for improvement … and help ... next autumn.