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Free San Diego Gardening Resources
 March 15th, 2013

blooming cactusby San Diego on the Cheap Editor/Publisher Sheri McGregor

Relieving stress and getting a little exercise top the list of ways to promote better health. In finishing my Masters in Human Behavior in 2012, I had the privilege of conducting a small study on people who garden. My most significant finding was that lifelong gardeners are very happy. No big surprise, really. Many of us in San Diego have gardened straight through winter rains, pruning while plants were dormant or producing winter vegetables like the leafy Bok Choy I sautée in olive oil with poppy seeds. Others are just now getting the gardening bug with San Diego’s blue spring skies. Our optimal spring weather provides the perfect opportunity to combine stress-relief and exercise. You can call your gardening by the official psychological term, “horticulture therapy,” or simply enjoy yourself. Either way, it’s well-known that creating a natural space can support your well-being.

Here are some free San Diego gardening tools to get your green thumb going:

* How about learning how to use less water while enjoying your garden? The San Diego County Water Authority has the free Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape, available as an online flip book or a downloadable pdf.

* You might also enjoy this free California-friendly Gardening for San Diego County online resource.

* Drought tolerant plants are must in the San Diego area. That doesn’t mean skimping on looks in your yard. Offered by San Diego’s The Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College, free garden tours led by docents plus many drought-tolerant gardening events where you can learn how to use less water in your garden. You can also visit and learn on your own about water conservation gardening in San Diego daily 9am to 4pm – - it’s free.

* Home Depots around the county are offering free classes on water saving gardening, too. Classes are still available March 23 and April 20 so check the full schedule to attend.

* Learn more about growing tomatoes at these free tomato growing events at Grangetto’s locations (March 27 in Fallbrook, April 3 in Encinitas). Grangetto’s has container gardening and other events too. You might want to join Grangetto’s garden club while you’re looking at their website as well … you’ll get a 10% coupon plus lots of gardening information.

Do you know of other free San Diego gardening events or resources? Please let me know (you can contact me or open the comment window below).

Hot Gardening Deals

Other gardening articles you might enjoy:

Winter sowing


Check the great prices at DirectGardening.com

San Diego on the Cheap is an affiliate partner to some sites listed here. They show gratitude for my referrals in the form a small fee. This allows San Diego on the Cheap to keep bringing you the deals! Add your email address to subscribe to the RSS feed on the right. AND, Like San Diego on the Cheap on Facebook.

First day hikes at America’s State Parks
 December 27th, 2012

hiking Anza Borrego Desert State Park and San Diego HikesLast year (2012), America’s state parks launched what they call “First Day hikes.” This year, more than 600 first day hikes are taking place. What a great way to start the year, get your New Year’s better health resolutions off to a great start, and just have fun. The hikes chosen are between 1 and 4 miles and suitable for families.

You can find out the scoop on America’s state parks’ first day hikes here, and even locate a hike close to home on this first day hikes map. Anza Borrego Desert State Park is participating, as are several other California State Parks.

Hiking is a great activity, whether along with many at a public event like America’s state parks first day hike, or with family or friends here locally.  If you’re not going on a scheduled hike like the first day hikes, it’s a good idea to get informed and be prepared. Check out these San Diego hiking guides. – - including one for Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

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Also join San Diego Hikes new facebook page.

Westfield North County free family fun
 September 28th, 2012

fall fun in san diegoIt’s not all about scary stuff this Halloween. Fall just began, and the change of seasons even here in San Diego provides opportunities to learn about nature. Your little kids can enjoy story time at the Westfield Mall in Escondido with featured stories about nature. One covers the beautiful changing leaves of The Giving Tree . Another offers a wonderful story about a boy who builds a house for the birds he so loves to  watch: Riki’s Birdhouse Your youngsters like birds and trees, too, don’t they?

Check out these fun free Westfield Mall family events for yourself (October 1 (that’s this Monday) and October 15: Free family fun days.

Also consider getting out among the trees with your family. Fall provides some of the best opportunities to visit outdoor spaces in and around San Diego. The mountain areas, just a short drive from the city will give you the changing colors of the leaves, squirrels dashing to hide acorns, and cooler weather. As the season progresses, consider some desert visits, too. Check out my article: Fall Sights on San Diego Trails. And join the new San Diego Hikes facebook page.

You’ll find good maps and lots of trails with ratings that make it easy to choose San Diego hikes for families with people of all skill and ability levels with these local guides:

60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego (includes north, south, and east counties)

Day and Overnight Hikes: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Easy Hikes Close To Home: San Diego

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Daffodil Show in Julian
 March 22nd, 2012

Daffodil Show March 24 and March 25

Who doesn’t adore the cute flowers that pop their heads up to brighten the hills — and our days? Drive up into the Julian area and you’ll see them in bunches along the roads. Wouldn’t it be nice to get up close, see what makes a winner, and truly enjoy these little beauties? This weekend in Julian, you’ll have your chance. Open to the public is the Julian Daffodil Show with exhibits in the town hall (2129 Main Steet) and at the Blue Heron Garden Shop (2116 Third Street). You can learn from expert enthusiasts about the daffodil, known as the flower of hope.

There are lots of other things going on in Julian on the weekends as well. Western street theatrics, homemade apple pie – - and this year, maybe even a little snow left from last weekend’s storm (?)!

Learn more about Daffodils at the California Daffodil Society website. Members will be at the show.

Look at some lovely daffodil photos from the 2010 show.

Find out more about Julian and Julian events.

Spring wildlife fun in your own yard
 March 15th, 2012

Your Yard a Wildlife Habitat

by San Diego on the Cheap Editor and Publisher Sheri McGregor

jasmine bloomingThis time of year, the jasmine growing up all around my porch is blanketed in pale pink blooms. Their knock-out sweet scent wafts out into the crisp spring air, attracting everybody who  nears. Today, a couple of birds fluttered about in the flowery clumps that have all but covered the rain chains extending to the roof. I’ll have to watch and see if the birds are making a nest. If so, I’ll have a picture-window view as they go about their domestic bliss. The jasmine blooms last only a few weeks each year, so the petal pink sweetness will be just about spent as their baby birds emerge. I didn’t intend the jasmine as a place for birds, but their presence delights me.

What areas of your yard, patio, or balcony can you make attractive to birds or other wildlife? It’s fun to get children interested,  but even if you don’t have any kids around, creating an environment that attracts wild birds and other wildlife can provide hours of on-the-cheap pleasure. You’ll also know you’re doing something good for the animals, without a big investment. At a minimum, you’ll want to provide food sources and water. If you also provide areas for wild things to take cover and raise their young, you’ll have the basics needed to get your space certified as an official wildlife habitat by The National Wildlife Federation. More about that later, but first, let’s talk a little more specifically about catering to wildlife’s needs, even in the city.

Even in an apartment with a balcony, setting out a few potted plants and a small fountain or a shallow dish of water may attract passing birds. Add a feeder and you’ll be singing along with some new feathered friends you can watch from indoors. A hanging planter may provide a good nesting spot.

In a bigger space, consider adding native plants. Even small yards make good homes for native plants, because they come in so many shapes and sizes. There’s something for everybody in our native plant community. Drought tolerant, thriving on near neglect, attractive to native creatures, and beautiful. Who could ask for more?

In my inland North County yard, native willows, grasses, and flowers provide the birds with food that ripens at varying times, and gives them places to hide. A small pond and trickling fountain provide a water source that attracts a diverse variety of birds throughout the year. Tall fan palms host nesting owls, orioles, mockingbirds, and others, while an old agave spire that’s long since bloomed and dried in place provides a natural high pole in which woodpeckers drill and nest.

In our modern society, there’s a tendency to promptly manicure our hedges, cut back spent blooms, and clean up bramble. A yard for wildlife requires a little looser attitude. Go ahead and dead-head flowering shrubs to encourage a second bloom cycle, but let a few go to seed for the birds as well. Trim the branches and let a few lie at the base of a tree or bush for the nesting season.  The California towhees (and other birds) like to scratch about in the underbrush. Your manana attitude toward the cleanup gives lizards a place to scramble for cover. And a king snake or two, attracted to good hiding places, can do wonders in a gopher war.

Of course, be cognizant of any specific rules for your housing community, and make sure your yard doesn’t become a fire hazard (a worry here in San Diego).

To find out more about getting your garden certified for wildlife, and get your official sign from the National Wildlife Federation, see:
Certify Your Wildlife Garden

For more about native plants, see:
Native San Diego Plants: Hiking Trails
Las Pilitas, a native plant nursery with much information on native San Diego plant varieties

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National Parks: Free Guide
 March 5th, 2012

San Diego weather is warming up and blue skies are beckoning us to get outdoors. Soon, spring break will be here. Is it time to get away?

Whether you’re taking a drive over to nearby Joshua Tree National Park, visiting Cabrillo National Monument here in San Diego, or taking a longer trek to one of America’s beautiful parks, the The National Park Foundation has a brand new free National Park guide to help. The National Park Owner’s Guide is a free download designed as a “one-stop resource.”

Download the free National Park Owner’s guide, find parks you want to visit, and learn more about featured National Parks at the National park Foundation website.

And if you’re looking to get away from it all close to home, there are plenty of hiking trails and open spaces right here in San Diego County, too.


Half-Off Birch Aquarium at Scripps
 January 17th, 2012

Half off Birch Aquarium at Scripps tickets

In celebration of its 20th anniversary at the current location, Birch Aquarium at Scripps is offering half-off entry to all San Diego County residents  on the 20th of every month clear through September 2012 (it’s actual anniversary month).

Kids 3 and under are always free, so with half off regular prices for others, this may be a great time to check out the sea-nery!

I know … it’s so corny to spell scenery like that. . . . but the deal is great!

The half off Birch Aquarium deal is valid for residents in zip codes 91901-92199. Show a valid ID with the zip code to receive the offer.

Limitations: two children per paid adult; cannot be combined with other offers.

Regular admission is $14 for adults, $9.50 for children ages 3-17 and $10 for seniors. Children under age 3 are free.

Find out a bit more about this half-off Birch Aquarium anniversary, and get the entire scoop on the San Diego discount by

visiting the website.

San Diego’s Red Tide
 September 28th, 2011

Nature has a free show for us at San Diego beaches just now: bioluminescence.

At night, the sea off San Diego’s coastline is aglow with this natural phenomenon. Organisms in the water create the glow with this naturally occurring light in their bodies. As the waves break, the light ibecomes visible to onlookers.

This show is free. And happening at San Diego’s nighttime beaches now.

Find out more about bioluminescence from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Leo Carrillo film fest, last free movie of the season
 September 22nd, 2011

Rancho Carillo is a historic ranch park in Carlsbad that was once home to film star Leo Carrillo. Hike #10 in San Diego on the Cheap publisher Sheri McGregor’s book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego (2d ed). Each year, the park offers a round up of free film showings. 2011 film fest is coming to a close. Get the details about the Leo Carrillo Film Fest in Carlsbad, and attend one of these neat free film events that takes you back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is an outdoor event, so be sure to visit the Leo Carillo Film Fest site for details.

Last event: Friday evening, September 23.

September 24, Free National Parks Entry
 September 18th, 2011

Free National Park entry days 2011

Yosemite

Yosemite

Every year, the National Parks give you a few free access days to America’s beautiful National Parks and sites. This year the days fall during  crisp autumn days. Start planning now, so you don’t miss this opportunity to get into a National Park free.

Public Lands Day, September 24, 2011. You get free entry into all National Parks!

Veterans Day Weekend, November 11 -13 2011. Free National Parks admission.

In addition to a few free days each year, The National Park Service provides an economical annual pass deal for nature-lovers who visit the parks often, and a very good $10 lifetime deal for seniors and free for permanently disabled persons. Some of my favorite times have been spent with family at our awe-inspiring National Parks. Take advantage of the free National Park entry days during 2011, and get to know your National Parks today.

San Diego’s closest parks are:

* Cabrillo National Monument

* Joshua Tree

Find other parks.

Rancho Carrillo, Leo Carrillo film fest, Carlsbad parks free event
 September 15th, 2011

Rancho Carillo is a historic ranch park in Carlsbad that was once home to film star Leo Carrillo. Hike #10 in San Diego on the Cheap publisher Sheri McGregor’s book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego (2d ed). Each year, the park offers a round up of free film showings. 2011 film fest is ongoing. Get the details about the Leo Carrillo Film Fest in Carlsbad, and attend one of these neat free film events that takes you back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is an outdoor event, so be sure to visit the Leo Carillo Film Fest site for details.
Next movie, Friday, September 16.

Friday evenings through September 23.

Rancho Carrillo, Leo Carrillo Film Fest, free Carlsbad parks event
 September 8th, 2011

Rancho Carillo is a historic ranch park in Carlsbad that was once home to film star Leo Carrillo. Hike #10 in San Diego on the Cheap publisher Sheri McGregor’s book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego (2d ed). Each year, the park offers a round up of free film showings. 2011 film fest is ongoing. Get the details about the Leo Carrillo Film Fest in Carlsbad, and attend one of these neat free film events that takes you back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is an outdoor event, so be sure to visit the Leo Carillo Film Fest site for details.
Next movie, Friday, September 9.

Friday evenings through September 23.

Rancho Carrillo, Leo Carrillo Free Film Fest, Carlsbad
 September 2nd, 2011

Rancho Carillo is a historic ranch park in Carlsbad that was once home to film star Leo Carrillo. Hike #10 in San Diego on the Cheap publisher Sheri McGregor’s book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego (2d ed). Each year, the park offers a round up of free film showings. 2011 film fest is ongoing. Get the details about the Leo Carrillo Film Fest in Carlsbad, and attend one of these neat free film events that takes you back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is an outdoor event, so be sure to visit the Leo Carillo Film Fest site for details.
Friday evenings through September 23.


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