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Independence Daze

Garden Salad

“Independence now and forever.” Daniel Webster

Anticipating the celebration of the 4th of July was a huge deal when I was a kid. Those were the days when three weeks before the big day, stands selling fireworks, rockets, sparklers, fountains, and more would line country roads and highways. Our station wagon filled with kids would pull up to these pop-up booths as we begged our parents for our favorite explosive entertainment. Our Dad and uncles would buy boxes of various items to ignite on my grandparent’s ranch to the thrilling ooh’s and ah’s of our large Italian family. Safety was always a major concern as we often read in the newspaper about people who lost a hand or started a fire while being less cautious. My Dad was a Captain in our county’s volunteer fire department and he made sure that our Independence Day fun was safely executed.

Our morning would begin with us marching with our farm animals decorated in ribbons of red, white, and blue in a local parade, where there were always more participants than spectators. A delicious picnic with produce harvested fresh that morning followed. A bounty of salads of tender greens, juicy tomatoes, crunchy beans, and tangy cucumbers flavored with garlic, olive oil, and wine vinegar remain in my memory. But it was the first bite of roasted white sweet corn slathered with butter and basil for the pre-fireworks barbecue that still to this day makes my mouth water.

The sound of weed whackers, lawn mowers, chain saws, blowers, and giggling children indicates that summer has arrived. In the heat of the day, swimming pools become our refuge while our patios are the place to kick back after a long day at work. Our gardens are resplendent with the colors of the rainbow as nature’s annuals and perennials burst into bloom. Hydrangeas, Oriental lilies, daylilies, roses, gladioli, kalanchoe, clematis, and my favorite for this season, godetia. Godetia is not only brilliantly beautiful but also deer resistant. Swallowtails are fluttering throughout the landscape and finches have taken up residence in my favorite birdhouse perch. My garden is a living, breathing firecracker!

We must temper this marvelous warm weather excitement with our distressing recollections of the recent destructive wildfires. HEED the checklist from our local fire departments to create a defensible space around your home. To reiterate fire district recommendations:

  • ϖ Prevent embers from igniting your home by clearing leaves, needles, and debris from gutters, eaves, porches, and decks.

  • ϖ Trim grasses and weeds.

  • ϖ Prune tree limbs to keep the lowest branches 6-10 feet from the ground.

  • ϖ Reduce “fire fuel laddering” by not allowing bushes or trees to touch one another.

  • ϖ Keep combustible materials 15 feet away from structures.

  • ϖ Maintain your property and be alert for any fire danger.

For further safety tips visit

Whether you march in a parade, hike, bike, eat pancakes, picnic, barbecue, or dance to your favorite beats, may you make your own memories this Independence Day while watching fireworks sponsored by our localities. Let freedom ring!

Cynthia Brian’s Gardening Guide for July

FIGHT fleas and ticks organically with DEET-free Yard Guard Cedar spray. These blood-sucking pests carry multiple diseases for humans and pets. Use coupon code SUMMER18 and save 10% off your order at !

BE SAFE on the 4th of July. Only 295 communities throughout California allow for the “safe and sane” use of individual fireworks. For more information visit:

WATER your orchids with an ice cube weekly. This is a simple to monitor the moisture and keep your orchids hydrated and healthy.

BUY-A-ROCKET to support the 4th of July fireworks in Moraga.

MOW lawns more frequently cutting no more than 1/3 of the grass height at each mowing to keep your lawns healthy. Water deeply and infrequently!

HARVEST plums and apricots. Pick up fallen fruit to prevent disease to the trees.

FIRE up the barbecue to grill your favorite veggies and sweet stone fruits.

PLANT squash now to use their blossoms for cooking in thirty to forty days! Sowing okra, dill, and cilantro will add to your garden’s bounty later in the summer.

ENJOY containers or pathways of citronella geraniums, also called the Mosquito Plant or Pelargonium citrosum, in areas where you walk. The citrusy scent is pleasant when brushed up against, however, despite mass perception, my experience informs me that this plant, which does not contain citronella, does not deter the pesky biters. Empty all vessels with standing water daily to avoid an aquatic mosquito-breeding field. Turn on a fan and light a citronella candela.

Be grateful that we live in this beautiful land of spacious skies, fruited plains, and purple mountain majesties! Proud to be an American!

Celebrate with glee our Independence this 4th of July! Hurray, it is summer!

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing.

Cynthia Brian

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3.

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at

Buy a copy of the new book, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, at

Available for hire for projects and lectures.


Passion, Purpose, & Possibility Producer

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