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Just don’t spend enough time on this blog to keep it up to date.  I am still online however and can be reached in a number of places. My blog The Blogging Nurseryman is one such place. You can also find our nursery website here. Check out our nursery Facebook page here. My Facebook page here. Check out our group over at LinkedIn.

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Top ten native plants for The Sierra Foothills

Aspen in the high country

The following are in my opinion the top ten native plants that adapt well to average garden conditions. They tend to establish easier than othertypes of natives and are a great starting point for someone interested in native plants.

1. California buckeye (Aesculus californica)

2.Western Redbud (Cercis occindentalis)

3. Flannel Bush (Fremontedendron californicum)

4. Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii)

5. Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)

6. Black Oak (Quercus kelloggi)

7. Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica)

8. California Laurel (Umbellularia californica)

9. Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii)

10. California fuchsia (Zauschneria)

Another reason these plants are good for the beginning native garden is they are usually available at the garden center. Many native plants are hard to find in the trade.

I hope to start a pictorial reference guide for our native plants. The first was Toyon, which I wrote about at my last post.

The above picture is of our native Aspen (Populus tremuloides). It grows best in the high country above 3000 feet in elevation. I’ll include the in a list of native plants suited for the high country in a later post.

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California Holly

Here is one of the foothills most beautiful native plants, Toyon ( Heteromeles arbutifolia). Known also as California Christmas Holly, since it has berries around Christmas time. It is said that Hollywood got it’s name because of the large amount of Toyon growing amongst the chaparral.

Toyon is one of the more adaptable native plants for the garden. It really needs very little water during summer once it is established. Growing to about 6 to 10 feet in our area it is a handsome evergreen shrub.

The berries are a bird favorite, including cedar waxwings. It is a must in native, and wildlife gardens.

I am always amazed that more of these wonderful plants are not use by gardeners. Perhaps it’s because of past failed attempts to grow it. I find the number one cause of death in the garden is over-watering. It really only needs a couple of waterings during summer. Eventually it can go the whole summer without water.

These plants are generally available in one or five gallon size cans. I find the one gallon size is the best, as they seem to establish fairly quickly from that size.

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Turkey day and dormant spray

Thanksgiving, besides being my favorite holiday is also when you should think about applying your first application of dormant spray to fruit trees. It’s called dormant spray since you spray it when your fruit trees are dormant. Once the leaves have fallen, and through February our trees are dormant or asleep. It’s during this time that an application of liquid spray known as dormant spray can be applied to prevent insects and disease during the growing season.

There are two basic types of dormant spray, copper and lime sulfur. While they both help prevent disease, lime-sulfur can no longer be sold per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That leaves us with copper, a very effective disease control and organic to boot. In it’s liquid form copper is mixed with water and sprayed on the dormant fruit trees. The copper kills overwintering disease such as apple scab, peach leaf curl, rust, and other common diseases of fruit trees.

There is also another type of dormant spray that kills insects that are overwintering on fruit trees. Aphids, mites, scale, and other pests hide in the cracks and crevices of fruit trees waiting to attack when the trees leaf out in spring. To kill overwintering insects we spray what’s called “dormant oil” or “horticultural oil”. This oil smothers the insects killing them before they have a chance to attack the trees in spring.

You should apply the copper spray three times during the fall and winter. The first spray should be made around Thanksgiving, the second spray should be around New Years, while the third is right around Valentines Day. By applying all three sprays your trees will leaf out in spring disease free, reducing the need for growing season sprays. The horticultural oil generally needs to be sprayed at last once during the dormant season. Copper and horticultural oil are considered organic and one of the most important sprays in the organic fruit garden.

Ideally you would first prune your fruit trees before spraying. That way you won’t be spraying branches and twigs that will be cut off, and taken away. If you cannot prune before your first spray, that’s o.k., just make your first spray and then prune sometime during December or January. You will need some type of pressure sprayer to perform your dormant spray, as hose-end sprayers are not the best for applying dormant spray. Try and time your spraying so that a few days of dry weather will follow the spraying. If it rains within 24 hours of spraying, you will need to spray again.

Dormant spray can also be applied to fruiting berries and vines as well as trees. If it fruits, and goes dormant during fall and winter then a dormant spray is a good idea. We do not spray citrus with dormant spray as they are evergreen and do not go dormant. There are two types of copper spray. One is a powder and the other a liquid. Both are mixed with water, so I prefer the liquid type as it is easier to mix with the water. The product name is Liquid-Cop and is manufactured by Monterrey Brand. The dormant horticultural oil is manufactured by Lily-Miller and is called Superior Type Spray Oil. We carry both items here at The Golden Gecko Garden Center.

While your here be sure to pick up our free 2010 fruit tree list. Our fruit trees will be available for sale starting in January and with the list you can read about all the wonderful types of fruit trees we will have available. This is the year to take matters into your own hands and grow the most beautiful and healthful fruit anywhere, right in your own backyard!


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The seasonal change

I haven’t posted much at this blog over the last few months. It’s just we have been so busy at the nursery this year there hasn’t been the time. After work Monica and I head for the garden where we de-compress, which does not include blogging. With the rain today it has come to my attention that the garden is ready for it’s seasonal change. In addition I found a baby deer inside the gate, trying to get out. The first animal intrusion into the garden this year. It got our by ripping down the fence.

So it’s time to start pulling out some of our tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers to make way for fall vegetables like broccoli, and cauliflower. We have already planted the first broccoli and are getting the bed ready for lettuce and radishes. If we don’t plant now they will not be ready in time before the cold of winter settles in.

Don’t wait any longer to make the change. Like so many things in life, timing is important. In vegetable gardening it can be the difference between having vegetables to harvest in fall and winter, and having nothing to harvest. The fresh rain today, the first in many months, helps set the mood for the fall and winter garden. Change is in the air.

We will be having a fall and winter vegetable garden workshop at the nursery next Saturday the 14th, from 10 am to 11. It’s free, and will give you the information needed to have a bountiful garden this year and next.

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Bare root goodies

I love the bare root season. All sorts of fun stuff to plant. Fruit trees are the first thing everyone thinks of when it comes to bare root. There are lot’s of other fruiting plants that can be planted bare root, yet are not trees. Blueberries are the most popular of the fruiting bushes these days. We sell blueberries in pots during spring, but you can get them bare root right now. They are smaller than the ones in pots, but they are also half the price. Be sure to plant two different types of blueberries for cross pollination.

Asparagus, strawberries, and rhubarb are also sold bare root. As a matter of fact asparagus can really only be planted during the bare root season. It’s not sold in pots later, like strawberries or rhubarb will be. There are also the berries like blackberries and raspberries that are sold bare root. Bare root season is full of possibilities.

In our face paced lives we have come to expect that the plants we want to grow will be available when we want them. Want to plant a fruit orchard in summer? Well then the garden center should have the fruit trees then, right? Want Rhubarb to plant in fall? Well the garden center will have them then, right?

Gardening is about the seasons. Different seasons are for different aspects of gardening. To expect the garden center to have a lot of fruit trees in summer is wrong. Most likely the fruit trees will be gone by summer and planting fruit trees during summer is not healthy for the trees. They like to be moved and planted while they are dormant, in winter. That’s just the way it is! Grandma and grandpa knew that winter was bare root season. After being off the farm for a couple of generations we have forgotten what to do during the different seasons.

It’s time to become attuned to the seasons again. If you want to grow fruit trees, and bushes you have to work with nature, not against her. It some times come down to deciding what it is that’s important in our lives. Do we want to spend our time running around trying to do a million things at once? Rather wouldn’t it be better to do fewer things, but do them better? When I think of all the well meaning people who plant fruit trees and don’t succeed it’s sad. So often the extra time necessary to care for the trees is not allocated and they suffer. Fruit tree gardening does not have to be hard, but it does require forethought and an awareness of what to do each season.

This is the season to plant fruit trees and bushes. Don’t wait until the end of February, it may be too late to find the varieties and quantities you want. With the increase in interest in fruit tree gardening, I think we will run out of the fruit trees earlier than in years past. Remember, the best time to have planted that tree was ten years ago. The second best time to plant is right now!


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Fruit tree sales are brisk

fruit tree prunned low for ease of care

Ed Livo, our fruit tree sales rep standing by a fruit tree prunned low for ease of care. See how much easier it would be to pick the fruit and care for a tree that is kept small like this one.

I am excited about the bare root fruit tree sales . People seem to be responding to events around them   by taking back control in areas of their lives. Growing you own fruit can be such a rewarding project on so many levels. I think there are two reasons people are more interested in growing there own fruit this year. The first is safety. People are concerned about what goes on their food, and whether it will be bad for their health. Growing their own fruit they will know exactly what has been applied to the fruit trees. Want to go organic? Your choice.

The second reason is flavor. I am always pointing out the white fleshed nectarines to folks. Some say they don’t want buy nectarines since they never taste good. I think they feel this way since the only nectarines they have tried are the hard as rock ones in the store. Fresh picked nectarines are fantastically flavored, even better than peaches. So flavor is something that compels one to start a fruit garden.

There are other reasons to grow your own fruit. A chance to show your children where food comes from, and the work involved in bringing food to the table. There is also the desire by some to only buy food grown or sourced locally. Locavore is a term used to describe someone who only sources their food within a 100 mile radius. It’s a growing movement, and nothing is more local than your own backyard.

Here is a great resource for the home fruit gardener. Dave Wilson Nursery supplies our bare root fruit trees and they have a great web page that talks all about Backyard Orchard Culture. This is a technique that was developed exclusively for the home fruit tree gardener.  It utilizes semi-dwarf trees which stay smaller and makes them easier to prune and care for. It also utilizes summer pruning in addition to the dormant pruning we do in winter. It’s also about “successive ripening” which means less volume of fruit, but a more continuous supply of smaller amounts of fruit. Much better for a family.

Fruit tree sales are brisk, and I think we will sell out earlier than we have before. If you are interested in getting some fruit trees this year I would try and get into the nursery the next week or two for the best selection. Make this the year you finally start that fruit garden.


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