Monthly Archives: November 2009

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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