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Blog has moved

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.

See you online…

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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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A day off!

We’re off today. Our good friend and employee Rob offered to work for us today, so Monica and I could get a day off. I think we will head up Hwy. 49 towards Nevada City. Maybe we will stop by Weiss Bros. nursery in Grass Valley. Other than that we will just enjoy having nothing to do.

With the weather in the mid-seventies it’s a perfect time to be outdoors. People come to the nursery and keep telling me we need the rain. Of course we do! Saying we need the rain in January seems to be a tradition here in northern California, where our rains seem to keep coming later and later each year. We live today! Get out and enjoy yourself, and don’t stress over the lack of rain. Around here it could all come in one month in March (let’s hope not however.)

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Protecting your plants from the cold

We had frost just the other day. It burned the leaves on the figs and finished off the summer vegetable garden. The first frost always surprises and if you not careful you can lose that jade plant you brought up from The Bay Area. Jade plants are not the only plants that need to be protected. Most citrus, tropical hibiscus, bougainvillea, some cactus, some succulents, and houseplants should all be protected from the cold.

The solution for many of these plants is to simply bring them indoors. That ficus tree that you set out side this summer needs to be brought back in before the first frost. Really it should be brought in long before that, as temperatures in the forties can be harmful. Most all houseplant need to be kept in the house during the winter. Keep in mind that when you bring the plants indoors you should not locate them where the heater vents or fireplace is located. The heat may be too much for them.

Plants like citrus or tropical hibiscus do not necessarily need to be brought indoors. They just need to be located out of the direct cold, like on a covered patio. The cover over the patio helps quite a bit in keeping the cold off the plants. This won’t work if they are planted in the ground, of course. That is why we don’t really recommend planting tender plants in the ground. Trying to protect them each winter can be done, but forget just once and they could be doomed.

With both plants in the ground, and container plants, there are some things you can do to help. “Frost Blanket” is a lightweight material that drapes over the plant, making as much as a seven degree difference between the outside and under the blanket. Some people use plastic sheeting to cover their plants, though I don’t recommend that. Plastic, when it touches the plant can conduct the cold to the parts of the plant it touches. Plastic also doesn’t breath, which can cause problems when the sun shines, causing the plants to over heat. “Frost Blanket” breathes, and does not conduct cold to the plant.

“Cloud Cover” is a liquid that is sprayed on the plant itself. The “Cloud Cover” coats the leaves, with an invisible barrier, that prevents moisture loss through the leaves. It is this moisture loss, on cold days that can cause damage to plants. “Cloud Cover” will provide a couple of degrees of protection if applied at least a few hours before you expect frost.

One novel, and pretty way to protect some plants are Christmas lights. Hanging a string of larger holiday lights, not the little twinkling ones, throughout the plant can give a couple of degrees protection. The lights can be used in conjunction with the “frost blanket, to provide even more protection.

Many gardeners love to test the limits of their ability and climate when growing plants. The tips we have discussed will help to prevent some of the disappointment you might experience, when that 20 year old jade plant makes the move with you to The Foothills.

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Train your vegies up.

I like to train my cucumbers, squash, melons, and other vining vegetables up using bamboo tee-pees. As the vine grows I just keep tucking the foliage into the tee-pee. The fruit develops of the ground and withing easy reach. this is a great method for vegetables grown in containers.

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