Archive for the 'Gardening' Category

Spring Garden at Lake of the Pines, CA

said on April 3rd, 2016 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Gardening, Localism


The Jenkins Garden is in the ground, this morning, finished, kaput, one hundred percent!   Up here in the Sierra Foothills I am taking a bit of a chance (we occasionally get late spring cold snaps) but the weather is too beautiful, and I just couldn’t help myself, but, I compensated for my impatience with better preparation than usual.  Before the first seed or seedling went into the dirt:

  • Preliminary plan drawn on paper.
  • Weeds pulled by hand.
  • Fences and trellis’s (trellises?) repaired.  (This is DEER country!)
  • Irrigation systems redesigned, repaired, and tested (drip when I can; sprinkle when I must)
  • Many (many) wheel barrows of compost trundled over from the bin and dug in.
  • (Okay, kids, this is the scary part.  You may want to look away.  Slug and snail bait sprinkled around the perimeter.  Yeah, yeah, I know.)
  • Bird screens repaired and standing at the ready.
  • Every square inch raked and smoothed.

Time to go shopping!

Next:  Seeds and seedlings

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Planting Guide for February in the Sierra Foothills

said on February 15th, 2016 filed under: Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Gardening, Localism

What to plant in February


Spare Guts!

(as my Pappy used to call them)

Flowers: transplant or direct seed snapdragons, candytufts, lilies, California Indian pinks, lily-of-the-valleys, larkspurs, Shasta and painted daisies, stock and coral bells.

Fruits and vegetables: Plant Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), strawberries and rhubarb.  Direct seed radishes, beets and chard.  Start peppers, tomatoes and eggplants indoors.  Plant bare-root asparagus now through April.  At lower elevations, plant potatoes now through May.



Dill is a useful culinary herb

and attracts beneficial insects to your garden !


Trees and shrubs: Plant bare root ornamentals. Transplant living Christmas trees outside.  Buy Ceanothus and other drought-tolerant spring-blooming plants now to get the color you prefer.
Thanks to Placer County Master Gardeners!

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Upcoming Event Near Lake of the Pines, Auburn Ca. ~ Auburn Spring Home Show

said on May 15th, 2013 filed under: Auburn, Fun Things to Do Outdoors, Gardening, Lake of the Pines, Localism

Upcoming Event Near Lake of the Pines, Auburn Ca. ~ Auburn Spring Home Show is coming this weekend May 17th – 19th 2013. This event takes place at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. continue reading…

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Don’t Miss the 2012 Farm and Barn Tour

said on August 20th, 2012 filed under: Gardening, Localism

This year’s Placer County Farm and Barn Tour will be on October 14, 2012 from 10am til 5:00 pm.  Here’s a link to the website so you can plan your day for the Farm and Barn Tour.  Below you can see my photos from the 2010 tour.  It’s every other year, so don’t miss it in 2012 or you will have to wait until 2014!

Horse near Gold Pond nursery

The tour jumped off at 10:00 am on Sunday, October 10, 2010.  I say “jumped” because that’s what you have to do if you want to make a dent in the itinerary.  There are nine venues scattered all over northern Placer County, California, from Loomis in the southwest to Bowman in the northeast.  And you only get 6 hours to complete the tour.

CJ and I decided to forego the two wineries, the Christmas tree farm, and the cattle ranch.  That left us three orchards, one aquatic plant nursery, and one vegetable farm . . . and lunch at the Produce Company deli in Newcastle where we enjoyed the fresh spinach quiche and home made oatmeal cookies.  Yum.  Where was I?  Oh, yes, the tour.

1.  We began promptly at 10:00am at the Boornakis-Harper Ranch inside the city limits of Auburn.  “City” is, of course, an exaggeration.  You can see the city peeking over the edge of the trees, looking down into the farm with envy.

Boorinakis Harper Ranch

This place is actually an orchard specializing in pears.  The Boorinakis family had it set up real cute with the 4H kids and the master Gardener ladies conducting little demonstrations.

Boorinakis-Harper Ranch

Bees, bats, chickens, goats, olive oil, and compost were among the big events.

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

We could have stayed there most of the day.

2.  Our second stop was the Machado Orchard.  Anyone who travels I80 between Sacramento and tahoe will recognize the famous Machado windmill and blimpette.

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

In season you can shop for all your produce at the Farm store.  And you can get your favorite pies there.  The Machado pies are legendary.  We bought fresh corn, okra (Southern boy, did you guess?), peas, pies, and red pepper jelly. Yummmm-eeeee.

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

I got a crush on this alpaca.  Look at those eyes.

3.  We hopped on to the freeway (actually we drove) and headed “down hill” into the “flats”  passing many fine properties along the way.

Placer County Farm and Barn Store

CJ wanted to visit the aquatic plant nursery called Golden Pond.  I wasn’t too hot on the idea, but it turned out to be my favorite site.

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

The plants, ponds, koi, and water features were just beautiful.  I got lots of ideas for my own yard.

4.  We decided to squeeze one more event in before lunch, so we headed back into the farmlands north of Loomis for a short visit to Mandarin Hill orchard.  Orchards are kind of boring.  There are lots and lots and lots of trees that look like, well, lots and lots and lots of trees.


We attended a short lecture about the “colonists” who came over from England in the late 1800s to make a fortune in citrus and got wiped out so they got pissed at the Asian farm workers and took it out on them.  OK lunch.

5.  After the aformentioned quiche, we wandered off southwest to find Twin Brooks farm.  Now this spread is what you imagine when you think “farm.”

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

Barns, tractors, greenhouses, and a pretty farm house under the shade trees on top of a little hill.

Placer County Farm and Barn Tour

We bought some mandarn orange stir fry sauce, and I almost bought a diatonic scale Indian flute (hint hint CJ, Christmas is just around the corner).

My gosh.  It was already 4 o’clock!  What a fun day.  What a good thing to do.  Know your farmers.  Know where your food comes from.

Placer County Farm and barn Tour

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One Bright Crop in Nevada County Agriculture

said on August 19th, 2012 filed under: Country Property, Gardening, Localism

Agricultural production in Nevada County declined 45% during the first decade of this century (2001-2010).  You read that right.  Declined forty-five percent!  Only one crop increased in value and production, but I’ll save that revelation until the end of this short blog.

Ten years ago, the  top agricultural product from Nevada County was timber.  But with the collapse of new home construction, demand for lumber declined, and timber fell from number one to number three in the county.

Wine grape production has also fallen, from including a 31% decline from 2009 tom 2010 due to hail and frost at critical moments.

Here is the list of the TOP SIX CROPS in Nevada County as reported in the most recent Annual Crop Report (2010) from the Department of Agriculture

Cattle and calves

Range and pastures


Wine Grapes

Fruit and Vegetables

Nursery Stock

But which agricultural product has increased in production and value during the past 10 years?

Registered organic farmers have increased by 37% with a total increase of acres under organic certification of 47%.  You read that right, too.  Increased forty-seven percent!

In other articles I have claimed the Nevada County was perfectly capable of feeding itself if necessary.   Why?

Low population density

Reliable water

Sufficient arable land

Mild Climate

And the agricultural know-how skills of local organic farmers like Alan Haight of Riverhill Farm, just north of Nevada City.

Buy local.  Support your local farmers.

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Thought Provoking Resources for Gardeners

said on August 7th, 2012 filed under: Gardening, Localism

Here are provoctive resources for gardeners, landscapers, conservationists, and environmentalists.


Books to Read

Sunset Western Garden Book (9th Edition) OK, this is not provocative in a radical sense, but it is a foundational resource for gardeners on the West Coast, our “Bible,” if you will.  Order it anywhere.  Older versions are just as good (in my opinion) and a lot cheaper.

Western Nevada County Gardening Guide (All About Gardening in the Sierra Nevada Foothills)  Order this from the Master Gardeners mentioned below.  University of California Cooperative Extension and Nevada County Master gardeners.

Sand County Almanac (with Essays on Conservation from Round River)

Aldo Leopold,  published in 1949 by his son.  Paperback.  This was the first book my forestry professor, Neal Lemerise,  made us read.  A conservation primer.

Second Nature (A Gardener’s Education)

Michael Pollan, published in 1971.  Paperback.  Pollan’s other works (Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and The Botany of Desire) are better known, but this collection of essays is my favorite.

Farming:  A Handbook

Wendell Berry.  Poems about our relationship to the land by America’s preeminent literary rustic.


 Places to Buy Stuff in Nevada and Placer County


Bald Mountain Nursery

6195 Bald Mountain Road

Browns Valley

Call 530-743-4856 before you go


Pleasant Valley Farm and Garden Supply

125 Clydesdale Court

Grass Valley


Eisley  Nursery

380 Nevada Street



Rare Earth Landscaping Materials

11750 LaBarr Meadows Road

Grass Valley


People to Call for Help


Master Gardeners Nevada County

255 South Auburn Street

Grass Valley



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Top 10 Summer Flowers for Lake of the Pines

said on August 2nd, 2012 filed under: Gardening, Lake of the Pines, Localism

What are the Top Ten Summer Flowers for Lake of the Pines, California?

Sue Baker is the Lake of the Pines gardener.  Drive around LOP any time of year and you will spot Sue tenderly mothering her flowers.

Here are Sue’s choices for summer “colors”  Typically, these flowers are:

(1) annuals (you have to re-plant or re-seed them every year)

(2) selected for deer-resistance

(3) selected for low water usage


Vinca Annuals  (not the invasive ground covers Vinca major and Vinca minor)



Salvia (Sage)

Cosmos (Asteraceae)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Coreopsis (Asteraceae)

Alyssum (Brassicaceae)

Shasta Daisy (Chrysanthemum maximus)

Yarrow (Achillea)


Impatiens (Balsaminaceae)


Zinnia (Asteraceae)


Let’s give Sue Baker a big Green Thumbs Up for her flowers and her help with this post!




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What Is Nevada County’s Top Agricultural Product That Isn’t Marijuana?

said on July 22nd, 2012 filed under: Country Property, Gardening, Localism

What is Nevada County, California’s top agricultural product?  No, it’s NOT marijuana.  Well, maybe it IS.  Who’s to say?  The pot growers are reticent to publish annual reports on their crops, or so I deduce, having seen no such report since I’ve lived here.

Weed notwithstanding, what is our top agricultural product?  When I first asked this question, 10 years ago, the answer stumped most readers.

The answer was . . . are you ready . . . wait for it . . . timber.  But, no, argued some, timber isn’t agriculture!  But, yes, I replied, it certainly is.  Timber is a crop grown for harvest, like any other, except that the growing season lasts 75 to 100 years.  Wrap your head around that.  Most timber “farmers” will never live to see their seedlings harvested.  Wow.  I don’t know about you, but that really messes with my mind.

Over the past decade, timber has fallen from Nevada County’s number one product to number three.  Why?  Think about it for a moment.  In the middle of the past decade, we were plunged into a housing crisis that devastated the economy, nationally and locally.  What’s the major use of timber?  New housing construction.  No new houses being built, plummeting demand for lumber.  Lumbermen out of work, saw mills closed,  truckers collecting food stamps, contractors doing odd jobs, developers doing . . . well, whatever developers do when they’re not developing, going bankrupt, probably.  It gets down to this, housing drives everything in this country.  True, that, but it’s not the focus of this article.

OK, the top agricultural product is no longer timber.

What’s your next guess?

If you say, wine grapes and vineyards, you would be . . . wrong, again.  Wine grape production dropped by 31%, due largely to “hail and frost at critical moments.”


Well, what is it?  What is Nevada County’s top agricultural product?


Cattle and calves.

Yep, this is cow country, ranch country.  Add to that surprise, the number two agricultural product is Pasturage.  You didn’t see that coming, did you?


(The statistics and  the quote in this article are from the Nevada County Department of Agriculture’s Annual Report for 2110, published October 13, 2011.  The target year lags behind the actual report by about a year.)

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Deer Resistant Plants for the Foothills

said on July 13th, 2012 filed under: Auburn, Country Property, Gardening, Lake of the Pines, Localism

Deer are everywhere in the Sierra Foothills, and nowhere are they more numerous than at Lake of the Pines, California, where they move around through the un-fenced yards, lordly and arrogant,  eating just about everything that grows.

Can you actually establish landscaping, green and lush, that is impervious to the plague of deer?  Yes.

These are shrubs and trees reputed to be deer resistant, though those of us gardening in our area know that some deer will eat almost anything, and that all deer will eat almost anything if they get hungry enough.  I have seen hungry deer nibbling on the needle tips of junipers, though I have never seen them touch an oleander.

The worst offenders within deer herds are the fawns.  Like most babies, the fawns haven’t yet learned what to avoid, and they put anything into their mouths.  Because of their small size, the lowest and most tender growth of almost any kind of plant gets the special attention of these youngsters.  You might think about protecting newly installed “deer resistant” plants for the first year with screen or fencing.

Other trouble makers are the bucks during the fall “season.”  These sex-crazed lads will tear up plants just for the hell of it, and they will use your new trees to tune up their antlers for the mating wars to come.  You might think about wrapping the trunks of newly installed trees with burlap until the lust dies down.

All that said, here are my 12 favorite deer resistant plants for the lower foothills.  The photos are all from my own un-fenced yard at Lake of the Pines.   I am putting my plants where the deer mouths are.  These are July photos, so most of the specimens have already lost their flowers.


Juniper.  Lots of people don’t like juniper because they are scratchy and boring, but many types have adapted to dry conditions and take little water to hang on through the summer.  Juniper can form screening hedges and hold down  problematic hillsides.

There are also “softer” and low growing species of juniper.

Oleander.  Thank God for oleanders in July.  Oleanders are profuse boomers and provide the most reliable color in the summer landscape.  They are, as you know, poisonous, so don’t eat them.  The deer are also well aware of the toxicity.

Grevillea.  Sturdy and reliable.  My favorite types have delicate pink flowers on them almost all year.  They are prickly.

St John’s Wort.  A surprise discovery.  This plant is 3 years old.

Elaegnus.  This is a new addition, a “silverberry” variety.  We put it in this year for the first time.  So far so good.

Nandina, aka Heavenly Bamboo.  Not a real bamboo, and it will not get out of control.  You can trim it like a hedge if that’s your thing.

Azelea (and rhododendrums) The deer will eat some species, and they will eat young, tender new growth, but they leave old leathery azeleas alone unless they are desparately hungry.

Abelia.  This is glossy abelia.  Takes very little water.

Barberry.  Gorgeous red foliage to contrast with the green and grey-green on most foothill shrubs.  Lots of thorns.  Ouch.


Wisteria.  Wisteria grows so high and so fast that it will soon grow itself out of reach.  Of couse, if you don’t keep it under control, it will eat your house.

Yarrow, CJ’s favorite,  and Lavender, my favorite.


Dafodils and Narcissus.  These are not shrubs, but they do come back year after year to enliven the early spring.  Each year you should plant new bulbs.

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