SAVLIA grows well in El Dorado County's climate. Photo by Noel Stack

FHI 2012

Gardening with a purpose

By From page FHI26 | September 26, 2012

Today’s gardens are delicious, water conscious

“Let’s go out back to get a snack.”

It’s an idea more people have adopted over the years. The home garden has made a comeback, according to Front Yard Nursery senior salesman Chris Elliott.

“Most people have been planing home orchards and edible landscaping,” Elliott said, crediting higher grocery store price for the trend. “Veggies can be planted anywhere — small pots in the front or back, container gardens.”

Don’t want to risk getting on the ladder to pick your fruit? The Placerville nursery sells dwarf fruit trees that grow well in the region’s clay soils and only reach about two-thirds as high as their parent fruit trees.

To protect all that delicious, fresh food gardeners also stock up on fencing, deer repellant sprays and organic treatments to keep away smaller pests, Elliott said.

Water is a big deal in El Dorado County and while many people love gorgeous gardens they don’t want a water bill that gouges them out of their paychecks. Elliott has the answer: “Plants that take reduced water — and here’s the key — once established.”

Don’t think you can just plant, sprinkle and move on with your life. All plants need care in their first couple of years and drought-resistant, water-saving plants are no exception.

So what’s ideal for El Dorado County’s soil and climate?

Elliott starts with salvias — perennial plants that can handle hot, dry conditions and thrive on a drip system. “After about two years you can really back off the water and they still perform quite well,” he said.

Echinacia also does well in a dry climate and full sun, Elliott added. Toss in some sedum and sempervivum and you’ve got a hardy garden that’s easy to maintain.

UCCE El Dorado County Master Gardener Laura Watson published the following tips for maintaining a water-wise garden.

1. Improve your existing soil.

2. Design your landscape into “hydrozones,” plants with similar water, soil, and exposure needs, grouped together in the same “zone.”

3. Use mulch around your plants.

4. Plant native shrubs, trees, and flowers in your landscape.

5. Install a smart irrigation system and water deeply and efficiently.

6. Use permeable surfaces for the paths and patios in your landscape.

7. Take advantage of rainfall and use a rain barrel.

Here’s the dirt
Of course, the right soil can take your garden from nice to “WOW.”

Front Yard Nursery gets a super-organic soil mix — ideal for raised beds and container gardens — created especially for the area. They also sell organic compost.

“With the clay (soil) you have to add organic material so you get good drainage,” Elliott said.

“Good garden soil is made up of a mixture of sand, silt, clay and organic materials,” states and article written by El Dorado County Master Gardener John Kochanowski.

“Organic material such as mulches and compost fulfill numerous functions in improving your soil,” the article continues. “Organic material added to your soil keeps the soil from becoming too compacted. It provides nutrients both directly to the plants and also to the soil microbes which in turn improve the soil structure. Since our warm Mediterranean climate summers cause organic material to break down quickly, you will need to add organic material at least once a year.”

Help’s right around the corner
If your pear tree seems wilted or your jasmine won’t bloom, Front Yard Nursery has 20 years of experience to guide you to a solution.

“We are a complete, one-stop for the novice gardener to the expert gardener,” Elliott said. “We can assist anybody.”

The nursery also hosts classes, seminars and clinics throughout the seasons so those with aspiring green thumbs can get hands-on experience.

Visit Front Yard Nursery is located at 5801 Mother Lode Drive in Placerville. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Call 530-626-3494 or visit

Noel Stack

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