Everything listed under: Mountain Gardening

  • April 2017

    I'm trying to put out an e-mail for Earth Day but the weather is just too nice to sit at the computer...  I'll once-more recap this winter, I'll schedule some class dates, I'll offer some specials and I'll thank you (quite sincerely, really) for sharing your experiences and for your "patronage".  I'll tell you about the new hardy plants and the loads of garden art, pottery and organic composts were receiving daily.

    email notes: 2017 Mountain Gardening Begins     http://conta.cc/2q4vhmK 

    I promise I'll put more here soon but right now I gotta go, I'm sorry but I need to get outside.

  • April-May 2016

    Wow, a "Normal" winter-Spring.  Lots of new faces to gardening in Truckee. Welcome. The edibles trend IS a cultural shift and it is excellent. We were the ONLY source for solid gardening information and education for many decades and as more and more folks experiment and learn on their own, they are becoming valuable assets and mentors in the gardening community. Thank You.

    We have always felt extremely fortunate to have jobs we love and to have the opportunity to share with and learn from thousands of individuals each year with as many disparate gardening and landscaping experiences.  We essentially garden vicariously through all these wonderful people.  Slow Food Lake Tahoe and Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners have been putting together some fun classes that we dropped the ball on this spring.

    We hope to make the time to put together our usual Summer-Fall Class series this year... stay tuned.  We are ALWAYS open to new ideas for classes.  

    Don't Forget!... We do have an event the first weekend in June (Fri-Sat, June 3-4).  Our EIGTH annual FREE Kellogg Planting days (See elsewhere on the website for details).  It is always a blast and always busy and Giselle is THE fountain of information for ALL things compost, organic related.  PLEASE ask her your toughest questions.  She teaches classes in Nevada, Humboldt & Mendocino counties as well as across the nation.  Oh, we'll have MINI-seminars on a variety of subjects on the 3rd & 4th... (see elsewhere for details).  Visit our Facebook page or LIKE us for more up-to-date information.

  • July Hail Sale & the BIG Truckee Garden Tour 2015.

    find the newsletter here.

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  • Education & Villager 2015 SPRING Classes

    Villager 2015 Spring Classes - When I first worked with Villager Nursery in 1984 (~8 years after the existing florist was purchased) we began giving classes & sending out informational newsletters. Education in natural sciences gave me a strong bent toward environmentally conscious organic landscaping including natural pest controls and using as many drought tolerant and mountain-native plants as possible. Rob joined us just 2 years later and taught us the wonders of bat guano, worm castings and many organic fertilizers.  The tradition of education and working WITH our ecosystem, continues to this day. We are very disappointed and concerned about the drought AND we have been promoting drought tolerant landscaping and native plants since 1984. Most folks water far more than they need to. Back to the reason for this post, our SPRING class schedule is here if you'd like to see it. For MORE info sign-up for our VERY occasional e-mail newsletters and visit us (better yet, do LIKE us) on Facebook.

  • Late Season News / Sales / Coupon

    Check-out the most recent e-mail news with late season nursery sales and a Biosol coupon @ http://conta.cc/10TRZSk

    Check-out the Facebook page for more info and a Biosol give-away @ http://on.fb.me/1x6vLY


  • Extending Our Harvest Season

    Frost is imminent but you do not have to yield your still producing or ripening vegetables to it.   We LOVE our 1.5 oz. Frost Protection Fabric, a medium weight, breathable, permeable, UV treated spunbonded polyester fabric designed to protect crop plants from freezing, drying and extreme temperatures. Usually referred to as Floating Row Cover, it creates a warmer microclimate by capturing heat of the the day - and then slowing the loss of stored heat at night so it raises minimum temperatures, without suffocating, crushing or burning plants the way plastic could.  If days are warm, it is better to remove the fabric during the day and to cover well before nightfall.  Its light density and permeability allow air, water and sunlight through so plants can flourish beneath it even if left on for weeks.  Remember: there is no such thing as cold, just less heat.  The trick is to collect the day's heat and trap it for the night. 

     Protect tender flowers from the frequent the late frosts of spring. Even use it over apple trees and lilacs to save the buds (more). Use it in summer to protect plants from hail storms (leave it on for days).  Use it for flower boxes, vegetable gardens, row crops, fruit trees and flowering and fruiting shrubs (in a pinch, it can be used as filter fabric or a liner for moss baskets).

    In the past few years MANY gardeners, with full-sun gardens have been using the row-cover all summer (like a greenhouse cover) with excellent (actually far superior) results. The fact that the 1.5oz fabric cuts ~50% of the sunlight is more a benefit than a disadvantage in our high elevation gardens.

    In Autumn, your vegetable harvest time and blooming plant season can be extended by a month or more.  When it gets really cold, double up the layers and leave a string of C7 or C9 Christmas lights on around your plants at night.  We tested dozens of brands and weights and have been delighted with the durability and effectiveness of the one we now use.  Our bulk rolls are 12' wide by 300' long but we sell any length.  Our pre-cut packages are 12' x 10'.

    1.) Drape over the plants to be protected.  Support with stakes over (not touching) the plants if hard frost is expected.

    2.) Remove when weather improves. In early spring and late fall, garden plants thrive under the row cover for weeks on end.  After use, store out of direct sunlight (we use clean / new garbage cans to store ours... keeps out sun, rain and rodents).

    BTW, there is evidence to show that fertilizing your plants with seaweed gives them an extra measure of frost resistance (as well as providing micronutrients, improving flavors, strengthening stems and cell walls, and helping plants fight insects and diseases).  Kelp Meal, Maxicrop, etc... can be used ANY time of year. It is usually my first feeding of the year and often my last as well... (besides the BIOSOL on the lawn in November).

  • Truckee Gardening Season

    Our gardening season and our "growing season" are not the same. We were gardening in February this year, planting shrubs we didn't get to in the fall as well as seeds and bulbs we forgot we had.  MANY clients were preparing their raised-beds and planting beet and radish seeds. The could have been plating seedlings of chard and kale as well. The best spinach I've ever had was grown from seedlings I planted in early April that then laid covered with snow for 2+ weeks. Our growing season, according to NOAA, is our "frost-free period", when we have less than a 10% chance of ≤ 32°F on any given night, is July 15-August 15.  July 31 is the middle of our growing season.

    Our "average" temperatures are derived from wildly fluctuating daily temperatures at all times of the year. The average gives us a rough guide with which we make wildly fluctuating guesses at how cold it might get on any given day.  That said, it is a tool, much like the USDA zones or the useless-to-mountain-folk Sunset western zones (see Northeastern for a more useful tool).  I've posted this pic of our chalkboard before but it "bears repeating".

    Here is a graph of an "average" winter (temperature-wise). Jan15, 2013-Jan 14, 2014. For interest, note where the "average" nighttime low is ≥32° and where the average daytime temps average ≥70°F.

    I think that, without a greenhouse, our "average" mountain gardening season in Truckee is about March 15 - November 1 (or 15).  It is a matter of taking advantage of clear and warm conditions, choosing the right plants and crops and being able to protect the harvests of others (see RowCover). If you have an unheated greenhouse you can add 3-6 weeks on either end of that gardening season for some veggies. 

    I have planted hardy annuals in February MANY times with great success (pansy, viola, dianthus, calendula, stock, primrose) and I have also planted dormant trees and shrubs in December, January, February and March with excellent success.

  • Seedlings are up

    On Tuesday 3/4, Jose and I planted several non-GMO and USDA certified Organic seeds into a variety of mediums in several window-sill starter-kits just to see if there is much difference side-by-side.  We used BlackGold seedling mix, coir expanding pellets (similar to peat-pellets), and rock-wool.  We, of course, watered them in with seaweed. Put them on heat-mats and under T5 fluorescent lights.  Maxicrop or Dr.Earth - no difference  I Just came back to town from a few days away and the seeds are sprouted and well-up (3/10).  Tomato, Pepper, Cilantro, Basil (like CRAZY), as well as native Birch. Check-out the BRIEF veggie planting overview.

  • Truckee Tomato & Town Meeting Day

    In Vermont, Town Meeting Day (the first Tuesday in March, after the first Monday) is a state holiday. It is the epitome of REAL Democracy with many towns still conducting business "from the floor".

    Lewis Hill was a garden writer from Northern Vermont.  We have long, loved his Cold-Climate Gardening wherein he writes that "in northern Vermont the first Tuesday in March, New England's Town Meeting Day, is the traditional time to plant tomato seeds inside".  "They like heat, lots of light and exactly the right amount of moisture."  Northern Vermont has many climatic similarities to Truckee / Tahoe and, as it turns out, March IS a good time to start tomato seeds indoors in Truckee. We plant the growing young plants into containers outside in mid May. The Villager is open Thurs-Sat in March. We are here to provide you with all your cold-climate seed starting supplies from organic and heirloom short-season seeds to organic seedling potting soils, trays, heat-mats, lighting and all the rest.  We have a fresh supply of houseplants and more pottery on the way.  (Since we're NOT in New England, maybe we should adopt St.Patrick's Day as our traditional day for seed starting, being green and all, and the timing is still appropriate... though were also NOT in Ireland).

    Our goal at the Villager is, as always, to share our passion for gardening and to see our clients and friends SUCCEED in this endeavor we love so much.

    The Villager offers classes and workshops on vegetable gardening in Truckee each spring along with classes and talks on many other mountain botanical, garden and landscape topics; check the calendar page (updates by mid-March) for this year's class and events schedule.  We are always open to suggestions!

  • October Sales & Clean-Up: October 5-13, 2013

    October Sales & Nursery Clean-Up: October 5-13, 2013


    50% OFF 4” pot size Hardy Herbaceous* Perennials like Shasta Daisy, Peony, Daylily, Coneflower, Catmint, Hardy Grasses, etc... and including Perennial Herbs and Vegetables like Thyme, Asparagus, Sage, Mint, Lovage, etc... Last chance for these youngsters cheap.

    30% OFF all larger qt., #1g, #2g, etc... hardy herbaceous perennials. (Herbaceous plant: is a non-woody plant that has leaves and stems that die down to the soi  level at the end of the growing season. There is no persistent woody stem above ground.)

    30% OFF All Vines (including Hops, Clematis and Virginia Creeper), All Hawthorne,  All Ninebark, All Oaks, All Snowberry, All Spiraea, Roses (except native R. woodsii), AND ALL MAPLES !!! including the hardiest of all: Tartarian and Amur (Flame) Maples.

    50% OFF all Remaining Blueberry and Blue Elderberry

    "Orphans" - we’ve brought out many more plants with a crook or broken top that are not quite retail salable but will grow with compost and fertilizer. Trees, Shrubs and Perennials.  These orphaned plants are a value: Perennials in 4” pots are 50¢ and #1g are $1.00

    20% OFF Tough-as-Nails Trees and Shrubs  including Crabapple, Maple, Serviceberry, Cranberry Viburnum, Thimbleberry, Burning Bush, Dogwood, Willow, Chokecherry, Potentilla, Mock Orange, Mountain Ash and 20% off (and without tax) prolific Currants, Gooseberries, Hardy Grapes and Raspberries. Apples, Pears, Cherries, and worthy of its blooms alone, Hardy Apricot from seed collected near 8,000 ft in Ouray, CO.

    Bulb Specials: Bearded Iris $1.99 (reg 4.99 Plant NOW) / Hyacinth Bulbs for indoor or outdoor 10 for 8.99 (reg. 1.29ea.) / Giant Red Impression Tulips 10 for 6.99 (reg. 79¢ea.)

    Inside the store: 50% off Hydroponic-specific nutrients and Indoor Lighting and Growing Systems and kits.

    The newsletter has a coupon for $$$ of of Biosol.  Sign-up to receive infrequent news and notices.    Sign-up if you want the newsletter coupons.

    Buy 4, get 1 FREE  on Outdoor Composts, Potting Soils, Top Soil, Manures & Bark
    30% OFF Redwood Planters & Trellis, LARGE  Pottery (>$40), 30% OFF Outdoor Art
    Saturday 10/5 Only: Jose’s 30% off any Evergreen Sale: Pine, Spruce, Fir, Cypress, Cedar, Juniper, Broom, Mahonia, Ceanothus, Garrya, Rhododendron, Manzanita, Cotoneaster or any other you can convince us is “evergreen”.
    All sales limited to stock on hand and no double discounts. Discounts off regular retail prices....Sale Ends 10/13/13

  • Fall is in the Air

  • Truckee Spring - Mid-May

    Day-length pretty close to its maximum now, the soils continue to absorb the sun's radiation and the average temperatures are climbing.  May starts with an average low of 27°F and ends with an average low of 34°F.  Our night-time temps have been WAY above average for weeks an averages are just the mathematical numbers in the middle of the extremes of reality.  It will be nearly miraculous (or ominous) if we don't have more snow and a lot more frost.  That is not to deter gardening, God-knows I've been going at it since early April and am delighted at my gardens.  My comments are to remind you to be prepared to cover when the cold returns.

    We are having a HUGE sale on our pre-packaged 10x12' 1.5oz frost fabric (packaged by "easy gardener") reg. 15.99 on sale for 10.99 through Memorial Day.  It is great to use when transitioning plants from the house or shade to the outdoors as well.  I just leave it over the plants for a few days.  It is also important to have on hand in for fall cold when I often leave it over the garden for days or weeks at a time.  AND as a bonus... WE use it top protect ferns, hosta, rhubarb, thimbleberry and dogwood from HAIL!  it works great.  If hail is called for, I cover plants before leaving for work.

  • Hardening-Off / Frost Protection / Floating Row-Cover

    Floating Row Cover is graded by "basis weight": measured in ounces of material per square yard (osy) or grams per square meter (gsm).  After MANY years of experimentation we have found the n-sulate, 1.5oz. spun-bonded poly row cover to be far more durable and versatile than any others. The n-sulate gives us 6-8°F of protection and allows 50% light.  We double the layers for extreme cold.

    I have used it over my garden for weeks at a time with water, light and air going through all day yet warmth staying in at night.

    Row cover is essential for cold-climate and mountain gardening. We offer it in 10x12' packages or by the yard (10'wide) from the Villager's bulk rolls. Always have a supply of frost protection fabric (1.5oz. N-sulate floating row-cover) on hand.

    Remember, "there is no such thing as cold", there is only heat and we are trying to preserve it.  There is also NO "average last date of frost"

  • Winter Watering Again?

    As far away as our spring really is, the days rapidly lengthening and our ground is warming.  When we had the florist and nursery together in Old Gateway I would annually plant up the planter-box at the front of the shop for Valentine's Day. (We will have cut flowers and be open the 13th and 14th for V-Day).  It is the beginning of the beginning of spring.  Viola, Primrose, Pansy, Dianthus and Calendula would take the next couple of months of cold and would be huge flourishing masses by May.  

    Regarding the lack of moisture, just be aware of the fact that we have had very little and you may need to water much sooner than normal.  Of course we are all hoping for a substantial change in the weather and a great mass of snow for what remains of the ski season and for the essential water reserves.  I really, really, really, hope that we don't have another cold, snowy May-June.

    We'll see what comes from the next few days of storms but in all likelihood, we'll be watering the south-facing portions of our demonstration gardens next week.

  • Dig.Drop.Done. Bulbs Demystified

    Fall is for Planting.  While Fall is the BEST time of year for planting trees and shrubs it is also the ONLY time of year to plant spring-flowering-bulbs. 


    I have ALWAYS been a fan of bulbs.  They are the simplest and most gratifying form of gardening, literally: Dig. Drop. Done.  Enjoy blooms in spring. "The flowering bulb is the little black dress of the flower world. It's one of the simple things that women can trust to make their lives beautiful. Flower bulbs are actually some of the most reliable and fail-proof blooms available."  Check-out the North American educational campaign, "Dig.Drop.Done".  "Books and websites are filled to the brim with numerous species, lengthy planting guides and tedious details on the ins and outs of gardening with bulbs. It's easy to infer that these plants must be time consuming and require a high level of gardening knowledge."

    Dig.Drop.Done brings to life how easy flowering bulbs really are. At the heart of the Dig.Drop.Done education is a clean, pared-down website that is easily navigable for the avid gardener and the first-time planter. The site is so simple, there is no need to know species names or soil conditions. Appreciating beauty is the only requirement.

    Check these out:  Bulbs 101  /  Meet the Ladies  /   Easy Bulbs Video  /  Dig.Drop.Done. Facebook

  • Labor Day and Early September Mountain Gardening Notes

    September really is a time of scurrying around.  Before I had the immense pleasure of raising children, my wife and I would leave this beautiful place every fall for the Rockies.  I have had family in southwestern Colorado (Ouray) since the early 70's and I LOVE the Colorado flora.   We would try to go for two weeks.  One week in Ouray, relaxing by the lake, fishing, hiking, botanizing and gardening for my Nana; and one week exploring the Rocky mountains. We would be the only people in the entire campground, MANY times.  Moose would walk through our camp and grizzlies would be browsing for berries two hundred yards away. I collected LOTS of seed over the years. I came to absolutely love fall.  (that was a change: growing up as a passionate amateur naturalist and botanist, I had always loved spring, things rising from the dead but fall was depressing, everything was dying...of course it meant going back to school which may have had some impact on my emotional bent.)

    I still love fall.  I love going hiking when no one else is around.  I love collecting seed (many of the native plants we have in the nursery are from our seed collections).  I love the warm days and chilly nights.  I love the hardiest of perennials that continue to bloom into the fall, in spite of frosts or even snows.  AND I love fall colors.  I think the show of fall colors is more dramatic and can be longer lived than the explosions of spring.  I love the colors of stems and the structure of bare branches.  I love rose hips,  persistent crabapple fruit and pendulous branches loaded with mountain ash berries.

    In spite of the FACT that fall is the best time for planting in our short season and to wait until spring costs gardeners a year's worth of root system expansion, we are slower in the nursery and I am looking forward to getting out and hiking and biking several more times.  By all accounts, the wildflowers in the high country are just beginning to explode and many just won't have time to bloom out before it snows.

    So... In the Villager Nursery... we have an amazing assortment of plants that deliver late and spectacular fall colors like Rudbeckia laciniata, R. triloba, Heleneum, Phlox, Physostegia, Aster, Erigeron, Eupatorium, Sedum, Campanula, Aquilegia (you know our native columbine blooms for about 3 months!), Spiraea douglasii, Potentilla, Hemerocalis, Clematis, and even more...     Under appreciated fall colors from Dwarf Birch (already going dormant), Skunk Bush (looks JUST like poison oak), Mountain Maple and Twin-flowering Honeysuckle (both have etherial, ghostly cream fall color... incredible in dappled shade), Wild Roses (the flowers are a flash-in-the-pan but the fall colors, the showy hips and the cranberry red stems are beautiful)... and AH!  Birch-leaf Spiraea (a Cascade native - perfect mounding shape, crisp white flowers in early summer and fluorescent red-orange - like GLOWING - fall colors)  AND the Villager only carries the hardiest of bulbs, specializing in wildflower bulbs, naturalizing bulbs and bulbs that animals are repulsed by.

  • August Gardening News

    In This Issue...

    ·Top 10 Things to Do in August
    ·In the Shop·Mosquitoes and Hornets
    ·Mulch and Compost
    ·Gifts and Pottery
    ·Get Out & Enjoy
    ·Troubleshooting Tips
    ·The Easiest Perennials on the Planet!
    ·What's In Bloom Now...
    ·Upcoming Entertainment and Classes
    ·Garden Center Shop Hours

    ·Cart-Load Sale 25% Off all you can stack or balance on one cart.

  • Nursery Events and Classes in August and on...

    This Saturday's Morning Entertainment: 8/20, 9:30-11am, Come watch Rob and Eric gesture and articulate while sharing the finer details of tree and shrub planting in the mountain environment..

    Upcoming Entertainment, Events and Classes

    August 20 - Saturday  9:30 -11:00 am: High Sierra Planting Techniques - Specific for our climate and soils or “Planting by the Experts”. We'll teach you the methods which our decades of experience and hard earned knowledge have proven to work best in this climate and in these soils. We'll discuss the options and field your questions. These are local, proven techniques you will not learn in any book.

    August 31 - Wednesday Truckee Music in the Park - Fearless Chicken - A Thyme to Plant and  Villager Nursery are this nights sponsor! Come dance with some Villager Peeps for the last Music in the Park of the season.

    September 9 - Friday, 5-9 pm: Customer Appreciation Fiesta -  We will have food, drink and entertainment (they agreed to come again) by Bias and Dunn. José y su familia will be preparing Carne Asada and all the traditional fixin's.  Pot-luck additions are always welcome.  RSVP's appreciated to info@villagernursery.com or call Sarah (our event coordinator) @ 587-0771.  Please come by.  [Last year's pics]

    September 13 - Tuesday, 6:00-9:00 pm: Fall Mountain Gardening & Appreciation of Fall Colors - Are you yearning to have a garden that celebrates the beauty and richness of fall colors? Join us for this informative workshop that will provide you with ways to create a showy fall garden. Learn how to select plants that will thrive in your garden and what to avoid. Many of the gardening activities you perform now will dictate how beautiful your garden will be in the spring. We’ll cover fool-proof bulbs, which trees, shrubs, and perennials have the most colorful leaves, persistent berries or super late blooms. We’ll also discuss winterization. This class is at Sierra College Truckee Campus and requires pre-registration.

    September 24 - Saturday, 10:00-11:30 am: Fall Colors for Your Garden – See the trees, shrubs, and perennials with the most colorful leaves, persistent berries or super-late blooms. We'll cover the chemistry and the natural artistry of a showy fall garden.  Fall can be our longest season of color.

    October 1 - Saturday, 10:00-11:30 am: Fall Gardening - October is a time to plant, transplant and divide trees, shrubs, bulbs and perennials. Collect seed, propagate cuttings, fertilize, mulch, prepare soil and prepare new beds. There is a lot to do to ready the garden for next year's growth.  Deciduous trees and shrubs put on as much as 80% of their annual expansive root growth in the fall, after they lose their leaves.  Fall IS for planting.

    October 8, 2011 -  Saturday, Truckee Fall Color Tour - IF there is interest.  Rob and Eric will lead a leisurely stroll from the Villager to Brickletown and Downtown and back through Old Town, looking for and discussing the beauty of fall. 

    October 15, 2011 - Saturday, Winterizing Your Mountain Garden - A good class NOT to miss if you want the best results for spring.

  • Saturday, July 23, 9:30 - Free Mountain Gardening Class: Native and Historical Plants

    Mountain Native Plants, Historical Introductions and Wildflower Plantings
    When:  Sat, July 23, 9:30am – 11:00am

    Where:  Villager Nursery, 10678 Donner Pass Rd, Truckee, CA 96161 (map)

    Description:  Saturday, July 23, 9:30-11:00am- Mountain Native Plants, Historical Introductions and Wildflower Plantings – Learn to choose the best and easiest native plants for many situations.  Learn how to protect and enhance your existing native plant populations. Gather some seed collecting tips and ideas for wild berry jellies and jams.  Bring samples for identification after the class. We'll also cover a few of the historically important introduced species thriving in Truckee without care for more than a century.  Rob and Eric are your instructors for this one.  BTW - We HAVE the most outrageous selection of natives right now including Epilobium canum (Zauschnaria californica) from a Donner Summit seed source.  Thimbleberry from seed collected in a wild (and rare) patch of pink flowering Rubus parviflorus.  We have - about- 30 species of Penstemon, if you like showy, easy care, drought tolerant, flowers that are loved by hummingbirds.  AND Soooo much more!

  • Hierloom

    Every day (that we actually have people walking into the Villager from the snow) someone will ask us where we keep our "Hierlooms" and I always give a different answer.  Without labeling them as antiques or relics, we focus on providing only (and all) the toughest, hardiest and most productive plants, seeds and bulbs that will thrive in our harsh climate and poor soils. We do offer hundreds of cool heirloom plants (trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and seeds)... we are avid, fun-loving gardeners and we relish anything unique but we also like improved, hardier, showier, and more vigorous new varieties as well.

    An “heirloom variety”, or “heirloom vegetable” is a cultivar (cultivated variety or selection) that was historically popular (for reasons of color, flavor, scent, habit, etc.), but which is not commonly grown in modern industrial agriculture or horticulture. Many heirloom varieties are open pollenated, some are hybrids, and many have been propagated over the years through grafts and cuttings (think: "great aunt Mildred's Christmas cactus that she brought over from the old country in 1855"). Growing heirloom vegetables in gardens is a hugely popular trend of recent years (I love 'Brandywine' tomatoes but cannot grow them without a greenhouse).  Many, many commercially grown varieties have excellent color, flavor, vigor and production but they are just not quite as old, fun or interesting as some of the heirlooms.

    Another example: only a handful of varieties (of the thousands) of potato are commercially grown. All the others are considered “heirlooms”.  Some old "fingerling" varieties are so widely produced now that they may no longer
    actually qualify as heirlooms!  (Eric's harvest 2009)

  • Deep Cold Forecast

    Deep Freeze Expected Sunday Night

    ~19°F (5/15-16):  I'll use 2 layers of N'Sulate 1.5 oz Frost Protection Fabric (floating row-cover) over my newly emerging Bleeding Hearts, Siberian Rhubarb (the edible Rheum should be fine) and Salomon Seal, just in case. Be careful not to break the tender new growth - put stakes in the ground to keep the fabric above the plants. We're cutting loads of daffodils right now in case they freeze too deeply... 

    Hardy Plants

    MOST plants in our gardens should be fine. Plants that come up on our schedule are pretty tolerant of our extreme temperature swings in spring. I'm a little concerned about the buds on my crabapples and I noticed the beautiful Mazzard cherry tree at the west end of downtown is about to bloom. If you've pulled tomatoes or basil or fuchsia into your garage for protection, be sure to move them away from the door.

    We are turning off our irrigation again and draining the above-ground commercial valve, one more time. A string of incandescent Christmas lights under row cover over a planter box can save even tender plants.

    Don't walk on your lawn on frosty mornings or you'll have black footprints when the sun comes out.

  • May IS a Spring Month.

    At Villager Nursery we have always said, with regard to mountain gardening in Truckee, that "April is a winter month with many spring-like days and May is a spring month with many winter-like days" (sadly, June can have many of them too...).

  • Unusual Aspen Breakage in Mountain Gardens

    Comments on the storm of 28-29 December 2010

    This storm came into Truckee and Tahoe with a cold front.  It then turned very wet and gradually piled up as the temperatures dropped.  I have seen more broken tops in quaking aspen (Populis tremuloides) than ever before (several dozen while driving in town).  There seems to be more damage at lower elevations, probably because it did not rain at the higher elevations so the snow was not as sticky.  Aspen has a tendency to grow rather quickly when we water and feed it but it is usually fairly flexible.  The trees that broke did not have unusually rapid growth, they were average, healthy trees.  I am guessing that we will see lots of evidence of breakage in wild local aspen as well.  We regularly see very disfigured and broken aspen in the canyons of the southern Sierra where we collect seeds of Villager Nursery's favorite, and indestructible, western river birch (Betula occidentalis var fontinalis). 

    I had been waiting to prune my broken Aspen until a little later.  Any time after mid March should be fine (earlier and there will likely be drying and die-back from the cut). Cut just above, and sloping away from, the next substantial lateral branch, below the break,  that can assume the role of leader.  Do not cut to a small branch if there is any choice.  By large I mean 1/2 - 2/3+ the diameter of the main trunk.  As long as you are at it, go ahead and prune any competing leaders back to large laterals as well, it's called "subordination"of potential competitors. If pruned properly, the tree should "recapitulate" a new leader.  

    Aspen do best with one strong trunk and one stout and dominant leader.  The narrow, pyramidal form that young deciduous trees and most coniferous evergreens exhibit is called "excurrent growth". I find pruning for excurrent growth is relatively simple to visualize and practice.   Our first class of spring is usually, "Resurrection" after the ravages of winter.

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    xml: http://bit.ly/hiE7U5

  • Fall Color Walk Saturday

    Fall Color Walk - On October 2 , Saturday from 10-11:30, we led a Fall Color Walk, a leisurely stroll, through Brickletown and Downtown discussing the trees, shrubs and perennials with the best fall displays. We walk from the nursery and back ~1mi. roundtrip. ALSO - The Villager Nursery received a truck load of native and ornamental trees, shrubs and hardy perennials last Friday including MANY for fall color (like the Amelanchier - Serviceberry in this pic.).  We have another truck-load arriving on Wednesday full of fresh aspen and much more.  Come by and see... and don't forget, please...   FALL IS FOR PLANTING.  You have everything to gain.

  • 35 Anniversary Customer Appreciation Sale

    35 Anniversary Customer Appreciation Sale 

    from the 10th to the 19th of September had some smokin' deals sign-up for the Newsletter to receive a notice of any future specials, sales, discounts, coupons or timely information about mountain gardening. Copy of recent newsletter here.

  • Truckee's Gardening Season

    I saw a beautiful rainbow today.  A neighbor and friend stopped by while I was hedging my Amur Maples and said "drive down to the end of the street and look!"

    It was a nice summer rain.  Made me want to expand on Truckee's Gardening and Growing Seasons.

    At the beginning of the year it is winter.  January gardening entails paperwhite bulbs and amarylis bulbs and some houseplants.  I do check-out the plants on exposed rocky ridges while skiing and marvel at the toughness of Heuchera, Artemisia and Eriogonum.

    February keeps us busy trying to force bulbs for Valentines Day.  On our south facing rock wall, we have had Crocus bloom by late February and be covered with snow and be still blooming when it melts out a couple of weeks later.  After several months of a warm blanket of snow, the earth warms-up and thaws out the frozen soils that we see in late fall.  I'll often pick-up some hardy bedding plants off the hill somewhere and plant up a flower box to show how tough pants are.  Dianthus, Calendula, Viola, Stock, Pansy, and English Primula can all take temperatures in the low teens.

    The first Tuesday in March is THE day to start tomato and pepper seeds indoor so they'll be big enough to put out in mid-May.  Lots of Crocus and rock-garden Narcissus bloom in sunny spots in March.  In low snow years, I have planted many trees, shrubs and perennials in March to take advantage of pre-leaf root growth.  Pulsatilla Anemone usually blooms late in the month.  The first time YOU see bare Earth in spring is a great time to spread wildflower seeds.

    April is frequently a gardening month.  April 1st is THE day to plant sweet pea seeds outdoor.  I usually try to plant spinach, chard, lettuce, carrot, beet (and more) seeds my mid April (This year some just rotted but warm weather usually arrives before mid June).  I also plant starts of spinach, lettuce, chard, onion, hardy herbs and hardy edible flowers like Dianthus, Calendula and Viola.

     May-June-July are the basic spring - early summer gardening months, everything comes into bloom, the days are long and we get frost here and there.  More plants bloom this time of year so they;ll have time to make seeds and store energy later on.  Our "Average Last Date of Frost", according to NOAA is July 15.  Our "Average First Date of Frost" is August 15.  So August 1 is dead-center, the middle of our season.

    August - September - October are a mirror of July-June-May and are the bulk of the late summer - fall gardening season.  The days are shorter but the soil is much warmer than in spring. It is of course the best time to get out and enjoy the mountains and lakes, to collect seed and to plant for next spring.  We are ALWAYS planting for "next year".  Plants only look their best when they've had a winter in the ground and can rise with our natural spring weather.  When we plant in the fall we don't have to wait as long for "next year" as we do when we plant in May.

    November often has beautiful days (who am I kidding? These are the Sierras; we get beautiful sunny days all winter as well). Autumn Crocus and Autumn Monkshood are often still blooming as are a few Asters and the tallest Rudbeckias.  Planting bulbs before the soil begins to form a frozen crust is a good idea.  As the sun drops lower in the sky and the days get really short, shady spots are the first to stay frozen.  Ecology books speak of the "Autumnal Thermal Overturn" when the air temperature stays colder than the soil temperature.  Though it can be hard on some plants, we hope for a good deep frost before the snows come because it is particularly hard on the rodents.  "If ice skating is good the voles won't be as bad next spring".  Deep in the soil the earth is consistantly warm ad once the blanket of insulating snow covers it, the soil begins to thaw.  Wildflower seeding on top of the first 3" of snow is a technique that has worked very well for many.

    Remember that most deciduous trees and shrubs put on the majority of their annual root system expansion in fall, AFTER they lose their leaves.  The secondary root push occurs in early spring, before the leaves emerge and before most folks get out and plant.

    So - were just into the second half of the gardening season with a few months left until winter.

  • New Millenium Delphinium

    A few years ago, New Millennium Delphiniums were introduced to the U.S. from New Zealand breeder Terry Dowdswell.   The New Millenium Series, are D. elatum types, the majestic English Delphinium Hybrid. They are generally regarded as far superior to any other varieties.

    In Truckee, we have found them to be hardy, strong stemmed and with incredible flowers. The plants are hardy, disease resistant and grow to 6' so they'll benefit from staking. If they are cut back to 8" after blooming they will resprout and re-bloom in late summer. We have an excellent selection of the 9 colors available.

    "On trial at the RHS Garden in Wisley they were awarded the coveted Award of Garden Merit, AGM. AGM indicates the plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit. AGM is given to plants, after trial, that have shown outstanding excellence for garden decoration and can be easily grown by the amateur gardener."

  • Sagehen Creek Camas Lilies

    Rob took his puppy smoke out Sagehen Creek this week and says the Camas lilies are yet to bloom.  What a dramatic difference from last year.  The blooms were fading fast by May 25, 2009. Though still looking good.

    Camas and Bistort 5_25_09

    We received a huge load of wonderful native plants including 3 species of easy to grow monkeyflower, 6 species of native lupine, Incense Cedar, Twinberry, Currant, Thimbleberry, Wild Strawberry, Wild Rose, Elderberry, Columbine, Arrow-leaf Balsamroot and more from hardy Truckee seed sources.  Dozens of other species from local Lake Tahoe and Plumas County seed as well.   The Villager Nursery collects seed throughout the west and has lots of great plants contact grown for our garden Center and our clients.

    The wildflowers should be spectacular this spring with all the late moisture and the delayed-melt snow pack.  Our consolation prize.  We'd better get out and enjoy it.

  • Voles in Mountain Gardens

    "Hi Eric- Just a quick question regarding those nasty voles that played havoc on a lot of our neighbors grass this year. I was nominated to email you from our homeowners association and ask what is the best procedure to use in getting the grass back to its original state. Should you rake the dead grass? Is there something to use to prevent this in the future? Any information you can give us would be appreciated.  Thanks" April 2010.  ...from our friend Susan.  She's the 5,343rd person to ask those questions this spring and there are many who ask every year.

    This will require more than a brief blog can cover so I'll put up a lawn-care info sheet in the next day or two.  (see reference).  Voles are not moles.  Moles eat insects.  Voles are not mice but they are called meadow-mice.  They look like hamsters or small gophers and are as destructive and far more numerous.Vole

    Voles are meat.  (Microtus montanus-Mountain Vole / Microtus longicaudus - long-tailed vole / Lemmiscus curtatus - Sagebrush Vole).  (See also lemmings) The role of a vole in the ecosystem  is to convert plant material into meat.  Every native and non-native carnivore in our forests, fields and skies eats voles.  Owls, hawks, ravens, eagles, herons, gulls, snakes, martins, weasels, badgers, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, and many more I'm sure, all eat voles. 

    Voles spend much of their summers in tidy runways through tall grasses, often near water but they are present everywhere. They are fast diggers and burrow underground but are happy to use tunnels left by moles, gophers or ground squirrels.  Voles love the condominium-like dwellings created in man-made rock walls.  The females mature to produce more voles in less than a month, up to three times a year and they have 4-8 pups in every litter.  They have the "highest reproductive potential" of any mammal. These two sites have loads of useful information:  U.C. Davis I.P.M.  or   Cornell / Clemson et. al The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management  Voles experience wide population fluctuations depending on predators and weather.

    Voles will eat just about any plant material, leaves, bark and roots. In winter, voles thrive, unmolested, in the subnivean environment (the world under the snow).  The longer the snow-cover the more they eat (we always say that when ice skating is good voles suffer). Under cover, voles burrow with ease through the granular snow at the soil surface.  They eat lawn grasses, perennials, bulbs, and the trunks of shrubs and trees when they bump into them.  Roses are a favorite food.  When our snows melt, the old tunnels, packed with vegetation become apparent.  maple, manzanita, rose

    There's not much you can do for a woody plant or perennial that's had it's roots eaten but lawns usually recover well.  Most of our parks and golf courses have voles, probably millions of them.  I'm not sure but several tens of thousands per acre would not surprise me at all.  (at some locations in Nevada, populations have been estimated as high as 25,000 voles/acre)

    The beauty of lawn as a ground cover is that it is durable and resilient. Bluegrass is, by far, the most aggressive weed we have.  It will spread underground during winter.  Voles USUALLY clip the grass very short without killing it so most of the time lawns recover from vole damage to look great by mid-May. We rake off the dead grass and pine needles so the lawn can see light and receive air, we top-dress with dark finished compost to absorb warmth, hold a little moisture and nutrition (Kellogg's Topper) and we give it a little water when it needs it.  As soon as you put down Topper, the lawn looks great.  The dark brown layer of mulch contrasts with the emerging green grass and you will FEEL better.  If there are spots that don't seem to be recovering by mid-May or within a couple of weeks after snow-melt, then go ahead and mix a little 80/20 lawn seed with Topper and Dr.Earth lawn food to sprinkle in those areas.  In the warmer days of May the perennial rye seed will germinate quickly while the bluegrass seed takes its time.

    I often put smoke bombs down the open vole holes before filling them with sandy topsoil.  Mousetraps beneith a piece of plywood over bricks and above their holes, baited with peanut butter has worked well.  The most effective trapping technique we've seen uses a bit of rain-gutter and mouse traps (Vole Trapping). Aeration of laws in late fall may be a deterrent.  The ONLY large-scale success I've seen in repelling voles from lawns is using  Biosol organic fertilizer in late fall.  Biosol is labeled as an organic fertilizer for every imaginable manner of crop, landscape and restoration work.  It is not a repellant. Ask any ski area revegetation specialist and he'll tell you that "you can grow grass on a lift-tower with Biosol".  For some reason, about eight of ten clients who use it according to the label have a significant reduction in vole damage.  And even when there is significant vole damage, lawns with a fall application of Biosol recover very quickly.  

    We had more plants eaten by voles and rabbits this past winter than we've ever had before.  Plants that we've always thought of as "immune" to voles were devoured.  I've got to run outside now to rake up a few more piles of grass and pine needles before the next set of snow storms.   Spring will be here eventually.

  • Start Sweet Peas Today

    I told Rob that we'd be getting a big storm because I'd just ordered 30 flats of hardy color and hardy veggies.  The plants arrived on Friday and the storm on Tuesday.

    Today is another spring gardening landmark day. 

    April 1st is the day we put sweet pea seeds in the ground.

    Sweet Peas need a fairly long season  AND they can tolerate cold. They also like sun, so they're usually planted in the first spots to melt off.  I'm not planting mine today, the snow is too deep today.  Here's what you do.

    Pick up some cool pastel, hyper-fragrant,  heirloom sweet peas (like 'April in Paris') from your favorite Garden Center.

    Soak the seeds overnight in a glass of water, change the water before you go to bed.

    In the morning, put the seeds into a folded paper towel.  Fold the paper a little more with the seeds inside and dribble some water on it.  Put the moist paper towel containing the seeds into a plastic bag and set it someplace dark and warm.  I put mine on top of the refrigerator.

    - Prepare the soil where you'll be planting by digging in a little compost, Gromulch or Amend, a little lime (oyster shell, dolomite, etc...), and some Dr. Earth Life fertilizer (it has bacterial innoculum that legumes associate with).  I dig a 4" trench along a south facing wall and amend the trench all at once, smooth it out and then make a 1" furrow where I'll put the seeds.   If the spot is not melted off, wait to start the seeds.

    You don't want them growing indoors.  If they come up in the cold, they can take frost.  If they are grown indoors and transplanted, they suffer in frost.

    Look at the seeds in 2-3 days (it may take 4-5).  As soon as you see a little radicle* emerge you'll plant them 1-3" apart and  1" deep. *(the radicle is the little white shoot, that the embryo sends out to become the root)  Sweet Peas need support as soon as they emerge.  I stapled bird netting to the back of a redwood trellis. It works well and looks nice.

    (ed. Pam McAdoo) 

  • Start Tomato Seeds Indoor in March

    (03/2010) March is counted as one of our winter months. March also happens to have the most beautiful sunny spring-like days. Rob likes to quote a famous VanDyke who said that "The first spring day and the first day of spring are often months apart".  We may have beautiful spring days for the equinox but frost-free days are a long-way-off.

    For years, just before Valentines day, I planted violas, dianthus, calendula, pansys, vinca, primrose and stock in a flower box outside the nursery.  Those plants always thrive, no matter how cold it gets.

    The first Tuesday in March is Vermont's Town Meeting Day. According to Lewis Hill (Cold Climate Gardening), it is also the traditional day to start Tomato and Pepper seeds inside in northernVermont (their climate is similar to ours in many ways).  We have used mid-March as our seeding time for decades with great success.   I heard recently that said Tomatoes are the "gateway drug" to vegetable gardening.  We all grow tomatoes here (in containers) with great success (and frost protecting cloth).  It's not THAT hard.  Our goal at the Villager is, and has always been, to share our passion for gardening and to see our clients and friends SUCCEED in this avocation we love so much.  

    We offer several vegetable gardening classes at the Nursery each spring; check the calendar page. It should be updated by mid March with this year's schedule.  

Contact Villager

Villager Nursery, Inc
10678 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA 96161-4834
Central Truckee, exit 186 off I-80
(530) 587-0771

Founded 1975, Incorporated 1990

California Nursery License 1975
No. C 3976.001, Co.29CA
Contractors License 1977
No. 413907-C27 LS
ISA Certified Arborist: Eric Larusson
No. WE-7983A

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