This blog is about my efforts to garden – mostly edibles – on 3.23 acres at 3,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California.

Let me introduce my garden, which is situated in northern California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (El Dorado County), at 3000 feet above sea level.  In Sunset Western Garden climate zone terms, the garden is in Zone 7 – California’s Gray Pine Belt, Oregon’s Rogue River Valley, and Southern California Mountains.  In USDA Hardiness Zone terms, it’s in 9a according to the most recent USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map (average first frost in early November, average last frost in late April). What that means in practical terms is that there’s snow – up to a foot or two at a time – every year, plus lots of winter rain, followed by fairly short, fairly hot and dry summers.  The garden proper is ~2500 sq. ft. within a larger, well-forested 3.23 acre property.  Native trees include the Pacific Madrone, California Incense-cedar, deciduous and evergreen oaks, dogwood, and assorted pines.  Shrubs and ground covers include Manzanita (in the sunnier spots), invasive-but-cheerful Scotch Broom, and mountain misery.  The native soil is in the Aiken Loam series (basically reddish clay loam) that can be a wee bit difficult to work, requiring lots of amendment (compost) and lots of mulch.

The garden itself contains lots of edible perennial fruits and vegetables (gooseberry, red and black currants, jostaberry, rhubarb, asparagus, Grecian bay laurel, kiwi, various table grapes, lingonberry, huckleberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, feijoa, pomegranate, artichoke, cardoon, hops, viburnum, elderberry, aronia, goji berry, fig, olive and strawberry), perennial and reseeding annual herbs (rosemary, bee balm, lemon balm, mint, self-heal, sorrel, lovage, lavender, thyme, chives, stevia, oregano), and an annual plot for spring/summer and fall/winter vegetables (the usual suspects, plus a few unusual ones).  I have a few very mature fruit trees – pear, apple, cherry, plum, and persimmon – and recently planted a peach and nectarine.  I’m in the early stages of a long-term project to integrate various food plants into the forested areas surrounding the garden.  I’m fascinated by permaculture and gardening in sustainable ways.

I suppose I should introduce myself.  My name is Zack, and I’m an El Dorado County Master Gardener.  It feels goofy to say that, as I don’t consider myself a “master” at gardening.  I am, however, a persistent gardener, and I teach public education classes about vegetable gardening in the foothills.  I started this blog partly to document an edible forest garden project currently in process, partly because I was so inspired by the lush and beautiful gardens of Vancouver, and partly because I am not very diligent when it comes to keeping paper records of my gardening efforts, and I hope to do a better job here.  I love gardening, and talking about gardening, and taking pictures of plants, and sharing stories with other gardeners.  I hope to do three out of four here.

24 Responses to About

  1. Lucinda says:

    I’m am a beginning gardener at the same elevation here in El Dorado County. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Ed says:

    Hi Zack

    Great garden! I saw you added some photos for our kids’ inquiry on the google doc. They seem to have been deleted now though. Was it by you?

  3. Danny Carrasco says:

    I attended the MG class Saturday and was struck by the coincidence that I, being in the midst of researching permaculture, would hear someone mentioning food forest. What a timely inspiration that turns out to be. I look forward to viewing this site and any future class you have on important subject.

    • zack says:

      Glad you could make it Saturday. I hope I can work out with Kathy about adding the food forest talk to the rotation. I wish you all the best in your gardening endeavors.

  4. Katie says:

    Hi Zack,
    I’m your neighbor a few counties to the South at the same elevation and gardening zone. I’ll be following your blog with great interest: there are so few about gardening in this geographic area!

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  6. William says:

    I am a neighbor in the Placer county hills about 2700 elevation. I just finished my first major swale and plan to plant cover crop on the berm over this fall and winter and then plant my food forest. I have been gardening for a number of years and already have (Trees 3 apple and 1 pear along with Kiwi,Goji berry,Seaberry buckthorn, blueberry,raspberry, blackberry, and strawberry. I too have Pacific Madrone, Cedar, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, and black oak and red clay dirt on a 1 acre lot. Anyway I look forward to following your blog. I really appreciate you covering our zone. Thank you

  7. Deborha says:

    Zack, it was great finding you! i am north of you in Siskiyou county, and run an extensive Resource educational database on forest gardening to connect people globally to share info. You are cordially invited to share with us on our FORUM . We’d love to have you and anything you’d like to share– and also link to your Blog.
    Please do check us out, share your valuable experiences with us and join the community;

    Cheers, ~Deborha

  8. Jane Reed says:

    Found your web site today while researching what grows in your area, as I hope to relocate to the Placerville area next year. I’m happy to know there are people interested in food forests in El Dorado County.

  9. Patrica says:

    Zack, I’m vegetable gardening at you same elevation in El Dorado CO and I was wondering when the right time to plant winter cover crops might be. You food forest project is really interesting to those of us living on the edge of the woods I’m glad to be able to follow your progress.

    • zack says:

      I usually try and time them to the rains, mostly so I don’t have to water. Really any time in October will work – you just might have to water until regular rain starts, usually between now (late October) and early November.

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  11. Troy says:

    I am at 2000 ft in El Dorado County and am interested in trying some of what you are doing. Do you irrigate your food forest at all? Is there any way I can see a more comprehensive plan of your forest, perhaps a post I missed? I did go through and read your whole blog, love the pictures and recuring themes like alliums, the walnut tree, and the seeds from Hiroshima.

    • zack says:

      Thanks for reading! For new plants, I usually do establishment watering – every day for a week, every week for a month, every month for a year (or until the rainy season, which we don’t seem to have anymore), but the hope is that they don’t need water after that. I’ve had to adjust my expectations a bit, given the drought. I’m also working on tuning in more to the local natives – seeing what food plants grow around here (figs, elder, plum, etc.) and checking CalFlora (http://www.calflora.org/entry/wgh.html) and trying to focus in those plants. I’m working on a post that has a plan of the current plots – I have one adjacent to the garden proper, and three other smaller ones I’m establishing out in the woods – I’ll try and pick up the pace on that plot map and get it posted. Good luck!

  12. Kristi says:

    Hi Zack. I just found your blog. I am also in El Dorado County at about 2000 feet. I have 3 acres of mostly forest (oak, ponderosa, cedar) that backs up to the Consumnes River. I am realitively new to the area and am slowly working with the place from a permaculture perspective. I am especially interested in your idea of integrating food plants into the forest area around your garden and would love to hear your thoughts on this. And how do the deer figure in this picture? I’m also curious about your take on poison oak from a permaculture point of view.
    Good to hear this discussion in our area! Thanks for putting yourself out there.

    • zack says:

      Kristi – I do a lot of temporary establishment fencing to keep the deer away while things are getting established, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I am fortunate to not have much in the way of poison oak, though there are a few plants here and there. I’ve cut the poison oak back in places to keep it in check, but it’s not a huge issue for me, at least not yet.

  13. Linda Gordet says:

    Great to hear that folks are interested in permaculture in this area. We have about two thirds of an acre in el dorado hills, and are working on an organic garden. Working up to food forest type of project. Would love to take a class! Thanks

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