grow, marvel, eat, laugh, persevere

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Virtual Garden Tour: Carri's Year-Round Sacramento Garden

Name: Carri
Location: Sacramento, CA
Size: 1/3 acre
Age: 6 yrs
Bio: I’ve been gardening most of my life. I grew up on a farm, plus I come from a long line of dairy and pig farmers.  I have a reputation in my neighborhood for being a hard worker (blame my Portuguese blood).  They’ve watched me shovel manure and mulch in the rain, plant trees in 100 degree weather while I was 7 months pregnant, and sand/refinish a table a week after I had brain surgery.  I work in computers/technology during the day, so gardening is a nice way to balance out countless hours behind a computer screen.  I joke that my favorite gardening tool is either an ice cold beer or my Blackberry (having internet access to Google plants is awesome).
Our lot used to be a mini forest- we had 73 trees!  We’re down to 35, and most of them are young fruit trees.  We’ve removed about half of the lawn that we originally started with. We officially have year round fruit/veggie production on our lot (or will as soon as some of those young trees are producing!).  We’ve got apples, artichokes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, almonds, avocados, pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, Jerusalem artichokes, a variety of citrus- and I just got rhubarb to plant yesterday!  We’re lucky that we can grow vegetables year round in Sacramento; although that also means I don’t really have any down time when it comes to the garden.  I dehydrate, freeze, or can whatever food actually makes it into our house.  I also make limoncello using our Meyer lemons, and we’ll now be growing our own hops to make beer.
I used to only concentrate on planting edibles until I noticed a huge decrease in food production from our garden about three years ago.  Since then I’ve been trying to grow more plants that will attract bees.  Of course I couldn’t just stop with bees; I had to create a habitat for butterflies, birds and squirrels too.  Of course that still wasn’t enough for me- I completed the requirements to get my garden certified as a habitat garden with the National Wildlife Federation this past year.  I swear once I got my certificate in the mail my address was put in a newsletter that goes out to every animal within 50 miles as we have seen skunks, possum, wild turkeys, raccoons, and even deer!
Garden Survey:

Type: Organic, edibles, natives, front yard, side yard, backyard.
Style: Hodge podge.  I buy what I like, plant what I receive as gifts, and also allow my 4 year old to pick out any plant she wants when I drag her to a gardening event.
Inspiration: My 4 year old daughter Alex.  I love watching her pull tomatoes right out of the garden and quickly shove them in her mouth before my husband tries to get any.  I love that she picks out plants that I wouldn’t have even considered, and yet they become some of my favorites.  I love that she considers the worms in our worm bins as our pets- right along with the dog and bunny.  This garden is just as much hers as it is mine.
Favorite plant:  My citrus trees.  We have oranges, lemons, grapefruit, mandarins, limes, lemons and pummelos.  If I had to pick just one, it would be the Meyer lemon that traveled around with me for years in a tiny pot and maybe got one lemon a year.  It was the first plant I put in the ground at this house, and it’s now taller than my house.  We typically get 200-300 lemons on it each year now.  To me, citrus are the perfect plant. They stay green year round, have yummy smelling blossoms in the spring, and in the winter when everything else is brown- they get this beautifully colored fruit that tastes like summer.  Somehow it makes winter more bearable.

Biggest challenge: That would have to be our 70lb Labrador retriever, Romie.  She’s a real sweetie, but if she sees a squirrel, anything that is in-between she and the squirrel is in jeopardy.  Last year she took down out our bean teepee that is made of metal stakes. The stakes were bent, and she was totally fine, smiling of course.  

What your friends say: “Dang that looks like a lot of work,” or “If Armageddon hits we’re moving here with you guys and living off your land.”

Biggest embarrassment: That I hire a gardener.  He just mows the lawn, but still it feels weird to say I’m a gardener that hires a gardener. Makes me feel lazy.  If my husband would let me rip out the rest of my lawn, I wouldn’t have to have him anymore.  Actually no, I take that back.  It has to be the fact that I always forget to pick up dog poop before the gardener gets here and he just runs the lawn mower through it.  I’m pretty sure he steps in it often too. Maybe I should hire someone to pick up the dog poop too.

Proudest DIY: It’s either my front yard vegetable garden, which has kinda turned into an educational garden for the entire neighborhood- or it would have to be the shed that we built with my father-in-law.  My father-in-law would come here almost every day to work on it while he was going through chemo, and it was completed shortly before he passed away, about a year and a half ago. It has two rooms- one side is a workshop for me to use when I refinish furniture, and the other side is my garden shed.  Eventually we’ll be installing a rain barrel and gutters on it- that’s on my long list of To-Do’s!

Biggest indulgence: Probably my hammock and stand.  I bought it for my husband to try and get him to relax more.  We use it all the time.  It’s one of the few things in my yard that if it broke, I would go out and buy another right away.  It can hold me, my husband and our daughter on it at the same time, and I have nice memories of us sitting out there together eating freshly picked green beans.  We also play pirate ship on it- where our daughter is the Captain and we rock back and forth and pretend like we’re in rough seas.  Yes, we’re dorks.

Best advice:  Don’t spend so much time designing your yard for what the people see from the street- worry more about what you see from your windows.  It’s your garden- not theirs!
Resources: I order most of my seeds from Baker Creek and most of my plants are from Green Acres Nursery and Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. I also order a lot from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

Garden Tour

Thanks for participating, Carri!  My favorite part was how you described your inspiration for your garden.  And the shed.

If you would like to participate in virtual garden tours email me at myskinnygarden (at) gmail (dot) com.


  1. Carri, I love all your photos. It's so cool seeing both how different your CA garden is from my MI one, but also how some plants are the same. Love the shot looking down at Romie and the fact that you have a squirrel as one of your pictures--I thought I would be the only one. :) Look out, if I ever come to CA, I'm gonna wanna visit your garden.

  2. Love your garden. So exciting to have so much food growing in your yard.