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Garden Workshop for the Foothills: “”Foothills-Friendly Gardening””

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Gardening with a sense of place what does that mean? Most of us are transplants to the Mother Lode, and like all transplants, we have our preferred habitats. The human species is highly adaptable, however, and thrives almost anywhere, unlike many of our favorite plants. When we try to recreate a habitat from somewhere else by forcing plants to grow where they can´t thrive, the results are, at best, frustrating, and at worst, disastrous.

Some gardeners are now adopting philosophies of gardening that include the ideas of "gardening with a sense of place" and "right plant, right place." According to Wikipedia, the on-line enclopedia, "Places said to have a strong ´sense of place´ have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors." Our Sierra Nevada foothills certainly are an example!

To garden with a sense of place means that the adaptations we make to our outdoor living spaces are made mindfully, thoughtfully, honoring the uniqueness of the conditions that shape the local environment and the indigenous plants that have adapted to those conditions. "Right plant, right place" means matching the plant to the growing conditions in that specific micro-environment or site.

The results of using these gardening philosophies are a sense of connectedness to the natural landscape, an enhanced appreciation of the uniqueness of the local environment, a reduced need for additional resources think water, chemicals, and energy (both human and oil-based) and a reduction in the frustration of gardening in the foothills.

The University of California has adopted "the right plant for the right place" as one of the guiding principles of the Master Gardener program. To apply that principle locally, the University of California Cooperative Extension Tuolumne County Master Gardeners are hosting an all-day gardening workshop. "Foothills-Friendly Gardening," a workshop of gardening practices applicable to the Mother Lode will be held Friday, April 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Sierra Building of the Mother Lode Fairgrounds on Stockton Road in Sonora. Scheduled close to Earth Day, the workshop will explore ideas about how to garden in a way that´s friendly to our local "place"—the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

Our keynote speaker is Alrie Middlebrook, founder of Middlebrook Gardens in San Jose, which specializes "in ecology-based landscaping, California native plant gardening and sustainable practices in landscaping." I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Middlebrook speak at the statewide Master Gardener conference in San Jose. Her philosophy of design is to "reflect the natural beauty of the local ecology, conserve water, eliminate use of pesticides and reduce costs!" She is the co-author of Designing California Native Gardens and will bring information as well as native plants to purchase.

In addition, we have invited back two of our most popular speakers from previous gardening workshops. Steve Stocking, the Education Chair of the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society, will present information on "Landscaping for Wildlife." Rebecca Lance, owner of Granite Gardens Rare Plants and past-president of the Sierra Rock Garden Society will show slides and talk about her "Rock Garden Strategies for the Sierra Foothills."

Other speakers include Scott Oneto, Tuolumne County Farm Advisor, who will provide information on using integrated pest management techniques to reduce the use of toxic pesticides. Wade Carlson, U.S. Department of Agriculture, will discuss protecting your valuable plants from wildlife damage.

Because water is such an important part of gardening in the foothills, we have scheduled two sessions to focus on its use and management. Al Dahlstrand, Tuolumne County Master Gardener, will present examples of capturing rainwater to augment garden irrigation, and also host a session about maintaining and repairing your home sprinkler systems.

Local agencies will provide information booths and some will have local garden-related products available for purchase. There is limited booth space remaining for gardening-related information. To reserve a space, call 533-5696.

The cost of the day-long workshop, which includes lunch, snacks, beverages, and workshop materials, is 20 dollars. Pre-registration is required. To register, go on-line to or call the Tuolumne County Cooperative Extension office at 533-5695. In honor of Earth Day and in order to reduce waste, we are asking participants to bring their own beverage cup. Please join us, the Master Gardeners of Tuolumne County, on April 18 just in time for the beginning of gardening season.

Rebecca Miller-Cripps is the coordinator for the UCCE Tuolumne County Master Gardener program.