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High Country Garden

Growing Tomatoes--Despite Chilly Summers

Anne Ruffner
The Garden Quilt provides just enough protection for Anne Ruffner to grow tomatoes in her high-elevation garden.
When Anne Ruffner and her husband moved from the hot, Sacramento Valley to her new home in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern California, she knew there would be some new gardening challenges. "A creek running through the property and the surrounding forest keeps the area cool, so we have to be ready to protect plants from frost all summer long," says Anne. "We use Tomato Booster Red Mulch and Garden Quilts to keep our dozen tomato plants warm and happy," she says. Even if frost doesn't threaten, having the blankets over the plants at night moderates temperatures, helping the plants grow and mature more rapidly. "We get ripe fruit by early July," boasts Anne, "which is long before anyone else has tomatoes around here."

Although she has to roll up the quilts each morning and unroll them again in the evening, Anne doesn't mind. "When I'm standing in the garden munching on ripe Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes, that extra effort is worth it," she says. An added benefit of using the quilts for her tomatoes is that they keep deer from sharing her harvest. "Deer don't bother our plants while the neighbor's plants get decimated," she says.

Anne is also fond of growing roses. She has more than 100 rose bushes, including Simplicity hedge roses, Camisole English roses and Outrageous floribunda roses. Unfortunately, deer love roses as much as they love tomatoes. "The best way I've found to protect my roses from deer is to fence them out," says Anne. "We use an old fashioned, looped, twisted wire fence with wooden posts around the rose hedge and bushes. It looks like Fort Bambi, but it works," she exclaims. Although the fence is only 3 feet tall, the deer don't seem to like to jump over it, so she gets to enjoy her beautiful roses all summer long.

Gophers are another four-legged garden pest in Anne's neck of the woods. "We have hundreds of gophers on our 14 acres. They are all over the woods and pastures. If they get into the roses, they'll eat the roots and kill the plants," Anne says. "We live next to a wildlife refuge so we are limited to what we can use to control them. I tried the Mole and Gopher Repellent containing castor oil on the gophers and to my amazement, they left," she exclaims. "I just pour a bucket full of the mixture down their holes and they go elsewhere," says Anne.

The insect world has created a few problems for Anne too, but she's been up for the challenge. "Japanese beetles used to devour our roses. "Last year I spread Grub Guard (beneficial nematodes) and Milky Spore powder on various parts of the property," she says. "This year we hardly had any Japanese beetles."

Grasshoppers used to be a problem as well, until wild turkeys were released by the wildlife department. They seem to have taken care of the grasshopper population. However, Anne's son in Sacramento still has to deal with them. "I gave him some Semaspore Bait to try in his yard," she says. It worked great. "He actually got the whole neighborhood to spread it around their yards," says Anne.

Though Anne's new high country garden has tested her mettle, she's risen to the challenge. With a combination of creativity and perseverance, she's turning her garden into a beautiful and abundant success.

Last updated: 10/24/15