Chuck and Peggy Talkovic of Paso Robles have the cutest front yard, with artificial turf, rocks, brick pathway and a unique wood bench.
The perennial sweet peas, lavender, rosemary, calylophus and volunteer poppies and daffodils were all in full bloom when I visited them recently, providing beautiful spring color.
But the real gem was when they showed me their backyard garden. It began 11 years ago as a straight-down, one-acre hillside, scraped clean by the builder’s bulldozers. The Talkovics used equipment to terrace the land into four workable levels or tiers.
The first tier located out their back door has a barbecue area with seating and a spa, a necessity after a day’s work in this garden.
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Tier two is the party tier featuring a wishing well fountain, waterfall (built from recycled stone and turned off during the summer months to conserve water), gazebo and gas fire pit with recycled glass.
Tier three consists of several hand-designed arched trellises that cover the walkway. Lady Bank Roses, Wisteria and Jasmine provide shade along the trellises for a game of horseshoes or bocce ball.
Tier four features raised beds housing year-round vegetable production. The lettuce and broccoli were nearly ready to pick when I visited, with tomatoes, beets and onions to be planted in the coming weeks. Asparagus, artichoke and blackberries were in a perennial bed located just beside the raised beds.
This year the Talkovics planted a “waffle garden.” It’s designed with ollas (terra cotta pots buried in the soil) in the middle of each square that hold water and irrigate the vegetables as needed. In this bed Ronde and spaghetti squash are planted and also a citronella plant to help keep the mosquitoes away.
Heirloom seeds are saved annually to plant the following year in their greenhouse (also on this tier) for both flowers and vegetables.
Two types of worm bins provide compost and worm tea for organic fertilization. Six other compost bins make use of yard cleanup such as dry leaves and greenery.
All of the tiers are connected by a winding walkway that is large enough to allow supplies to be delivered by a truck if needed.
Multiple fruit and nut trees are located throughout the property as well as grapes and raspberries. The landscape plants are drought tolerant and low maintenance.
The Talkovics enjoy handling all the gardening by themselves, and what is truly amazing is their minimal water usage. They have designed and planted their garden to see how little water they can use.
Numerous water retention systems are in place, including a roof-fed 1,100-gallon tank, overflow 250-gallon tank, and several 40-gallon receptacles throughout the landscape. The larger tanks are located on the upper tiers and are gravity fed to water vegetables and fruit trees. They fill the smaller receptacles as needed.
Native, drought-tolerant and Mediterranean plants are watered until established and then survive on winter rains.
The use of recycled and free materials abound throughout the property to include upside down Papasan chairs nailed to posts to create “trees” for vines to climb and broken tempered glass from a shower door in fire pits.
The most unique recycled item was an old spa that the Talkovics had repurposed as one of their water receptacles!
Low-voltage lighting is placed along the walkways, party lights hang from the gazebos and beautiful grape lights adorn the wishing well.
The couple’s philosophy for gardening is if it doesn’t survive or doesn’t work, then pull it and plant something else. They want as low maintenance, low-water of a garden as possible. My favorite spot — the gazebo built from the second tier overlooking the valley. The view is aspiring.
If you have a unique or interesting vegetable garden please contact Tami at email@example.com. Tami Reece is a UCCE Master Gardener and a 30-year food preserver living in Paso Robles.
▪ Mulch, mulch, mulch to keep down weeds and your work load!
▪ Take advantage of free gardening classes/seminars offered by local businesses and the UCCE Master Gardeners.
▪ Place a potted plant in its intended planting location. If it does well plant it, if not move to another location.
▪ Check recycle stores and local on-line lists for things you can re-make into something unusual or practical to use in your garden.