The Mechanics of Maintaining a Large Garden

Many people who visit Dawn Gardens ask how the 8 acres is maintained. There are 5 clues to the successful maintenance of the garden:  The people, the equipment, the water and irrigation system, the plants and the mulch.

The People

There are 5 people who work at Dawn Gardens, none of them full time.

My son, Paul, works one day per week or less depending on his schedule with his other clients.

Vicente is an older man who can work harder than a person half his age. He has been working for me for 8 years. He works one day each week.

Jesse is Vicente’s younger brother and has many years of experience operating heavy equipment. I am teaching him irrigation and he is now able fix anything that goes wrong in the Dawn Gardens irrigation system. He has been working for me for about 4 years. He usually works 2 days each week.


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I sub out my tree work to Jerome Myers of Arbor II Tree Service in Nevada City. He spends a lot of time thinning the branches of the Oaks and removing mistletoe.  He has been working for me on an on-call basis for 18 years.

This is me, Barry Friesen; old man but still working hard as long as God gives me the energy. I work in the Bay Area for my company, Dawn Landscaping, 3 days a week and at Dawn Gardens in Grass Valley 4 days per week. I bring a load of plants home every week for Dawn Gardens in my truck.

The Equipment

As a landscape contractor I have all the tools and equipment needed to maintain Dawn Gardens in an efficient manner. This includes a Mahindra tractor, rototillers, weed eaters, chain saws, hedge clippers and pole pruners.

The golf cart is my most valuable piece of equipment because it allows me to travel to any part of the garden very rapidly. I have only had the golf cart for 3 years and before that, when I forgot a tool at the bottom of the yard, it took me 15 minutes to walk up and get it. Now I can drive up and get it in 1 minute.

This is a 12’ orchard ladder that enables me to prune trees on a slope; it has an adjustable 3rd leg that can be made longer or shorter depending on the steepness of the slope.

The battery powered pole pruner also has a hedge trimmer attachment. This allows us to prune the fruit trees while standing on the ground. Then I get the ladder and clean up the rough edges.

After pruning with the pole hedge trimmer and cleaning it up with the ladder this is what the apple tree looks like upon completion.

I rent a chipper periodically to chip the branches of the Oak and other trees that we prune. We use the chips on the road throughout the garden to keep it from getting muddy in the winter and dusty in the summer.

The Water and the Irrigation System

The water for the irrigation system comes from the Bear River via a Nevada Irrigation District (NID) canal. This canal is about 1 mile away and about 200’ higher than Dawn Gardens. That means that the water arrives at a pressure of over 100 psi and no pumps are needed. The canal flows from April 15 to October 15. The rest of the year 2 wells on the property provide the water.

The NID (Nevada Irrigation District) canal

The entrance to the pipeline which travels over a mile before it reaches Dawn Gardens.


This is one of the 2 wells which pump water into the 2 holding tanks under the pump house.

 This is a view inside the pump house showing the tops of the 2 1500 gallon tanks. The water that is pumped into these tanks from the wells is used to water the garden from October 15 to April 15. The electricity required to pump the water is expensive so it is good that I don’t have to use it much in the winter. The rest of the year there is no pumping required for the canal water as it is gravity feed. Oool lol

There are 2 irrigation controllers in the garden – one on the pump house wall and one on the house.

There are approximately 50 valves that operate the individual stations of the irrigation system.

Note that valves are in underground valve boxes and are controlled by a gate valve so they can be independently turned off.

The secret to the filtration of the canal water is under this boulder:

I use this fiberglass boulder to hide an automatic filter that constantly filters the water and cleans and back flushes twice a day.

Before I had this filter I had a small filter on each of the 50 valves that I have and I had to go around the garden to each filter and manually back flush them. This took a tremendous amount of time so this automatic filter was well worth the $3000 expense.

The Plants

Most of the plants at Dawn Gardens are purchased at Devil Mountain Wholesale Nursery in San Ramon, CA. This is the nursery where I get my plants for my landscaping jobs in the Bay Area. The nursery is 15 acres and there are branches in Petaluma, Gilroy and one in the Central Valley.

 Occasionally I purchase plants through the internet such as these plants from Dwarf Conifer Kingdom in Oregon.

Almost all of my roses are purchased from Heirloom Roses in Oregon because they are grown on their own roots and are not grafted.

The Mulch

This is shredded cedar mulch that we use to cover the ground throughout the garden to keep out weeds, conserve water, insulate the soil and add organic matter to the soil.

The mulch is delivered 50 yards at a time by a truck that has a moving floor.

This is what an area looks like after spreading mulch.

This is what the same area looks like about a year after spreading mulch. The natural oak leaves cover it and it looks like the native oak woodland. The mulch will last about 3 years or until the plants grow over it.

The Rhododendron garden after mulching

The spiral garden after mulching

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