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Low maintenance Canales garden part of May 10 tour

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The central part of Tom and Rita Canales’ backyard garden as seen from inside the house. What was once a lawn has been replaced by raised vegetable planters.


POSTED May 3, 2014 12:34 a.m.

Until two years ago, Tom and Rita Canales had the typical American yard and garden. Lush, regularly mowed lawn in front. Another lawn in the back yard surrounded by a veritable collection of plants and trees that they loved.

Today, their entire front and back yards are no-mow, low maintenance and drought-resistant gardens. Armed with the knowledge they gained as Master Gardeners, the Canaleses have created living oases of edible, ornamental, herbal, macro-weather, and avian-friendly gardens.

Gone is the well-manicured hillock of lush grass that formed a green skirt around the towering shade tree on the side of the concrete pathway leading to the front door. The area remains green, thanks to about half a dozen groundcovers, some of which explode with tiny blossoms in the spring. No mowing is not their only saving grace. They also don’t need as much watering and pampering by hand.

Gone as well is the grassy lawn in the cul-de-sac property’s back yard that was the central point of this hidden private Paradise. Now, raised vegetable gardens have taken possession of this prominent planting point. For the spring and summer harvest, Tom and Rita planted long beans, garlic, onion and other edible varieties for their dining pleasure. Not that they lacked a vegetable garden before. This was just an addition to the one that they always had in a fenced-in area on the south side of the house.

The rest of the back yard is a veritable horticultural place of discovery. There are plant varieties here that are hard, if not impossible, to find elsewhere in the South San Joaquin area and, perhaps in the triple-digit-heat-prone Central Valley. Most prominent of which is a tri-color beech tree whose salmon/pink foliage in the spring that turns into pastel pink as the weather heats up toward summer radiantly and regally reigns supreme during these months. Not to be outdone but in a more understated way is a contorted filbert that looks like a dwarf tree with a healthy round foliage making it look like a giant bonsai.

“The leaves are not too pretty,” but when winter comes and the green crown disappears with the cold weather, the tree transforms itself into a curly-haired looker, said Tom.

“The bare branches are beautiful,” said the vice president of the Delta Tule Trekkers who retired two years ago from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he worked in the engineering department. He was a project manager for software projects. After he retired, he followed in her wife’s footsteps and went to get his own Master Gardener certificate. Rita, a retired Manteca Unified school teacher and former president of the Manteca Garden Club of which she and her husband are members, became a Master Gardener some five years ago.

The back-yard garden is a huge magnet for all kinds of feathered friends, particularly the cedar waxwings that sometimes overextend and abuse their welcome in the winter leaving Tom and Rita with a major clean-up task in their wake. The garden benches are practically useless when the birds leave their p-mails behind. What brings these pinioned pests – only for that reason – to the Canales back yard is the large water fountain next to the beech tree and the benches. Tom captured the winged visitors both in still photos and by camcorder, and the pictures show literally scores, if not hundreds, of the brown-plumed avian guests enjoying the gushing fountain.

The couple’s decision to turn their yard into a more ecologically friendly garden was not only to put their Master Gardener training into practical use. It was “also because we’re in the middle of  a drought” which influenced their decision to select “less invasive and drought-resistant” plants, explained Tom who is also involved in the Give Every Child a Chance community garden at Sequoia School.

Their raised garden beds may be comparatively small when it comes to normal standards, but the broccoli, kale, four kinds of chard, asparagus and other vegetables planted there have been producing more than the Canaleses can consume. As a result, many of these end up being given away to their lucky friends.

“I have a lime tree, best lime tree I’ve ever seen. They are really good,” said Tom. And like any citrus, this tree is just so generous with its fruit. Fortunately, Tom said he likes fish tacos which he enjoys eating with a squirt of lime juice.

They are also good with tequila, “but I can’t drink that much tequila,” he commented with a chuckle.


Canales garden one of six featured in May 10 Manteca Garden Tour

The Canales garden is one of six highlighted in the 2014 Manteca Garden Tour, the only fund-raiser the club holds during the year. The tour will be held Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be refreshments and drawing for prizes at the last home in the tour. Tickets are $15 per person. A list of the gardens plus a map is included in every ticket paid. Tickets may be purchased at the following locations:

• Delicato Vineyards, 12002 S. Highway 99 in Manteca (99 Frontage Road north of Lathrop Road)

• Ed’s Rockery, 6000 E. Lathrop Road

• German Glas Werks, 109 E. Yosemite in downtown Manteca

•  Manteca Visitors Center, Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley

• New Buds Nursery, 23563 S. Manteca Road

• P&L Concrete Products, 1900 Roosevelt Avenue in Escalon

• Park Greenhouse and Nursery, 12813 W. Ripon Road in Ripon

• Silverado Nursery, 460 South Stockton Avenue in Ripon

• Rainforest Nursery, 1982 W. Yosemite Ave. in Manteca.

For more information about the garden club and how to join, visit

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