This story is found in the Spring 2019 edition of Park City Home.
Most Park City people know him from his restaurants, but Bill White has a bigger agenda: taking care of the earth. Using “earthganic” methods, nonprofit Bill White Farms nurtures everything from tulips to turkeys. We asked White for advice on how local gardeners can get their bloom on.
Get in the zone
First, the good news. “There are tons of things that grow well in our area that people aren’t even aware of,” says White. “Apples, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, plums, peaches.” He recommends heading to a Park City nursery and focusing on Zone 3 plants. “If you buy anything labeled ‘Zone 3’ you’re very safe. Your perennials will come back year after year.”
But there’s plenty to consider when deciding what to plant. “Everything’s connected — the soil, the water, the altitude, the climate. We plan everything out, from how we’re going to irrigate, to the soil, to how far it is from the road salt.” Again, your nursery can help you prep for success, says White. “Unlike the eastern U.S., adding lime and wood ash to the soil doesn’t work. West of the Mississippi, we have alkaline soil, so we try to bring the pH level down.” And if you want to grow something from seed, start early. “We have a 90-day growing season, from June 15 to September 15. Most things take 100 days, so when you’re buying seeds, start them early in your house in April.”
Choose your trees wisely
There are three go-to trees in Park City: spruce, aspen, and Canadian red cherry. “They’re all super hearty and, assuming they’re all planted correctly, they’ll all
grow,” says White. But think ahead. “Aspen are essentially weeds, always growing where you don’t want them, and they have a short lifespan — they’re not designed to live for 30 years. Spruce will grow to 100 feet in the foreseeable future, which means they may end up hitting your house and crowding other trees. They give you instant gratification, but after a while you’ll be in the tree-cutting business.”
His favorite of the trio is the red cherry, which White says is “neat because it’s inexpensive
and has distinct periods. In spring, its white, almost lilac-like flowers will perfume the air all around your yard, and bees love them. In summer, the leaves turn a great red color. And in fall, they put out a berry that birds really like.” He also likes the often-overlooked crabapple. “People don’t realize that you can also do a lot with flowering crabapple trees, which produce big pink or white flowers. Be sure to get the non-fruiting kind — you don’t want the fruit falling in your yard.”
Rethink the lawn
“Golf-course style lawns don’t occur in nature — they’re a thing of the past. They consume a ton of water, and all the herbicides and pesticides you use to kill the pests also kill the good insects, including bees. And it gets into our water.” In Park City, says White, “We’re already fighting nasty water, thanks to the arsenic from the mines. There’s no point in adding to it because you don’t like dandelions.”
Instead, he says to “Consider a perennial flowerscape, which will flower much of the year, from the first buds in spring to asters and mums in the fall.” Add mulch to fill in bald spots. “Your water use goes down, there’s no weeding, you don’t have to buy plants every year, and it looks great.” And then there’s White’s own do-nothing strategy. “I have a little patch of grass that I let go for three years — it turned into a pasture and it looks great.”
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