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All things good are wild & free

Forest Ranch Gardening

Gardening Projects, Successes, Flops and Experiences

My family and I have lived in Forest Ranch, in “downtown”, for almost 2 years. We moved from Chico where I didn’t have much success in my hotter-than-the-surface-of-the-sun home garden (read that line as everything burnt to a crisp once May hit). I was able to grow a couple of things though and that gave me a little hope that one day, I could return to my full gardening glory from when I lived in Washington state and thought I had a major green thumb.


As it turns out, my Washington state home garden success was largely due to the constant rainfall keeping the soil moist and the excellent gardening/composting/soil practices of the folks who we bought the house from. Alas, I let my green thumb delusions follow me to Illinois and back to the Bay Area (where I grew up and helped my mother in her success by trial-and-error garden) and began the tradition of burning all of my plants until they were beyond saving.


After a couple of years in the Bay, a move to Chico was in order. I just knew my green thumb would be rejuvenated once I was settled into the city that, based on all the wild fruit trees, seemed to grow anything effortlessly.


From 2008-2015, my family and I lived in a semi garden state of cucumber and zucchini plants that bloomed but wouldn’t produce, an overabundance of cherry and yellow pear tomatoes and some lettuce and spinach, until it charred in May. Don’t even ask me about the poor kumquat tree that hung on for dear life, through 4 seasons of producing just 1-2 kumquats each year, and then finally called it quits.

It was then that I realized, Forest Ranch was the place to be if I ever was going to find my green thumb again. So, we bought a house up there. Boy howdy how life can hand you lemons...just not me because I can’t seem to grow them!

With my green thumb seemingly brown, I was thrilled to see my daughter succeeding at developing her own green thumb. With her help, we got a fantastic garden started. We built raised beds from materials found on our property (rocks, logs, old bricks and pavers) and pallets from North State Solar Energy’s generous “free” pile. Man were we excited! Our garden looked beautiful. We had tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, winter squash, more tomatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers for pollinators, potatoes, strawberries, blueberries, kale, spinach and chard. Did I mention tomatoes?

The beds were filled with your standard store-bought soil. Underneath the soil, we layered newspaper, leaves and other organic matter from around the yard. We were pretty sure this was our year! Everything was growing like crazy and looking very promising.


Then one morning, we came outside and found most everything gone, eaten down to a nub by deer. We were naïve to think “not us”...but that’s exactly what we did. A few times. A deer fence just wasn’t in the budget so, we tried to cover plants individually or plant herbs around them to help ward critters off. We spread dog hair and human hair and even used “Uncle Ian’s” deer away formula.

The plants would start to grow back. Many grew back stronger. Several fruited. Then, just before something was ready to harvest, the deer must’ve sensed it and found their way to our yard to chow down.

We decided to try what our blueberry farming family in Oregon uses. An invisible 7 ft fence made of heavy gauge fishing line. The fishing line is currently strung up, from pole to pole, horizontally, about 2 feet apart. This has given us some deer relief but nothing steady and, boy is it an eye sore. Turns out it is also an amazing human catcher, grabbing and tangling humans large and small who aren't paying attention. 

My daughter and I have decided to use mesh deer fencing this year and, to cover further critter damage, put wire fencing under our raised beds (a great suggestion from our featured gardener this month). We are also implementing a compost plan to amend/improve our soil, and in turn our plants, and have brought in worm castings, crushed oyster shells and pretty amazing organic composted soil just to get the ball rolling, until we have enough of our own compost to use.

Check in next month where we will update you on whether the mesh deer fencing holds up through the spring rain and wind and whether or not we've caught anymore humans in the fishing line invisa-fence!

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