Forest Ranch Gardening
Interview with Scott & Lynelle Jackson 2/26/18
“Can you explain what heirloom seeds are and the benefit to using them instead of hybrid or other conventional seeds”, I asked Scott & Lynelle, while still trying to jot down notes about, not surprisingly, compost.
When I researched this question for myself, I found that there are several variations in the answer but, most agree with how Scott and Lynelle explained it to me. A seed is considered heirloom when it has been collected from an open pollinated plant that has been carefully preserved and grown, true to the original parent plant (never cross pollenated), for at least 40 years and passed down through generations, friends and neighbors or (more recently) seed companies, specializing in helping preserve these important gems.
Heirlooms are important for many reasons but, the main reason falls in to line with my next question; why can’t you just collect and plant seeds from a non-heirloom/hybrid plant? Scott is especially passionate about sharing his thoughts on the matter. He enthusiastically explains that “we need to pay attention to the diversity in this world. We had hundreds of thousands of heirloom seeds up into the 1800s and then once the big seeds companies came along, we are now down to under a couple of thousand so, the world is really shrinking. It’s our job, every gardener, to produce something well and pass that seed on to your neighbor.” Scott is adamant that once you have grown or been gifted an heirloom seed, you have made the commitment to properly care for and harvest those seeds and share them with the world. Scott and Lynelle really drove home the importance of growing and saving heirloom seeds by explaining that if we let all of these seeds go and begin to only garden using hybrid/non-heirloom seeds, eventually, we will become dependent on the large seed companies to provide us with their single use seeds and plants, basically forcing us to quite literally buy in to and become reliant on whatever these larger companies decide to provide for use in the general public. In addition to heirloom seed saving and sharing being important to helping maintain the balance between humans being self-reliant and using modern gardening or agricultural conveniences, if you are saving and attempting to grow a non-heirloom seed you never know what you are going to get. The seed will likely produce unpredictable results in plant growth, seed reliability and quality of the fruit or veggie. Oftentimes the plant itself will grow but it may be sterile.
To learn more about how to grow and collect heirloom seeds, please check out www.seedsavers.org to help you better understand heirloom seed collecting and growing.
WHAT SHOULD YOU BE THINKING ABOUT, WHILE IMPLEMENTING THE FUNDAMENTAL ASPECTS IN YOUR GARDEN?
You should be working on getting those things in place, while simultaneously thinking about planning the locations of each plant. For example, plant any plants of the same species on the opposite side of the garden, if seed saving. If you don’t, plants within the same family can cross pollenate. If this happens, when you go to collect seeds from these cross pollenated plants, the seeds will no longer be considered heirloom (they may very well still grow and produce fruit, they just won’t be heirloom and will eventually become unreliable as to what kind of plant and fruit you will get). Scott and Lynelle also strongly recommend that you consider and research companion gardening. Out of his big blue bag, Scott pulls out a book called “Carrots Love Tomatoes”, written by Louise Riotte. What sounds like a vegetable romance novel turns out to be an easy to follow informational book on which plants like to grow near one another and which plants do not. Companion gardening is one of the many important and wonderful ways to help ensure the success of your plants (in addition to this compost thing they keep telling me about). I plan on purchasing this book ASAP and would encourage anyone else curious about why carrots and tomatoes are in this mysterious love affair to do the same or see if the library carries it for check out.
COMPOSTING, MULCH & THE EFFECT THEY HAVE ON SOIL EROSION
& THE WATER TABLE
During the weeks before my interview with Scott & Lynelle, and again right after, I had the pleasure of watching a soil documentary (loaned to me by Beth Wattenberg) called “Symphony of the Soil”. Although we didn't discuss the documentary at length, I felt that because it was relevant to this interview and I watched it around the same period of time, and it ties in with Renee Lerner's question about the possibility of a low water table this summer, I would share the info here.
This documentary is incredibly informative and covers everything from composting (there’s that word again) to the importance of combining composting with laying down a mulch. There is a simple experiment in which they show several different soils being watered simulating rain and human watering. The point of the experiment is to show how each type of soil (conventional, organic composted soil, organic composted soil with a mulch covering) accepts the water they are given and absorbs it, and how well they are able to drain down to give back to the aquifers and water tables. The results are plain to see and really eye opening. The conventional soil (non-amended soil that may, or may not have been treated with chemical fertilizers) loses most of it’s water immediately because the soil is so compact that it just can not accept any water. It drains off of the top before ever reaching plant roots, or giving back to the water table below. The experiment shows great improvement in water absorption in to the soil with the organic compost and even some water given back to the water table below. The greatest improvement (by leaps and bounds) was when the organic compost with mulch was watered. Incredibly, the water was not only able to completely absorb down deep in to the soil but, it continued to slowly drain down the excess and give a large amount back to the water table. I believe this is a valuable lesson for all of us, especially those concerned with low water tables and drought years. If we prepare and commit ourselves to responsible and organic gardening practices, we can not only help our garden be healthy and our bellies be full but we can also help do our part to give back to the resources that give so much to us. If you are interested in watching this absolutely incredible video on the history of soil and importance of (and how to implement) compost, a free community viewing is in the works and we anticipate the date to be in the next few weeks. Please check on the regular Forest Ranch page, our community gardening page or group or the bulletin board at the post office for more detailed information about date, time and location.
Deer Fencing for Moles
Scott reiterated many times, the importance of protecting underground, as well as around the outside perimeter of your garden. Finding out that your edibles have been literally pulled out from under you is a completely avoidable problem...if you plan ahead during the implementation of the fundamental aspects in your garden.
The Jackson's dig their gardening area down about a foot, lay the deer fencing at the bottom and up the sides, and leave it sticking out about 6" at the top. The very top of the wire is left with sharp edges (see picture up and to the right) to further protect against these determined critters. The square openings in particular wire are only 1/4" in size. Any larger than that and moles may still be able to get through.
Scott said he purchased this deer fencing 30 years ago, at Meek's and it is still in excellent condition!
Questions From Our Community
A pomelo from Scott & Lynelle's garden
Scott in their super garden last season.
Here is the deer fencing, buried under his garden, left sticking enough to add a slight barrier. Notice at the very top, the vertical wire is left a bit longer. Scott does this as an extra mole deterrent, as it is sharp and the moles don't like being scratched by it.
These are questions from our community that, due to space limitations, weren't published in The Forest Ranch Post.
Thank you to everyone who posted questions this month!
Renee Lerner wanted to know what she could do to help her 25-year-old wisteria bloom more. Scott said that there were likely two basic reasons that Renee’s wisteria was having trouble blooming. It is either being over watered or it needs phosphate. If you are using the typical balanced fertilizer, it is probably releasing too much nitrogen. Try a 0-45-0 fertilizer. Northern Star Mills probably carries one.
I think Lora Crosley asked something that probably has been on many of our minds’ lately with our late in the season freeze. Lora asks what are some freeze resistant plants that come back after a freeze (edibles and non-edibles)? I added in my own relevant question of how do we protect our existing plants from a freeze. Scott says any deciduous or perennial plants should come back or make it through a freeze. These plants include Azaelas, Daphne, Indian Hawthorne, Clematis, Wisteria and many others. Edible plants include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, sugar snap peas and garlic. Scott and Lynelle use the insulation that goes around pipes to cover the base of tender trees and use cotton (never plastic) to put over the top of plants, trees or bushes. They warn to be sure and remove the cotton as soon as the threat of frost is gone (even during the day when presence of frost is temporarily removed) or else you are asking for a host of other problems.
Info on heirloom seeds, heirloom seeds for sale and trade - www.seedsavers.org
Companion Planting - “Carrots Love Tomatoes”, written by Louise Riotte
Documentary About The History of Soil, The Effects of Current Gardening and Agricultural Practices & How Responsible, Organic Practices Can Help Correct Many Current Issues & Help Produce A Larger & Healthier Yield - Symphony of the Soil (we will be having a viewing of this documentary in the coming weeks. Stay Tuned.
Gardening Projects, Successes, Flops and Experiences
from the Author
Laugh along with the Author
as she shares current gardening projects,
past experiences and what has worked,
sort of worked and failed miserably
My family and I have lived in Forest Ranch, in “downtown”, for almost 2 years. We moved here from Chico where I didn’t have an abundance of success in my hotter-than-the-surface-of-the-sun home garden (read that line as everything burnt to a crisp once May hit) but, I was able to grow a couple of things 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), where I 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 in to the city that 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 here. 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 and chowed 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 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.
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 matter soil just to get the ball rolling, until we have enough of our own compost to use.