Years ago, I was traveling through Petaluma – touted as the “Chicken Capital of the World” - a half-hour south of Santa Rosa, and came upon an impressive building that looked like a 1930s bank, but its main window was labeled “Seed Bank.” Of course that meant I had to park and see what was inside -- rows upon rows of seed racks, magazines, tools, and other “gardenyania.” I’d been aware of Baker Creek Seeds as an heirloom seed source but had discounted the company due to its Midwest location – not an ideal choice for our Western climates. When I broached this with a staff person, she informed me that the company trials its seed in nationally widespread locations, and that the company had determined to offer a Northern California retail location because more than 80% of its online purchases came from the area. What a surprise! Now I could indeed allow myself to purchase Baker Creek seed!
This year, since I’d retired from the University, I was intent on attending the Heirloom Expo to experience for myself the enthusiastic reports from years past about the event. Definitely worth doing! The 100+ temperatures over the three days of the festival meant I spent more time listening to lectures that I initially hadn’t considered – just to be able to stay indoors – but I ended up learning more than I’d expected and from new resources. Here are some of the tidbits:
- Of all microclimate factors, soil type is the most important because it affects all the other factors—including sun/shade, direction/exposure, elevation, slope, air drainage, wind, standing objects, heat reservoirs, reflected heat and light, root competition from trees/shrubs.
- “Invasive” isn’t necessarily bad. Given all of history starting with the first bacterial life in the oceans, successful use of resources has evolved all life. When man destroys the current vital living conditions, Nature must evolve.
- Law of Return – Let the leaves stay under the tree where they fell, to return to the soil the nutrients that they had removed .
- New Jersey was nicknamed The Garden State because its truck farms initially fed New York City.
- Permaculture has its base in polyculture – growing multi-species so each helps the others. The 3 Sisters Garden – corn as trellis, beans providing nitrogen, and squash for shade – initially had a 4th Sister - other seasonal foods - to honor more than the three staples.
- Passalong Plants that you share with your gardening friends have value from your grandmother or friend, local adaptation to soils and climate, pest resistance to insects and diseases, and ease of propagation to share.
- Propagation by division is the only time that you can multiply and divide at the same time.
- Fanny Farmer was the first to add sugar to many recipes because it could convince sick people to eat something.
- Composting techniques don’t have to be precise: Stop throwing that organic stuff away, and pile it somewhere – anything else is just finesse.
- As a gardener, don’t get wrapped up in rules. Find out what you like to do, and do it. Your bliss may not be someone else’s bliss. And that’s ok. You’re living your own life, not theirs.
- Anne Frank - How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
- Abraham Lincoln – The best way to predict the future is to create it.