Today there was a wonderful tour of Sylvia Davatz’ organic garden in Hartland VT, organized by Chris Jacobson of the Upper Valley Food Co-op. Sylvia is a seed saver experimenting with different grains and vegetables with an eye to the tastiest, hardiest, season-extending varieties that can be grown in Upper Valley home gardens. She is also moving toward a permaculture – plants such as asparagus, berries, kiwi, pawpaws, perennial rye, that will come back year after year.
She grows over 200 varieties of plants: different beans, peas, greens, peanuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, rice, wheat, barley, rye, spelt, amaranth, beets, corn (both flint and popcorn), cabbages, carrots, herbs, etc., some for eating, and much is for the seeds. Sylvia sells her seeds through her Solstice Seed catalog and has begun offering a course on seed-saving.
Because peas self-pollinate, Sylvia can plant different varieties near each other. With plants that cross-pollinate, varieties must be kept far from each other, or must be planted such that they flower at different times. Sometimes, to keep seeds pure, only one variety can be planted in any given year.
* A tip from Sylvia for gardeners with deer problems: She has found Liquid Fence to be a safe and effective deer deterrent. (It is made from rotten eggs, garlic, kelp, lime juice, etc. For a full list of ingredients see http://www.gardenguides.com/126554-ingredients-liquid-fence.html)
The tour included an excellent lunch prepared by Chris Jacobson; it was delicious, healthy, and beautiful to behold! (I love that one of the participants took home the used, biodegradable, palm-leaf plates to use as stepping stones in her garden!)
Unlike New Zealand kiwis, Sylvia’s have no fuzz, are small, and very sweet – just pop them in your mouth. Getting the kiwis to fruit was a challenge since her male kiwi did not flower and, with kiwis, it takes two to tango. Luckily, Tina Barney, another Hartland permaculturist, had a flowering male kiwi and brought a few branches with flowers to prop by Sylvia’s female – success!
A tour of Sylvia’s garden makes me grateful that we have this curious, motivated, and persevering gardener in our midst who is willing to do the hard work of finding the tastiest, most reliable, and most productive varieties of foods that can be grown in our Upper Valley area, helping to move us along the road to greater food-self-reliance. Many thanks to Sylvia for welcoming us into her garden and to Chris Jacobson for organizing this tour . . . and making our delicious lunch!