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Scourge of the gophers



Welcome to the second in a series of interviews with Humboldt County gardeners. Today's chatty gardener is Janet Sclar. She's been gardening in Hydesville for six years, and she works as a farmer's market vendor and does customer service and web design for her husband's mail-order nursery business, Amity Heritage Roses.

What's the best thing about gardening in Humboldt County?

Thanks to the high humidity, things take a long time to really dry out. I've been thankful for that over and over again as I forget to water seedlings and new transplants.

What's the worst thing?

Thanks to the high humidity, we have every garden fungal disease known!

Why do you garden?

It draws me back to my roots in the Garden of Eden, brings me peace of mind, stretches my creative side, reconnects me to the pleasures of the simple goodness of a real tomato and helps me appreciate the beauty that hard work and patience can achieve with the miraculous help from above of growing something amazing from a tiny seed.

Who taught you how to garden?

Lots of people: my parents, still doing what we call "cocktail gardening" (a little pinch here, and a little water there) with potted plants in the Bay Area at 85 and 90 years old; my husband, Tracy Sclar; and Mel Hulse, Chief Volunteer at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. The Master Gardener training in Humboldt County was a good help in the early going here, too.

How much time do you spend in the garden?

Some seasons it's all day, other seasons it's an hour a week. I try to go with the flow. It's never enough time with when we're talking in acres ...

Are you organic? Not organic? On the fence?

I do practice IPM and my part of the garden is organic, mostly. My impatience for wanting to eat things right off the bush/tree/vine/plant is the biggest motivator to be kind. Next I think of the bees and other good bugs - I try to stay on their side in the battles in the garden, so that they'll be there for me when I need little tedious chores done, like pollinating!

Most dreaded gardening chore?

Dormant spraying in winter, and dragging the hose around in the summer.

Favorite gardening activity?

Picking and smelling roses.

Worst pest, weed or disease?

Gophers, earwigs and voles can get the upper hand on my normally pleasant personality. The deer were easy to fence out of the cultivated part of the yard. These three creatures are a little more challenging and call for vigilance. Since you, Amy, actually got hate mail for what you do to snails in your yard (and you're very much not alone), I choose not to share my tactics against these critters. The incredible variety of weeds here (seems a new one pops up every year) really gets to me, too. I do whatever necessary to cope with them, including looking upon them as "companion plants".

All-time favorite gardening plant?

Roses and herbs.

Least favorite plant?

Well, last week the voles ate some very bright orange oriental poppies and I wasn't very upset about it...

Most overused plant in Humboldt County?

Hebe, the boring ones.

Favorite gardening book?

Sunset's Western Garden Book.

Favorite tool, gadget, or toy?

The Black Hole. (Oops, now don't go sending me any hate mail! In our business - it's either the gophers or us. There is no happy compromise.)

Favorite Humboldt County garden -- public or private -- besides your own?

The most recent past president of the Humboldt Rose Society has an amazing garden in McKinleyville.

Favorite garden somewhere else in the world?

Shore Acres in Oregon is pretty impressive - right on the coast - as are the Mendocino Botanical Garden and the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden (the latter especially in late April).

If you could garden anywhere, where would it be?

Back in the Valley of Hearts' Delights (aka Silicon Valley), where anything will grow with minimal effort. Before they pulled out the apricot orchards.

What would you most like to change about your own garden?

I'd like more overall design, structures and paved/pebbled paths.

Favorite nursery, garden center, or mail-order catalog?

Miller Farms for local and for mail-order, besides my husband's ( I've bought seeds from Bountiful Gardens in Willits and plants from Big Dipper Farm in Washington.

Biggest gardening mistake or regret?

Not pushing for a "master plan" when we moved to four-plus acres.

Worst piece of gardening advice you ever heard?

"That won't grow here."

Best gardening advice or tip you can pass on to other Humboldt gardeners?

Learn the micro-climates of your own yard. Gardening is all an experiment and a test in patience.


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