William Schlegel

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since Jan 23, 2017
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Recent posts by William Schlegel

Tyler Ludens wrote:You might find some helpful ideas in Gary Paul Nabhan's book Growing Food in a Hotter Drier Land which has many lists of specific dryland varieties, and for details about increasing moisture in the land, Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Volume 2 by Brad Lancaster.

Growing Food in a Hotter Drier Land is definitely interesting. I got some Pinon seed after reading it. Also want to experiment with Hardy agave after reading it. I have a copy, will have to consult it further. I know many Native Seed Search varieties are extremely drought adapted from Gary's writings.

Not sure if I want to employ rainwater harvesting techniques (at this time), mostly interested in breeding potential. I have a decent well, I don't really need to grow an unirrigated garden at this point, I just want to do it as an experiment to learn what can be grown that way.

I don't have as much precipitation as I thought. This map puts my land in a 14 to 16 inch zone and my grandpa's farm in a 12 to 14 inch zone. Which is about right for other figures I found online.

I read somewhere that 15 inches is about the cutoff for dry farming potatoes. That could mean that potatoes could be dry farmed here most years and on grandpa's farm only in high rainfall years. Though breeding and just simple trialing might find varieties that are reliable every year.

Another limitation is that my topsoil on my land is not that deep- supposedly averages 7 inches. Though, it's definitely deeper in places and shallower others. It might not be what Solomon considers a proper soil for dry farming. Though where I have added sand might be fine and the dips in the land where the soil is deeper might be fine.

The area where I had my 2018 large direct seeded tomato field is very variable in soil quality. It ranges from sand amended to some of my shallowest clay soils. Tomatoes really varied in performance and teasing out the genetic component was not possible but I thought most of the observed variation was due to micro site not genetics.

My 2017 direct seeded tomatoes were down in a dip in the land with deeper soil. They did better in many respects.
They look like maxima squash to me. Cucurbita maxima is a squash species. In the Walmarts I've been in these appeared around Halloween. My parents bought a white maxima for my son somewhere for halloween. Having gotten used to better tasting maximas in recent years with orange flesh like Hidatsa and Loft house I rejected the seed after cutting it open and finding it pallid inside as well as out. That's not to say there aren't some interesting genetics there. Have a fruit stand turban squash in the pie pile (maxima). Planning to save the seeds just for the cool shape.
1 week ago
Also just found a used copy of winter gardening in the maritime northwest for $1.09 at a thrift store. Useful for this even where I garden because it's stuff that can be planted early long before it dries out. Like how Joseph plants favas in March instead of fall- same deal. Worth testing stuff though, some stuff can be fall planted here. Not used to planting anything in the fall though. Raring to go in March but planting garlic and such in the fall is hard to remember to do when not in the habit.

Gilbert Fritz wrote:Bobb Quinn in Montana is dry farming squash, potatoes, corn, and other vegetables, even watermelons. His town of Big Sandy gets 13 inches of precipitation a year. It is a little cooler on average than Denver, CO, but not by much.



I'm going to give it a try this year.

I was reading about that / following Bob back before I left facebook. Very interesting to me and inspiring because I garden in Montana also. My parents have my grandpa's old farm in Eastern MT leased out, but it's still in the family. It's rainshadow though so a little worse situation precip wise than Bob has. Dad told me they dried a dry garden once when he was a kid- picked a wetter spot. He said it didn't do very good but still it's interesting. Will have to have him show me the precise location sometime when we are both out there. They used seed from a famous but long defunct company in North Dakota back then the Oscar H. Will seed company. Modern equivalent would be Prairie Road Seed Company- long term Ruth Stout Gardeners also.  

Copied and pasted part of the Big Sandy Mountaineer article below:

"We moved on to dry land vegetables. "There is only one thing to worry about and that's water. So, you need to have three times more space. They will produce about the same as irrigated gardens, you just need more space. But we have space in Montana."

He was really proud of the Carnival Squash that tastes like sweet potatoes and will store for months and months.

He raises lots of different squash. Cantaloupes, Okra, Eggplants, beans from Israel, Spaghetti squash, and a new one Angel Hair spaghetti squash. He planted 5 varieties of potatoes. He started out experimenting with 42 varieties but has determined these five are the best varieties for a dry garden; Huckleberry Gold, Yukon Gem, Purple Viking, Redless Soda, (not sure I got that right) and Red New Orleans. He grew 10 different varieties of tomatoes, and I tasted them. "Flavor is really good. They have a more intense flavor." He grew three different onions that grew just fine, but can be miss-shapened.

I asked what he was going to do with all the vegetable. "I'm going to eat them for heaven's sake. And I do have lots of friends." He laughs again. We now come to the reason I wanted to visit him. He grew six different type of watermelon's "These leaves when it was a hundred degrees, the watermelon leaves, never even wilted." He has Yellow, Small Red, Sugar Orange, Red, Sugar Baby which are about 10-12 lbs. and from Israel. All different kinds of watermelon."
Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichoke are possibilities.

Carol Deppe mentioned dry farming potatoes in her Tao of Gardening book I just finished specifically she said potatoes but not tomatoes. My first thought was- maybe in Oregon but not here. I found a free old no copyright kindle book on amazon. It says 15 inches of rainfall for potatoes. I get about twenty if memory serves and Montana gets 15 on average. So dry farmed potatoes are possible here. I'll have to try it.

I planted a new patch of Jerusalem artichoke from my oikos tubers in 2017. Shear Total Utter Neglect in 2018 including no water. Still they lived all year but were much smaller plants than in 2017.

Though no water means different things here depending on the patch of land. Some parcels have a bit of subirrigation around here. My parents own a twenty acre hayfield close to town than my current garden. It's better land deeper soil and some subirrigation but has no garden fence or irrigation and lots of deer. Two acres of it was used by a past owner  for balled and burlapped tree production and has some leftover trees and annoying divots but would be perfect for a garden- if fenced. On my current garden land I have a fenced area, a working well, and relatively fewer deer so I can usually get away with growing some crops outside the 1/10th acre fenced garden.

Even on my current land there is variation. So those Jerusalem artichokes are growing down in a natural low area at the base of a never farmed butte  where soil and water collects- it frosts earlier there is the only downside. They also are growing in an bed I added sand mulch to which effectively deepens the soil. So even on my current land there are sweet spots where certain more water intensive crops could be dry farmed.

If you took my valley as a whole and were looking to find a new garden parcel there is a town fifteen miles away with a history of subirrigated gardening before the current irrigation system for the valley was installed. It's also where the local Amish settled. If I were looking to dry farm long term I might consider selling my current parcel and finding one there instead. Speaking of resilient gardening it wouldn't be a bad thing to have the ability to dry farm if necessary and Amish neighbors who keep alive useful technologies.

One of the major staple crops grow commercially in my valley is a bit tricky. It's potatoes! We are a major seed potato producing valley. We can get big cheap locally grown potatoes. To protect this industry they ask local gardeners to be careful to buy certified seed potatoes. This is one reason I never got into collecting heirloom potatoes. Also various guides say that we should not bother with potatoes because they are so cheap. Carol made a somewhat bold prediction on the new OSSI plant breeding forum the other day. She gives us only 5-10 years before new strains of late blight become endemic and produce long lasting resident spores something that has already happened in Europe. It is a major focus of her Tao of Gardening book but her forum prediction is much more specific. It is an incredible prediction coming from a PhD'd scientist and very non waffley. If she's trying to scare me into action it's working. Because if this happens in 5-10 years it will change McDonald's fries forever.

So a typical mcdonalds fry which is a Luther burbank russet potato begins its life in say Bozeman MT where it is cloned using sterile plant tissue culture. Then it is transported to mine and similar valleys where it is turned into giant truckloads of seed potatoes. Then those are trucked to Idaho to plant vast fields of military industrial complex potatoes. From there they become McDonald's fries or cheap grocery store spuds.

If Carol is right my valley's seed potato industry and Idaho's spud production and mcdonalds special fry taste are under grave threat.

Don't worry- we will still have spuds. The system can and will adapt to blight by adopting more of the blight resistant genetics already used in Europe and other parts of this country. However endemic spores and a more diverse blight will mean that the potatoes and tomatoes we will be growing in the future will be highly blight resistant strains as they already are in europe.

So what it really does as an amateur plant breeder is make me more aware that I should be seeking out and including blight resistant tomatoes and potatoes in my true potato seed stash and my tomato breeding project. It means that if we want to easily work with non-blight resistant strains we may have only 5-10 years to cross them with blight resistant strains before continuing to propagate them becomes a PITA. So I may be trying to buy some certified seed potatoes of a highly blight resistant strain in the hopes of getting a TPS crop from them. As well as getting some blight resistant tomato hybrids to dehybridize and add to my tomato land race now because having them crossed in may be important a few years from now. Unfortunately most blight resistant tomatoes are annoyingly long season. So I will want to not just dehybridize them but cross them with my short season tomatoes. This blight problem deserves it's own thread but is not really separate because say breeding a good strain of dry farmed tomato or potato is not enough- it should also be blight resistant. Which makes breeding projects more complex. Of course many folks in other parts of the country would love to have 5-10 more years of blight free gardening. Honestly they may also have an easier time than me breeding blight resistant stuff- because blight actually kills their non-resistant plants now. Still it's a good call to arms for solanaceous crop breeding.
John Jeavons has an interesting and very short list of high calorie root crops which includes some crops I grow already and some I do not.

Grow already:

Jerusalem Artichoke
Garlic (if it's still surviving)

Haven't tried yet:

Sweet Potatoes

Of these the one's I plan to try are leeks and salsify.

Salsify is particularly interesting to me because it sounds like something with good potential to grow here, that a person could eat a lot of.

Sweet potatoes are very interesting but not adapted to my climate - yet- there are folks here like Joseph Lofthouse working on that.

What makes Jeavons high calorie root crops list so interesting is that his grow biointensive system is designed to provide a complete vegan diet with a lot of long term study and this list is a critical component and so short. Not that I personally am adverse to meat, eggs, and milk but don't currently have the ability to easily care for animals. It seems to me that if trying to grow some of ones own food these 7 crops are important from a caloric standpoint especially in a small space which is what the biointensive method is designed for.

Currently reading Carol Deppe's book on resilient gardening her crops are corn, squash, beans, potatoes, and eggs. I grow these as well, or have in the past. She adds a few crops like tomatoes that are near staples in her Tao of Gardening book which I just finished.

I think currently the staple crops that make the most sense for me with livestock limits, pleny of space, but sometimes time limits are squash, parsnips, Jerusalem artichoke, and maybe salsify.

Parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes practically grow themselves. Salsify may as well. My squash patch takes a lot of space but only limited work.

I am pretty focused on tomatoes right now as a breeding project so if I have to spend time on something it's them.

Potatoes are inexpensive so it may make the most sense to  freeze some TPS and not worry about it right now.

Alliums are nice well cooked and in small quantities so a small patch of onions, leeks, and garlic should be plenty. Raw they disagree with both me and my wife.
2 weeks ago

Woody McInish wrote:18 varieties of small tomatoes dry farmed on untilled clay soil in very hot summer, 2018.
14 varieties died or produced very few fruits.
4 varieties were very productive throughout the season. 2 wild tomatoes: Coyote and Matts Wild Cherry. 2 other tomatoes had very heavy yields: Indigo Pear and Yellow Bell.

I like coyote, it made my top flavor list and it's pretty short season. Haven't tried the other three.

Will have to make a point of trying to dry farm Coyote tomato as I irrigated it at least a little both years I've grown it.
One possibility for dry farming breeding that is interesting to me is domesticating local wild species including several we have already mentioned in this thread. Miners lettuce, Showy Milkweed, and California Chia. I grow all three of these in my garden. Partially this is because I also grow native plants. To me it's just lovely when a plant can be really great for native pollinators, have wonderful flowers, and be a good edible and these three may all qualify. As might biscuit roots, opuntias, various wild mustards, and wild fruiting shrubs like serviceberry amongst potentially many others.

Miners lettuce is actually now divided into three species which hybridize and have a lot of within species variation. I have two of those species in my garden so far and they have been reseeding themselves for three and two years respectively. The first species Claytonia perfoliata has been really well behaved in terms of staying in the same place year after year. Only this year did it spread out a little. Ideally I would like it to be rather weedy in my garden. In reality I haven't gotten enough to harvest really. I planted a second packet of Claytonia perfoliata to see if that would help the genetics. The second species I dug from the edge of the road in my neighborhood where it was growing in bald spots in a neighbors lawn and is a low growing variety of Claytonia rubra. It went from two plants to a dozen plants over its first winter. I look forward to how many plants it may have in its second year. I also hope the two species will cross as they do sometimes in the wild. Locally there is also a more upright variety of Claytonia rubra and from the floras Claytonia perfoliata and C. parviflora. The ideal garden population in my opinion would be all three species and their hybrids. The commonly sold "Claytonia" that can be had from Johnny's selected seeds and other sources is only Claytonia perfoliata but in the wild state there are three species and many hybrids and varieties so potentially the diversity could be as great or at least similar to that of mixed leaf lettuces.


One way to grow these wild species is just to include them in plantings. Food forests, pollinators strips, etc. Then if any strains we like better for food appear we can save propagates from them.

Another way to breed from them is to exploit the full diversity from their range.

Service berry is a good example. In Canada they have several improved strains. Here is a Canadian source that exports some of those:


Then there is a complex of wild species including Amelanchier alnifolia, Amelanchier utahensis, and Amelanchier laevis. From these we can get important traits like local adaptation, drought tolerance, and etc. Though I have also read that breeding is difficult because of high rates of not just selfing but essentially self cloning. Where the seed is a clone. I collected a handful of berries from an Amelanchier utahensis patch in Nevada a few years back but unfortunately I lost the few germinants I obtained. I thought they might be more drought tolerant based on their habitat than the common species here Amelanchier alnifolia and do better on my dry hill side. I will try again someday. Even amongst Amelanchier alnifolia there is a lot of variation in habitat and growth habit in Western Montana.

I went to a neat wild food conference at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical garden a few years ago (2015) and at the conference they announced plans to develop improved varieties of golden current Ribes aureum and blue elderberry Sambucus caerulea. I inquired and key people moved away before it could be implemented. In the Western US those two natives are very widespread so would make good subjects as well.

I think commercial cultivation of American Elderberry Sambucus Canadensis is taking off and some improved strains developed.

Leandro argent wrote:Hi, I'm new in the forum. Excuse my English, it's not my natural language. I live in Argentina. I love permies and I'm just fascinated about your growing works Joseph.
My question here is, how do you know that a wild species will pollinate your cultivated tomatos?
In this area grows a wild tomato (solanum sisymbriifolium) called tomatillo by us. I would like to know if is there any chance for it to pollinate my tomato plants. I'm intending to start a "dry whether resistant tomato" growing project.



Hi Leandro,

The Tomato Genetic Resource Resource center in California is a good source of information about the wild tomato species that will cross with domestic tomato. Unfortunately Solanum sisymbrifolium is not one of them, though it may be worth growing in its own right.

Some of the species that will cross are potentially very drought tolerant. Solanum penellii, and at least some populations of Solanum arcanum, and Solanum peruvianum grow in very dry deserts. Most grow in Equador, Peru, and Chile. Some of the species are good sources of pollen such as Solanum penellii and Solanum habrochaites. A couple readily cross Solanum pimpinillifolium and Solanum galapagense.

Others are harder to cross and have mostly been the work of professional scientists.

Recently some scientists have been working to produce strains of some of the wild species that are domesticated in their own right without crossing. This is potentially a useful route as crossing sometimes disturbs the important multi gene traits like drought tolerance and salt tolerance.  
2 weeks ago