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Steve Thorn

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since Nov 12, 2018
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Steve started his first "permaculture" garden when he was about 7 years old and has been addicted to growing things ever since! It was only about 20 square feet back then, and he didn't know much about gardening except what was on the back of the seed packet, but he knew he didn't want to use any fertilizer or pesticides, and wanted to grow everything as naturally as possible.
Years later, when he got some land of his own, he started planting a larger garden, berry bushes, and fruit trees, and also discovered permaculture and Permies! Permaculture has made growing things so much easier and enjoyable! He is passionate about growing things naturally using natural farming and permaculture methods to minimize work and maximize enjoyment!
He is also passionate about saving seed and creating new and locally adapted vegetable and own root fruit varieties to increase the natural growing vigor, flavor, and pest and disease resistance of the plants, to make them easier and more enjoyable to grow.
Creating a plant nursery selling these types of plants occupies most of his free time right now, and he is hoping to start selling these types of plants and seeds soon! He has learned so much from the Permies community and is excited to learn and share our experiences together!
Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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Recent posts by Steve Thorn

Hey Daniel,

I'm glad you posted to this thread, I had forgotten about it.

I don't think I even saw a Japanese beetle this year. There are also now many small trees in the area, which have seemed to attract lots of small insect eating birds. I was walking out there yesterday and in just 10 minutes saw probably 50 small birds in the small trees and plants busy patrolling.

Some of my apples produced for the first time this year and they were completely no spray. Here are a picture of two different varieties that I harvested last week. Even though we have extreme bug problems in my area, these apples were pretty much completely damage free.

Here's a picture of them after a little bit of polishing up with just a wet cloth. No one grows apples in my area, much less no spray apples, and I don't think it would have been possible without the small army of beneficial bugs and other animals doing their wonderful things.
5 days ago
I'm actually selecting for larger seed size in my watermelon landrace. With the seeds being larger in size they are a lot easier to remove (or spit in a watermelon seed contest ). The smaller seeds were really hard to remove and took a lot longer to get out, and I would occasionally bite down into them, whereas the larger seeds kind of slip out easier.

I've noticed I like the flavor of pink flesh best so far it seems. I'm not really selecting for color but I love the way the really black shiny seeds look with the pink flesh.

This was my favorite watermelon of the year this year. It had an amazing flavor and also just happened to have my favorite color combos as well! The color didn't come out well in the photo, but it was a really nice medium pink.
1 week ago
I think those are some really interesting observations Cy and would be awesome to experiment with.

Cy Cobb wrote:My thought is that the largest seeds within the fruit would sprout and grow with the most vigor because there's more "fuel" within the seed to get a strong start.

I've been thinking the same based on what I've been seeing recently. It seems to give them an initial vigor boost to get started, while later vigor may be more dependent on soil fertility or genetics, but at least initially they seem to start growing quicker.

By that same token, if there's more reserved growing power within the seed, does that equate to a longer shelf life due to the seed having more stored "energy?"  Conversely, would the larger seed consume its reserved "energy" at a faster rate than a small or medium sized seed to remain viable?

I ask these questions in the interest of choosing which seeds will remain viable for the longest period of time for the purpose of future backcrossing options, as I experiment with my season to season growing.  Ideas?

I tend to think that seed size may not have a huge effect on long viability, since there are a lot of small tree seeds that can remain viable for years in the soil. But I think it would be a really neat thing to test.

However I have noticed that the harder seeds tend to store a lot longer.

My squash seeds have ranged from pretty flimsy to very hard. It's interesting that the harder seeds seem to correlate with squash with a harder shell and therefore they store very long. The flimsy seeds also seemed to produce the squash that didn't keep long at all. I also wonder if the harder seed coat is more effective in "sealing" the seed and therefore increasing its length of viability.

I'm selecting for longer storing squash so I'm guessing my seeds will probably end up being mostly very hard.

I'd love to hear how yours turn out!
3 weeks ago
I pick my bean seeds late a lot of the time after they have been dried on the vine for sometimes a month or two or longer, and have had really good germination so far. Some of them rot or get fungus on them, and I just toss those, and am in the process selecting for the ones that don't rot. Last year, the first year I saved the bean seeds about 50% had issues with rot and I tossed them. Just in the second year, this year, where I planted the seeds of the ones that didn't rot, less than 5% were damaged, and I got way behind on picking them, and most of them were hanging on the vine for over two months and only 5% had issues, so I'd say it's definitely worth it to save the seeds.

I pick my okra once they're dry and they are a great crop for producing tons of seeds in each pod and they are very easy and fun to collect the seeds. I didn't plant much okra this year, but I did have a few plants. This was also the first year of the saved seeds, and I had huge thriving okra that were a lot bigger and productive than last year. I think last year I averaged 4 or 5 pods per plant, and this year I had one that had more than 20 on it.

So yeah I'd say save those seeds! I did the same thing and never saved my seed for years, but now that I've started saving them, I don't think I'll be buying any seed at all this year and probably very little in the future! Plus the plants are becoming very tough and way more productive!
3 weeks ago
The table isn't for eating, it's for seed saving!
3 weeks ago
Hey Cy, I was surprised that they turned out a lot better than I expected!

I'll try to get together all the photos and post them soon.

I hope yours turn out well!
4 weeks ago
Less cost, more participation, and maybe more brains infected with permaculture! Sounds like a winner to me!
2 months ago

Isabella Love wrote:Wow, Steve! That is some beautiful squash!

Thanks Isabella!

What is your growing zone? I have some Seminole pumpkins sprouting here in zone 9a-- supposed to be very vigorous and disease-resistant in the hot and humid south. This is my first year growing them intentionally, though I have actually harvested them in the "wild" in Central Florida. They're yummy!

I'm in zone 7b/8a. That's really neat! I meant to get some seeds for my Moschata squash landrace but wasn't able to get them at the time I think. Here's a thread of my Moschata squash landrace development.

Hope your squash do well and would love to see how they turn out!
3 months ago
Thanks Greg, will definitely check them out! Great looking squash btw!

greg mosser wrote:
the third season on a landrace like this seems to be the point where the magic really starts happening. not sure why.

To my understanding the magic starts to happen in the third generation because of more genetic diversity really showing up then, and as a result of that, better adapted traits also reveal themselves and can then be further selected by the grower.

I like to think of it like this (the way simplified version and not exactly genetically correct)...

Most varieties today are super inbred so that they will look the exact same year after year, and are therefore generally homozygous (meaning that it has two of the same genes for a specific trait like color or vigor) and will pass these down to the offspring if they are crossed with each other, resulting in no new genetics showing up, which is why they look the same each year.

As a result of this very limited genetic information, it can be very difficult if not impossible for the plants to adapt well to a new area. For example let's say there is the Wongatutna squash (purely fictional, just thought the name sounded cool ). Like many varieties it has been inbred (just bred with others that look like itself) for over 20 years, and as a result has very little genetic diversity available to help it adapt if planted in a new area. It has actually gotten weaker over the years, even when grown in its original area, due to some possible genetic diversity being lost every year that it is further inbred. It was developed in the northern US and does pretty well there, but let's say that we live in the southern US. We see the nice shiny picture in the seed catalog in the Spring, and we order a packet. There is a very good chance that it would struggle in the Southern US because it doesn't have the available genetics to be able to adapt to the different diseases, pests, and climate there. So it cannot thrive without any inputs and dies shortly after sprouting.

With a true landrace there is hopefully a lot more genetic diversity, and there is hopefully some heterozygous (containing different genes for a trait) or at least different homozygous plants, and therefore much better at adapting. Let's say we grew the same squash mentioned above from the north but that it was a landrace. I'm guessing that it would still struggle in the South its first year, but that it may have at least a few plants that do well or even very well, or at least there are beneficial traits that show up in different plants, where those plants could be combined to create a super well adapted landrace for your area.

Let's look at how that could be accomplished.

Using simplified Mendelian genetics with capital letters representing dominant traits, let's say that we have two squash. One has a genotype of DDvv (disease susceptible and vigorous) and another is the opposite ddVV (disease resistant and not vigorous ). The capital D will represent a gene for being disease susceptible and the lower case d will be disease resistant. And similarly V will represent the non vigorous gene and v will be vigorous. Each offspring will get one gene from each parent. The capital letter will represent the dominant gene, and if it has one or two dominant genes the dominant gene is expressed, such as DD or Dd. The lower case letter represents the recessive gene, and for it to be expressed it has to have both be lower case such as dd.

These two plants meet in the garden one day through a mutual bumblebee friend, fall in love, and decide to start a family and make little squash plants.

Their kids get one gene (letter) from each parent and all look like this.


So because the parents are DDvv and ddVV, every single seedling will look the exact same. Whether there are 10 seeds or 100 seeds, they will all be DdVv. They all have one dominant gene for each trait which is expressed, so they all will be disease susceptible and non vigorous.

Why do all my plants look the same? Where is the diversity,? I thought I crossed the plants? Let's give them another year.

Next year the kids have kids which vary and look like this. There are more in number of some (the hybrids) than others, but just for simplicity, here's the different possible kids.


So now in the third year we get all of the options expressed. Based on the genes we finally have some (the last in the list) that show up as both disease resistant and vigorous. We like how some of them taste and save their seeds, and repeat year after year, and eventually our landrace is selected to be generally disease resistant, vigorous, and delicious!

This example isn't exactly accurate since I'm pretty sure vigorousness is usually dominant and some gene expressions aren't simple dominant and recessive, but rather exist on a spectrum. But hopefully it is helpful in describing the "magic" of the third year!
3 months ago