It’s vegetable-planting time in San Luis Obispo County — and the busiest time of year for farmer Serena Wyatt, who sells her Grown from the Heart vegetable seedlings at local farmers markets.
Loyal customers will be visiting her stand to get these high-quality starters grown naturally in organic planting mix that Wyatt creates from carefully selected ingredients.
“I’ve known how to make things grow for as long as I can remember,” she said.
Raised on a 120-acre dry-farm ranch with no electricity or phone in the hills near Murrieta, her childhood job was to keep her father’s shade trees alive by hand-pumping water into a tank, then siphoning the water to the trees while her sister drove the pickup truck up and down the rows.
Wyatt’s father immigrated from Germany and settled in California before World War II after working on German square-rigger merchant ships starting at age 15. He acquired many skills on the ships, resulting in his “being able to build anything,” Wyatt said. Her mother grew up on a 640-acre farm in northern Germany.
“Besides raising barley and oats, our family grew all of our own food and we had at least one of every kind of animal,” Wyatt said.
Hard work, horses, gardens and 4-H were the mainstays of Wyatt’s childhood years, leading her to attend Cal Poly for agricultural studies. Eventually settling in the San Diego area, she worked with her landscape contractor husband on big projects, which led to her strong aversion to chemicals.
Wyatt was inspired to revitalize her farming skills when her mother gave her a subscription to Organic Gardening magazine. Her little garden for her family with two children grew to a big garden, with enough to give away and sell at a stand in front of her house.
After her marriage ended, Wyatt sought full-time work doing what she loved on independent farms, eventually becoming the head gardener for the Golden Door Health Spa in Escondido, then managing a produce and fruit ranch in Rancho Bernardo for 10 years. After those years of hands-on learning and working in eco-farming for others, Wyatt decided to “go back to the basics,” and start her own small farm, raising organic strawberries and seedlings in San Marcos.
Wyatt relocated to Atascadero in 2008 to continue farming near her son and his family on a large shared lot with good sunlight and room for her greenhouses and growing beds. By 2010, she was ready to offer her naturally grown seedlings to appreciative area gardeners at farmers markets.
To produce the seedlings, Wyatt starts in her greenhouse with only certified organic seeds (no genetically modified organisms) placed in heated seed starter trays filled with her special mix of peat moss, vermiculite and coir, the natural fiber from the husk of coconuts.
At transplant time, she adds minerals through her custom recipe of kelp meal, azomite, soft rock phosphate and a little sea-based Dr. Earth fertilizer.
“It’s all about minerals for healthy soil, which translates to healthy plants,” she said.
As the starters grow at their own pace, without chemicals, Wyatt sprays them weekly in the early morning with Maxi-Crop, a soluble Norwegian kelp powder that stimulates growth. At six to eight weeks, or whenever the roots start coming out of the bottom of the container, the vigorous little seedlings are ready for market.
With hundreds of varieties of plants to seed and nurture, plus setting up her booth at four local farmers markets, Wyatt said it’s a labor of love from sunup to sunset, seven days a week.
Her reward is when gardeners return with glowing reports of their vegetable harvest.
“I want to give my customers the knowledge of growing their own food, realizing where their food comes from, and then teaching that to their children. My mission is to provide them with superior quality plants that will grow and flourish in their garden, enabling them to become successful gardeners,” said Wyatt.
RESOURCES FOR NATURAL AND ORGANIC GARDENING
Before purchasing seedlings, get a soil test at Farm Supply Co. Take in one cup of soil, and the company will ship it to A&L Labs of Modesto to test ag suitability for basic elements and ph. With this information, the gardener can then add only what’s needed though natural, not chemical, soil builders. http://www.farmsupplycompany.com
Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply catalogue is an excellent source for all information and supplies for organic gardening. http://www.groworganic.com
For an excellent addition to your soil, use SLO County Worm Farm’s Black Diamond vermi compost, http://www.slocountyworms.com, 237-7752
Organic and hydroponic supplies are available at Healthy Harvest, 198 South St., San Luis Obispo, 596-0430, http://www.healthyharvest.gardeningunlimited.com
Use Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer for vegetables, tomatoes and herbs, available locally.
TO PURCHASE SEEDLINGS FROM GROWN FROM THE HEART:
Visit Wyatt’s booth at the following farmers markets: Templeton, Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12:30 pm, San Luis Obispo/Kennedy Club Fitness parking lot, Sundays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., San Luis Obispo Grange Hall parking lot, Tuesdays 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Atascadero, Wednesdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
To see the many varieties of seedlings, including heirloom selections, offered by Wyatt in spring, summer and fall categories, go to http://www.grownfromtheheart.com.