Picture Sundays: The Unintentionally Groovy Cover of the High Desert Corridor Envionmental Impact Report

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Damien Newton of Streetsblog Los Angeles has caused the cover of an obscure bureaucratic document to go viral in our local cycling community. And with good reason. Some genius at Caltrans designed a cover by tossing clip art and 80s graphics into a Vitamix. Speculation is that the designer might be named Brad (note Brad the turtle chasing a chipmunk in the upper right corner).

Every time I look at it I see something new: psychedelic condors riding bicycles, butterflies transformed by contact with solar panels and what might be a portal to another dimension just to the right of the project i.d. number.

Saturday Linkages: Big Chickens, Drought and More

Why You Should Grow Pomegranates if You Can

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If I could only have one tree I think it might be a pomegranate. Why?

  • Pomegranate trees have beautiful, bright red flowers in the spring and handsome yellow leaves in the fall.
  • They grow fast.
  • They have few pests.
  • They are drought tolerant.
  • They produce delicious fruit.
  • Require low chill hours.
  • They live long–200 years or more.

The big downside for, probably, most of the readers of this blog is that pomegranates are frost sensitive. And the fruit will split if it rains in the fall. But if you live in a warm, dry climate you need to get one!

The variety we have is Wonderful, not all that exciting as this is the variety at the supermarket. If I had to plant one again I’d probably choose a more exotic pomegranate. That said, Wonderful is still wonderful–big, juicy and delicious.

The time to order your bare root fruit trees is now! Our favorite source, Bay Laurel has a nice selection of pomegranates. Just order now for winter delivery, as they sell out. Pomegranates can also be propagated easily from cuttings and, along with figs and olives, are just about the only fruit trees that aren’t grafted.

Do you have a pomegranate tree? What variety do you have?

Compost Piles on Fire!

Image: Wikimedia.

Image: Wikimedia.

Call it a weird, unintended consequence of our ongoing drug war, but apparently indoor compost piles are igniting house fires all across the U.S. Pot growers stack up their leftover biomass and, soon after, the whole house goes up in a puff of smoke, so to speak.

It got me wondering about two things. What’s the biology of a compost pile fire? And do non-pot growing folks in cold climates commonly have indoor compost piles?

First the biology. BioCycle has a whole article on fire prevention in municipal composting facilities that covers this common problem.

So what situation(s) can lead to a fire? Here’s what can happen with a low moisture, large pile with little air exchange, combined with water getting into the pile in a place where there is enough air to support biological activity and chemical oxidation, but not enough to cool the pile.

An old, dry compost pile, or a pile of overs screened out of the finished product, is a case in point. Water seeping into the dry compost can restart microbial activity and initiate reheating. A “macropore” or crack from the hot spot to the surface often develops into a vent, or chimney. Air movement up through this vent draws more oxygen into the hot spot where heat is being generated, rapidly escalating the transition from a biological fire to smoke and glowing embers. Appearance of this hot, humid air at the surface can be an important indicator that heating is taking place inside the pile.

Compost pile fires are unlikely for most home scale gardeners. One preventative technique recommended in the Biocycle article is to keep piles smaller than 12 feet high. Not a problem for most backyard gardeners.

Now a question for our readers around the world: who, other than pot growers, have indoor compost piles?

019 Garden Nerd Christy Wilhelmi

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On the podcast this week we review different approaches to backyard vegetable gardening with “Gardenerd” Christy Wilhelmi of Gardenerd.com. Christy is also the author of Gardening for Geeks and has a podcast, The Gardenerds Tip of the Week. During the show we discuss:

  • Biodynamics
  • Biointensive/French Intensive
  • Alan Chadwick’s Garden at UC Santa Cruz
  • John Jeavons
  • Double digging vs. no-till
  • A documentary about Ruth Stout
  • Breaking up soil with permaculture method
  • The power of mulch
  • Square foot gardening
  • Peat moss vs. coir
  • Growing carbon and compost crops
  • Heavy metals
  • Phytoremediation with milk thistle and chicory
  • What to fill a raised bed with
  • How to deal with shade
  • Integrating livestock: chickens and bees
  • What to do with Peruvian pepper trees (Schinus molle)
  • Attracting pollinators

You can also connect with Christy on Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.