Ways to Critter Proof Your Vegetable Beds: A Competition

Day and night superimposed: bird netting fail!

Day and night superimposed: bird netting fail!

Root Simple is proud to announce our equivalent of the X-Prize. No, we’re not asking you to figure out a low tech method to catapult rich silicon valley executives into the vacuum of space. What we’re looking for is a means to mammal proof vegetables beds that is:

  • Convenient
  • Effective
  • Attractive
  • Wildlife friendly
  • Easily disassembled in the off season

Note that we’re going to be particularly stringent in judging the aesthetics of the solution. Mrs. Homegrown has an M.F.A., and is a blistering in-house art and design critic around our little homestead.

Participants can leave a comment on this post linking to an image, or send us an email at [email protected] The winner will get a package of our newest publication–a series of booklets we wrote in collaboration with the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano.

I will also be participating in this competition which does seem unfair, but we’ll let Mrs. Homegrown be the judge.

021 The Queen of Quince

QueenofQuince_300dpi.

A conversation about the ultimate slow food, quince, with Barbara Ghazarian, author of Simply Quince and Simply Armenian. If you have room, you should definitely make room for a quince tree. If not, you should work with this amazing fruit. During the podcast Barbara discusses how to prep and cook quince. We also talk about savory dishes made with quince and take a detour into a discussion about muhammara. We also discuss:

You can find out much more about quince on Barbara’s website: queenofquince.com. You can connect with Team Quince on Facebook and on Twitter: @gotquince

If you’d like to plant a quince tree check out the selection of bare root trees at Bay Laurel Nursery. Order soon as they sell out.

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.

Yet More Reasons to Mulch

Image: Wikimedia.

Image: Wikimedia.

From a water conservation perspective alone, our trees need a good layer of mulch. But there are many more reasons to mulch, according to research by James Downer, Farm Advisor with the Cooperative Extension in Ventura County, California:

  • Mulch provides nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
  • A serendipitous accident in one of Downer’s studies revealed that mulch changes soil structure so that mulched soils are able to absorb more water than un-mulched soils.
  • And, most astonishingly, mulch provides habitat for beneficial fungi that repel the dreaded root rot organism Phytophthora cinnamomi.

Downer is also a mulch myth buster:

  • Adding a layer of mulch does not rob soil of nitrogen.
  • And Eucalyptus mulch? Not a problem.

His recommendation is to apply a layer of six inches of mulch made from chips approximately an inch in length. This application will settle to around 3 to 4 inches. Why is this the optimal amount? According to his research, more mulch risks leaching nitrogen into rivers, streams and oceans. Less mulch does not give you the benefits.

There are other caveats and subtleties to mulching. For those details check out Downer’s handy pdf, Mulch Effect on Trees.

Free Online Gardening Lectures from the University of California

I just got back from a combined Master Gardener/Master Food Preserver conference put on by the University of California Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (I became a Master Food Preserver back in 2012 thanks to a truly awesome training program put on by our local Extension Service and taught by Ernest Miller, a guest on episode 14 of our podcast).

I’ll share some of what I learned at the conference in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I thought I’d link to a bunch of Master Gardener lectures from UCANR that you can watch online. There’s a lot of good advice here that will apply to backyard gardeners, even those outside of California. Time to cancel the Netflix:

UC Master Gardener Videos

Saturday Tweets: School Gardens, Artificial Turf and an Orwellian Sofa