Low Moments in Plant Theivery

A post I did on the theft of three barrel cacti out of our front yard prompted quite a few readers to share their stories of plant thievery. There’s obviously a lot of plant theft perps out there.

The footage above, out of Skelmersdale, England has to be one of the grandest of all plant thefts. In the video you’ll see two women stealing an entire lawn. It took forty minutes and the thieves even took a smoking break.

The BBC quotes the neighbor whose security camera caught the crime, “I can’t believe the cheek of them. I’m quite speechless about it.”

In local plant theft news, a security camera at the Village Bakery in Los Angeles caught a woman stealing plants for the second time in two years.

CBS news reports,

She digs through, she grabs what she wants, and she puts them in her shopping cart,” Village Bakery and Cafe owner Barbara Monderine said. “It makes me really sad that somebody would do that. She is ruining what we’re trying to make look nice.”

Have you had any plant thefts lately?

Self Watering Barrel Gardens, Aussie style

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Gardening Australia did a video, well worth watching, of David de Vries’ self watering containers that he builds for the Red Cross in Alice Springs. De Vries has devised a simple and efficient way to turn drums into gardens. They look good too.

We’ve featured self watering containers on our blog and in our books. They are a great way to deal with hot climates and bad soil. And, in many places, drums are as plentiful as people.

Thanks to Helen in Sunbury, Victoria for the tip!

Picture Sundays: Inside a Corpse Flower

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We went to the Huntington Gardens yesterday to see their corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanumand, yes, that is a NSFW scientific name) which was set to bloom soon. A few minutes after we arrived an excited docent ran thought the conservatory letting everyone know that the flower was starting to open.

We had lucked out. It takes years for the plant to bloom and the flower does not last long. We left to have lunch and when we came back horticultural pandemonium had broken out:

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There was no sign of the flower’s infamous rotting flesh smell (the odor attracts carrion eating insects who provide pollination). But a Huntington staffer kindly took our camera and pointed it into the flower. Here’s the inside view:

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Here’s a time lapse video from Michigan State of their corpse flower blooming:

Saturday Linkages: Water Shaming, Scotts and Robot Houses

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Smarter urban water: how Denver turned to ridiculing waste

Grid-It: Knoll your everyday carry

In Our Garden: Four Surprising Fruits

Sneak peak of a LIGHT-UP ROBOT-FACE Tree House

Who’s more controversial – Michelle Rhee or Scotts Miracle-Gro? | Garden Rant

See what the CEO of Scotts is like:

Can we can with real lemon juice instead of bottled juice?

The Archdruid Report: The Gray Light of Morning

Don’t eat dog poop, and don’t run around with sharp objects in your ear

For these links and more, follow Root Simple on Twitter:

Looking for Tough, Drought Tollerant Plants?

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For Californians, you need look no further than UC Davis Arboretum’s searchable list of All-Stars.

The horticultural staff of the UC Davis Arboretum have identified 100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California native plants and support native birds and insects. Most All-Star plants can be successfully planted and grown throughout California.

The list consists of plants that the UC Davis Arboretum has proven to thrive in our Mediterranean climate. They also look good year round. Most are drought tolerant, low maintenance and attract beneficial wildlife. Not all are native, but that’s not an issue for us here at Root Simple (we like diversity). We’ve learned that if you’ve got a small garden, having plants that look good year round is particularly important.

There’s a number of our favorites on the list: Salvia apiana, Rosmarinus officinalis, Ceanothus ‘Concha’.

If you just cashed in your LA Department of Water and Power lawn rebate check and (hopefully) decided against the artificial turf grass option, the All-Star list is good place to start.

Kelly and I are working, this summer, on lowering our garden’s water needs. How has drought (assuming that’s a problem for you) changed your gardening plans?

013 Keeping Chickens with Terry Golson of Hencam.com

Image: Hencam.com.

Image: Hencam.com.

On the thirteenth episode of the Root Simple Podcast we talk to chicken expert and author Terry Golson. Terry fields chicken questions from all over the world through her blog hencam.com where, as the name implies, you can watch her hens live through the interwebs.

One of the main points Terry makes during the podcast is that chickens have not really been bred to live long and that they start to get health problems after two years of age. When I solicited questions for this podcast, sure enough, most of the questions were related to health. By the way, I think I managed to ask Terry all the questions–many thanks to the listeners and blog readers who sent them in.

During the interview Terry mentions:

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.

Pressure Canning Questions?

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Master Food Preserver and chef Ernest Miller will be our guest on a future episode of the Root Simple Podcast. I’m doing the interview this Friday and we’re going to talk about pressure canning. If you’ve got a pressure canning question please leave a comment on this post or call our podcast hotline at (213) 537-2591. Ernie is extremely knowledgeable and now is your chance to get those canning questions answered.

Is Diagonal the New Horizontal? The Evolution of the “Flipper” Fence

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We’re in the midst of what seems like a new real estate bubble here in Los Angeles. Houses get so many bids that buyers have to write letters to the owner to beg for the privilege of buying their dilapidated bungalow.

To take advantage of this market, house flippers have developed a new architectural vocabulary based, I think, on a kind of mash up of stuff from Home Depot and ideas from back issues of Dwell Magazine. One of the most persistent flipper memes is the horizontal fence:

Photo via The Eastsider.

Photo via The Eastsider.

I spotted a unique variation on the flipper fence a few weeks ago–the diagonal fence at the top of this post. I kind of like it but when I posted it in Facebook I got a mixed reaction. One thing I don’t like about it myself is the height. Personally, I think it’s unfriendly to the neighborhood to have a front yard fence higher than four feet (not to mention that it’s a code violation, as well). That said, I think this diagonal arrangement might look good in a backyard (though it does waste the bit of wood you have to saw off the top).

Some other Facebook comments noted the sad state of the parkway, a.k.a “hell strip.” To be fair to the owners I don’t think they are finished with the job (which, if they are actually house flippers, will involve gravel and agave).

What do you think? Should good fences be vertical, diagonal or horizontal?

Root Simple’s New CritterCam

Say hello to Root Simple’s new CritterCam and to some of Los Angeles’ many enterprising rats!

For my recent birthday Kelly got me a Moultrie M-990i game camera, a device used by hunters and wildlife researchers. It’s a digital still and video camera with a infrared flash and a motion detector. If something moves in front of the camera a picture or video is taken. It also stamps the time and records temperature and moon phase. [See update at the end of this post--this is probably the wrong camera for the application I intend. Thanks Max!]

My plan is to use it for some urban, backyard citizen science. Specifically I want to figure out a few things:

  • What mammals are visiting the backyard?
  • What paths do they take through the yard?
  • What kinds of birds are visiting the bird bath?
  • Have my skunk proofing efforts worked?
  • What’s the most active time in the night for mammalian activity?
  • How many cats are visiting and what time do they come through?
  • What’s the best way to critter proof fruit trees and vegetable gardens?
  • What mammal is chewing on our fruit?
  • How often do coyotes visit and at what time? (We’ve seen them two times in the backyard).
  • Are rats visiting our chicken feeder?
  • When does a broody hen get up to eat?
  • What critters are hanging around the chicken coop at night?
  • Use the camera’s time lapse function to look at shade patterns in the yard.

I’ll share the results on the blog over the next year.

The first night I used the camera I pointed it at the grape arbor where I know rats visit. The resulting images, that I strung together into the video above, show at least two rats who set off the camera around 30 times throughout the night between 8:30 PM and 5:30 AM.

This is the first year that we’ve got a significant crop off of either of our two grapevines. I think I could have prevented most of the rat problem by picking all the grapes just slightly before they were fully ripe.

What critters visit your backyard?

Update: I may have the wrong camera for, at least, capturing rats. The images I got may be just because I set the camera up close to where the rats were feeding. Root Simple reader Max sent in the following letter from Moultrie:

The PIR, of our game cameras, is set to pick up larger movement and eliminate false triggering of the smaller game that you have listed. This is because the people that rely on our cameras for game management do not want numerous pictures of squirrels, and such, when focused on larger game. Our sister company – Wingscapes – is better suited for the things that you are interested in. We suggest looking at the BirdCam Pro and the Wildlife Cam offered at http://www.wingscapes.com/products/cameras.

Picture Sundays: Homebrew Birthday Cards

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Caroline Clerc, the talented artist who drew the little figures that dance across the top of this blog, gave me a personalized birthday greeting (I’m getting near the half century mark). The card depicts the inside of my brain which has been contaminated by toxoplasmosis and is thus full of cats.

Lora Hall, a.k.a. Homegrown Neighbor took a craft class recently and made a bunch of cards including this Star Wars mashup that she gave me:

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It depictis what happens when you hit 50 with toxoplasmosis.