069 Understanding Roots with Robert Kourik

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What do roots tell us about how to take care of plants? That’s the topic of this week’s Root Simple Podcast with our guest Robert Kourik. Kourik is the author of many books including Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally and Drip Irrigation. The discussion begins with the remarkable tree root diagrams pioneered by Dr. John Weaver in the 1920s and 30s and featured in Kourik’s new book Understanding Roots. From there we touch on how to plant fruit trees and the intricacies of how to water trees, vegetables and native plants. Then we delve deep into drip irrigation, dynamic accumulators and phytoremediation.

If you’d like to pick up a copy of one of Robert’s books visit robertkourik.com.

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. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

How to Seed a Pomegranate

In lieu of a podcast this week, I thought I’d offer a short video on my favorite method for seeding a pomegranate. While there are as many ways to accomplish this tedious but rewarding autumn chore as there are roads to Rome, I’ve found this particular technique the easiest.

First choose a large bowl to prevent splatter and subsequent spousal arguments. Then slice the pomegranate in half along its equator. Take a spatula or other sturdy object and then spank the back until the seeds release (this sounds more erotic than it actual is). If I’m lazy I just pick out the pith from the bowl. If I’m more thorough I’ll fill the bowl with water so that you can easily skim off the pith which floats to the surface.

Our tree gifted us with an abundant crop, so this has been a daily practice for the last month. This is also confirmation of my theory that the easiest things to grow make the most work for the cook.

What’s your favorite pomegranate seeding method?

062 Plantar fasciitis, Vegetable Gardening Disasters and Rain

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On the podcast this week Kelly and I discuss my plantar fasciitis situation, our vegetable gardening disasters and what happens when it rains in Southern California.

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. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Our Disastrous Summer Garden

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I’m struggling this morning for metaphors to describe our summer vegetable and fruit garden: Napoleon at Waterloo, the Hindenburg disaster, being locked in a cell with a recording of “Achy Breaky Heart” in a continuous loop. In short, growing edibles this year was an unmitigated disaster. Here’s a few of the things that happened:

  • We planted a bed of basil seeds and got lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) instead. Yes, I know lambsquarters are edible, but I was looking forward to the basil.
  • Our Swiss Chard, usually a good performer, was stunted and anemic. It seemed incapable of growing past 8 inches.
  • Our tomatoes grew well, produced a fair amount of fruit and then abruptly dried up and croaked.
  • We planted zucchini too late and it got a bad case of powdery mildew.
  • The raccoons figured out how to bust through the bird netting that was supposed to keep them out of the vegetable beds. They completely obliterated two out of four vegetable beds.
  • With the exception of our pomegranate tree, every last peach, apple, persimmon and most of our figs were harvested by squirrels and raccoons.
  • The Nectaplum, Santa Rosa plum and nectarine trees did not produce a single fruit due, I think, to a lack of chill hours caused by climate change.
  • Drought, of course, made everything worse. We had to water our already alkaline soil with alkaline water. Only the native plants and what we call the Biblical plants seem happy (e.g. the fig and the pomegranate).
  • The drought and an extreme heat wave pushed everything in the garden to the edge–and a few over the edge: in the last month we abruptly lost some garden stalwarts, including a rosemary bush and a culinary sage.

Despite all these disasters, I came back from the Heirloom Expo with some ideas:

  • Spend a little less time on Facebook and a little more time in the garden.
  • Come up with better raccoon fortifications.
  • Take out stone fruit that isn’t performing (Kelly has wanted to do this for a long time but I’ve dragged my heels).
  • Take better notes.
  • Improve soil and restart a composting project.
  • Come up with small metal cages to enclose fruit (I have a notion that involves 3D printing–more on this later).

How did your garden do this summer?