Ill advised grafting projects

Many thanks to Dr. Brew for alerting us to this Simpsons routine about crossing tomatoes with tobacco. I took a look at the research on grafting tomatoes to tobacco root stock (though it seems Homer crossed the seeds) and the technique shows some promise. According to this study,

Tobacco grafting had a positive effect on the tomato plant cultivation performance; the onset of flowering was almost 15 days earlier and the tomato flower and fruit yields increased in both tomato cultivars. Tobacco grafting resulted in 5.0% and 30.1% increase in total fruit weight for cv. Sweet and cv. Elazig, respectively. Because the level of nicotine was within acceptable ranges, tobacco-grafted tomato fruits were considered to be safe for consumption. Self-grafted tomato cultivars also had flowering time onsets almost 11 days earlier. However, self-grafting caused 6.0% and 7.6% less total fruit yield per cv.

It does remind me of the unsuccessful attempt back in the 1970s to graft hops onto cannabis root stock with the goal of creating a legal looking plant containing THC. The grafts take but the “Hopijuana” plants contain no THC. No doubt this is a huge disappointment to the microbreweries of Colorado.

073 Permaculture From the Inside Out with Rachel Kaplan

rachel

In this week’s episode we talk to Rachel Kaplan who is a somatic psychotherapist, permaculture designer, educator, and author. Rachel lives on a small urban homestead with her family and their many critters in Petaluma, CA. She is a co-founder of the 13 Moon CoLab, an all-woman teaching team offering an evolutionary training, Permaculture from the Inside Out. Her collaborators in this venture are Kyra Auerbach, Delia Carroll and Cassandra Ferrera. Rachel wrote Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living (with K. Ruby Blume), and is currently working on a long-awaited book about community dance ritual with dance luminary Anna Halprin. Her website is: www.13mooncollaborative.com. Friend 13 Moon CoLab in Facebook here. During the show Rachel also mentions: Daily Acts, Starhawk and Mark Lakeman.

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.

Should I Try Tomato Grafting?

Tomato-grafting
A question for you, our dear readers. Have you ever grown grafted tomatoes? Have you ever tried to graft your own tomatoes?

In case you’re not familiar with the idea, you can graft, for instance, an heirloom tomato on to a more hardy root stock tomato to increase disease resistance and yields. You can also graft tomatoes onto potato plants (two crops in one!) as well as graft tomatoes onto eggplants for plants that are more hardy in soggy soils. In the bad idea department, you can graft tomatoes onto tobacco (for nicotine laden fruit) and jimsonweed (for poisonous fruit–note this strange incindent).

The Illinois Extension service has detailed tomato grafting instructions and notes on root stock selection here.

So what do you think? Intrigued? Comments!

Build a vegetable prison to keep out raccoons and skunks

It’s come to this: Vegetable San Quentin. Last year’s Crittercam surveillance project demonstrated the futility of planting vegetables in our yard without serious fortifications. Bird netting? Useless. If we want to grow our own veggies we had to build something that can resist the strong arms and fingers of our local band of late night hipster raccoons.

Once again, I can’t say enough good things about the usefulness of the free 3d drawing program Sketchup, which I used to plan out my veggie prison. It was especially useful for figuring out the angles of the cuts I needed to make for the top. I was able to dial in those angles and dimensions on my compound miter saw.  All that was left to do was screw the whole thing together and staple the 14-Guage welded wire from Home Despot.

The access panels have two positions. Down to protect small seedlings:

veggiegitmo

And up to act as a trellis and allow tall plants to grow out the top:

veggitgitmoopen

I’ve noticed that once plants get established and past the 2-foot point I don’t usually have to worry about those midnight raccoon parties. Obviously, if I had to deal with deer I’d have to build a bigger cage. I can also cover the whole thing in floating row cover material if I want to keep out cabbage leaf caterpillars.

If you’re a Sketchup user I uploaded the plans to the 3D Warehouse. Search for “Raccoon Proof Vegetable Bed” and you’ll be able to download it. This bed was designed for the narrow top slope of our front yard and is 3 by 8-feet. I would recommend increasing the width to 4-feet if you build one yourself.

More boneheaded plant representations from Hollywood

not poison sumac

Writing about the Star Wars Romanesco cameo reminded me of a truly egregiously bad plant representation I saw on TV recently. I have to admit that these rants probably only serve to illustrate how trashy my taste in entertainment actually is–so I have to admit that I pretty much deserve to be disappointed. Yet I cannot remain silent in the face of such horror.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 1.24.05 PM

In the deeply unpromising pilot to the YA series The 100, a group of handsome teens are walking through a stand of ferns in a redwood forest-type biome. The ferns (and, indiscriminately, the adjacent moss tufts) have been studded with purple pansy heads by the set designers. Nevermind that ferns don’t flower. One kid picks a pansy head and tucks it behind his love interest’s ear. A smarty pants kid watching this interaction notes that they’ll be sorry, because, he says, the plant is poison sumac. He’s not joking or positioned to be wrong–his character is written as somebody who knows plants.

I ask you:

Would James Bond engage in a high speed chase in a 1995 Toyota Corolla?

Would the makers Friday Night Lights have the high school football players carry basketballs instead of footballs in the game scenes, because after all, a ball is a ball?

Would Carrie Bradshaw slip on a pair of Crocs and call them Jimmy Choos?

No, no and non.

We’d never make mistakes like that justify them as being unimportant because they were just small details in a silly movie or TV show. Details matter a lot when the objects have cultural significance, as designer shoes and footballs do. This is why it is fine to be  stupid about plants, because nobody cares about plants, and we have lost every last vestige of plant literacy.

I don’t think this is a case of me being picky. I’m not being a plant geek here, pointing out some minutiae of botany. I’m talking about the misuse of really common plants that people do know, or should know.

Ferns, for example, are a plant that even the most determinedly uninterested person will still be able to identify as a fern. If you can only identify five plants, a fern would be one of them, along with grass and roses. Pansies are not as easily nameable as ferns, though they are incredibly common. Even people who don’t know what a pansy is called will still probably recognize them as a flower they’ve seen in flower beds. So why mix ferns and pansies and call the resulting Frankenplant poison sumac? This combination of laziness and arrogance takes my breath away.

More, it’s sorta dangerous. Bear with me here. In this degenerate world, no one needs to know the name of any plant to get by day to day (food plants excepted), but if a person ever intends to go outside (optional, I know) they’d better know how to identify local plants which cause contact dermatitis. Like poison sumac.

Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is a shrub or tree which grows in wet spots in the Eastern parts of the U.S. and Canada. It looks nothing whatsoever like a fern. Or a pansy. It is apparently even more toxic than its itchy relatives, poison oak and poison ivy. Any teen who thinks to romp in those woods should know the difference between a fern and a poison sumac bush, and The 100 is doing a real disservice to its young audience by misrepresenting that plant. May the producers be looking at their iPhones the next time they sit down at a picnic, and miss that patch of poison ivy. My curse be upon them.