Avid Gardener Series: Responsible Water Usage for Edible Landscapes


UPDATE: Sorry to say that this class has been cancelled due to lack of enrollment. We’re going to rework the content into a one day or afternoon class. Watch Root Simple for the announcement and we hope to see you at the Huntington!

Hey gardeners, we’re teaching a three part edible landscaping course April 2, 9, and 16 from 9 a.m.- 12 p.m. at the Huntington Ranch.

Learn creative ways to grow a delicious, drought-conscious garden in this hands-on series. Sessions will take place in The Huntington’s Ranch Garden and will address drip irrigation, greywater systems, plant selection, mulch and soil health, and more. The Huntington Ranch is a beautiful edible gardening demonstration area that is seldom open to the public.  The class will focus on growing food in our increasingly dry and challenging Southern California climate.

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.

Romanesco broccoli cameo lights up Star Wars film


So, who spotted the Romanesco broccoli and — bonus points here– the blurry kiwano in the latest Star Wars movie? We did, as did reader Wayde, who dropped us a note about it. It appears as a pub snack on that inexplicable Angkor Wat vacation planet, with light alien reggae stylings in the background.

I’ve discovered that the Romanesco, being a food geek favorite because of its fractal structure, did get some high level notice in the media–including Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Village Voice.

We make it a hobby around here to spot the use and misuse of plants in Hollywood. This one is interesting, because while the Romanesco is presented as a food, as it should be–as opposed to ivy vines being presented as a food crop in Maze Runner– it is an Earth food, so it’s interesting that the film makers decided to include it as part of the scenery. The only other edible in the movie is special effect-based alien food–I won’t be spoilery and say any more about that.

The Star Wars world isn’t posited as our future world, as the Star Trek world is–it’s a mythic world, somewhere long ago and far away. I doubt we’d ever see Han Solo noshing on a hot dog, for instance, whereas I can totally imagine Kirk doing so, standing by a future-utopian hot dog stand (and flirting with the sexy alien behind the stand). But a hot dog in Star Wars would be very wrong, because it’s a thing too much of our world. Its presence would collapse the fantasy. But apparently they decided Romanesco and kiwano would not. Why? Because they figured most people had never seen these foods.  I don’t know if they were right about that. And also, maybe they also realized that they could work for weeks in their art studios and never invent anything as cool looking as a Romanesco or a kiwano.

On the up side, maybe parents now have the leverage to foist healthy cruciferous veggies on a whole new generation of movie goers. The Romanesco growers must be ecstatic.

069 Understanding Roots with Robert Kourik


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.

A Plea to End Daylight Savings Time


Peterborough Cathedral sundial. Image: Wikimedia.

Can we please stop this changing the clocks business? I swear I’d support a Kim Kardashian presidential bid if she’d make ending daylight savings time a campaign platform.

Anyone who keeps chickens knows that this time change nonsense has nothing to do with farming. The hens look to the sun as their cue to start their working day. The same goes for the cats who are, as I write this, staging a loud protest in the kitchen to let us know that breakfast is an hour late.

It’s bad enough that our clocks are an abstraction of solar time. Why do we need to add another layer of abstraction by changing our clocks rather than adjusting our lives to the passage of the seasons? This is the time equivalent of taking honest labor, abstracting it into money and then turning that into a collateralized debt obligation. As the layers of abstraction accrue, we lose touch with the rhythms of the rising and setting sun. We lose sleep. We piss off the chickens and cats.

Get working on that campaign, Kim.