Saturday Tweets: Neuro-Talk, Bitcoin and Other Modern Problems

Grafted Tomatoes: Hope for the Frustrated Home Gardener?


If you, like me, managed to kill all your tomatoes this summer you might want to try grafted tomatoes next season. Grafted tomatoes benefit from pathogen resistant rootstock (Maxifort is the most common rootsock variety).

A literature review “Yield and fruit quality of grafted tomatoes, and their potential for soil fumigant use reduction. A meta-analysis” by Michael L. Grieneisen, Brenna J. Aegerter, C. Scott Stoddard and Minghua Zhang came to the conclusion,

Grafted tomatoes show promise to reduce the usage of various soilborne pathogen treatments, with 33% of commercial tomato rootstocks either resistant or highly resistant to seven or more common soilborne pathogens. Our approach integrated trial data from around the world, though limitations in available data complicated our analysis of relationships between some experimental variables and fruit yields and quality.

While this research focused on commercial growers I suspect grafted tomatoes might be a good option for us backyard tomato enthusiasts. If you, like us, lack the space to rotate your tomato growing year to year, pathogens can build up in the soil. Grafted tomatoes, while not a magic pill or an excuse for poor soil stewardship, might be a worthwhile experiment.

I attempted to graft my own tomatoes a few years ago and failed miserably. I would recommend outsourcing this task unless you’re a seasoned garden geek with a greenhouse.

The research also showed that there’s little difference in taste between grafted and non-grafted tomatoes,

Concerns that grafting might contribute to inferior fruit quality (pH, titratable acidity, total soluble solids, lycopene, vitamin C, firmness, “taste”) seem unfounded in general, though isolated cases show dramatic differences.

There’s more work needed to find the optimal rootstock/scion combo.

Have you tried grafted tomatoes? Leave a comment with your results.

Megabus: Like a Cruise Ship on Land

To avoid the indignities and environmental nightmare that is flying I prefer to travel by train or bus. When visiting San Francisco to see our relatives I take Amtrak’s San Joaquin train because you can take a bicycle without having to put it in a box. But on my most recent trip, since I was not bringing the bike, I decided to give Megabus a try.

You catch the Megabus in Los Angeles’s calving ground for buses, the Patsaouras Transit Plaza, on the eastern fringe of Union Station. You check in, your baggage gets placed in the luggage compartment and the driver welcomes you to your WiFi enabled leviathan on wheels.

The seat had adequate legroom for my 6’2″ carcass, much more than an airplane but slightly less than Amtrak. I didn’t test the WiFi, preferring instead to use my 8 1/2 hour travel time tackling Matthew Crawford’s anti-Kant rant, The World Outside Your Head (review forthcoming). The bathroom was clean and as pleasant as any bus bathroom can aspire to. The bus was near capacity but I was able to claim a row for myself. I suspect there would be more room on a weekday. Note that there is no overhead storage so you have to check your baggage.

The LA to SF route makes a brief stop in Burbank to pick up passengers and then, three hours later, you get a rest stop in the very liminal Kettleman City. The half hour stop gives you a chance to grab a road burrito and other convenience store delicacies or check out the bizarre architecture of Bravo Farms (not actually a farm). From there you travel through scenic Gilroy and make a stop in San Jose and Oakland before being deposited at the San Francisco CalTrain station. It was a quiet, uneventful and pleasant trip. If you reserve ahead you can get the top row of seats up front that have a panoramic view.

The chief reason to take the Megabus, in addition to avoiding the CO2 sins of air travel, is price. My trip cost $9.99 plus a $2.50 booking fee (one way). I’ve found tickets as low as $4.99. Megabus is usually cheaper than Amtrak and Greyhound. There’s a similar, low priced competitor FlixBus that I will try the next time I go up to San Francisco (if you’ve traveled via FlixBus please leave a comment). There’s also an overnight luxury sleeper bus called Cabin between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But since I can’t sleep on moving vehicles of any kind the roughly $100 Cabin experience would be a waste for me.

I wholeheartedly endorse bus or train travel over air travel especially for relatively short and medium distance intercity travel. Yes it takes longer but there’s no security hassle and you arrive relaxed and knowing much more about the problems with Kant’s categorical imperative.

Saturday Tweets: Low Hanging Fruit

Truth and Beauty

John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Robins of Modern Times, ca. 1860.

Get thee to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco before the end of the month to see a spectacular show, Truth and Beauty: the Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters. The show combines works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood alongside the medieval and Renaissance paintings and manuscripts that inspired their work.

It’s easy to forget the context of the PRB’s work: an England decimated by industrialization, coal dust and income disparity. Rather than simply looking backwards, the PRB visualized a better future, one of meaningful work, of environmental stewardship and beauty.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, 1871/1872.

The vivid colors of the PRB’s work can’t be translated to books or the web–you have to see them in person. Gardeners will love the botanical accuracy. In fact, the PRB’s paintings almost seem like they’re about to be taken over by the vines, flowers and grasses that tangle around the central figures.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we can learn from the PRB and from the English and American Arts and Crafts movements. To be frank, I’m tired of my own and my generation’s cynicism and irony and I’m haunted by Adam Curtis’ critique of self-expression in contemporary art. I think it’s well past time to get back on the the road not taken, the one started for us by the PRB.