Atomic Gardening

The always entertaining podcast 99% Invisible has a new episode, “Atom in the Garden” about the forgotten 1950s fad of gardening with radiation. Essentially, it was a crude form of genetic engineering. Plants were zapped with radiation in the hopes of creating useful mutations.


While it didn’t work well, it did produce several varieties grown to this day including Rio Star Grapefruit. There was also a strong amateur interest in irradiated seeds supported by the Atomic Gardening Society.

The 1950s “gamma gardening” craze feels credulous today but it’s not like there’s no uncritical scientism in 2017 (Elon Musk solving LA traffic with tunnels, perhaps?).

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  1. Holy moly. This post answered a decades old question in our family photograph book…My dad standing next to some flowers with the mysterious caption: “radiation gladiolas.” Never knew what that meant until today, it was right in the correct timeline and since my dad’s been passed many years I couldn’t ask him. I’m guessing this was what he meant. Wow! Mystery solved. Thanks!

  2. It’s my first time to hear about this atomic gardening.So there is such a thing…amazing.Thanks for the information.:)

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