Support the Master Gardener Program

Back in April Jeff Bezos said, “The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it.”

Jeff, I’ve go an idea for a better place to spend that money: let’s plant gardens. That’s what the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program does here in Los Angeles County and they can use our help. The Master Gardener Program trains people to teach gardening using research-based information. They have a scholarship program that supports individuals who can’t afford the training program. Here is what a recent graduate of that program had to say,

I received the partial scholarship in 2018 to take the master gardener program. I would have not been able to attend, even if accepted, as I am a full time student and work to support myself the rest of the time. Basically, I live paycheck to paycheck. Now, I’m starting a community garden at my school, work for a non-profit educating students on gardening and am connected with an incredibly supportive community of volunteers and knowledgeable individuals.

You can make a contribution to the UCCE Master Gardener Program here.

The video above shows the amazing work of the UCCE Master Gardener Program.

2018: The Year Squirrels Discovered our Pomegranate Tree

One could complain that this blog allots way too much space to two topics: tidying up and complaints about squirrels. At the risk of repetition, let’s discuss the squirrel issue this morning beginning with a year end review of our fruit harvest totals:

Fuji apples: 0
Winter banana apples: 0
Fuyu persimmons: 0
Hachiya persimmons: 0
Peaches: 0
Pomegranates: 6
Figs: 20?
Avocados: 20? but with a few bite marks

So not a total loss in the pom department but a long ways from my days of thinking that the hard skin of pomegranates are squirrel proof.

This is the point in my squirrel complaint blog post where I lazily link to UC Davis’ squirrel management notions. It’s also the paragraph in which I claim to have discovered a miracle squirrel cure in the form of a lame old man joke. Now you’ve got a bad case of earworm. Go ahead and suggest dogs and rifles in the comments and you’ll see us soon on a PETA billboard.

126 The Wild Yards Project with David Newsom

On the podcast this week Kelly and I talk to David Newsom about his Wild Yards Project. The goal of the Wild Yards Project is “to give you the inspiration and resources to re-wild your yard and to help others around you to do the same. 10,000 Species a Year Lost. 40 Million Acres of Lawn in the US. The New Wilderness Begins at Home.” During the conversation David mentions:

If you’d like 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. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

A Lemon Arbor

Consider this post one of those inspirational ideas we’ll never get around to but perhaps an ambitious Root Simple reader will tackle: a lemon arbor. You can find this particular lemon arbor at Lotusland in Montecito, California.

We used to have a grape arbor that became a “stacking function fail” due to Los Angeles’ disruptive rat population. I suspect the rats would be less interested in the lemons but don’t hold me to that speculation. Our grape arbor came down to make way for a new patio and backyard designed by Haynes Landscape Design (I’ll post an update when the work is complete).

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.