Luddite’s Moonshot: Dealing With Leafy Green Pests

In my post soliciting “Luddite moonshots” Kyle replied, “How to grow any sort of brassica or leafy green without having to constantly poison these jerks. I opted for none of the above this year because it is so demoralizing.” Then he linked to the Wikipedia article for the banana slug.

While we have no banana slugs down here in the southern reaches of California we have plenty of other brassica and leafy green pests, principally the cabbage leaf worm. I’ve come to much the same conclusion as Kyle and grow only arugula and lettuce during our cool winter season. I leave the kale cultivation to the professionals. There’s nothing wrong with growing the crops that do best in your climate and passing on the rest. The nicest brassicas I’ve ever seen were on a farm in perpetually foggy and cool Bolinas, California.

That said, I had one season of flawless leafy greens through the combination of rich compost and row cover, specifically Agribon 15. The row cover thickness you use will depend on your climate. I opted for the lightest available as we often have freak heat waves in the winter here.

But I haven’t deployed any row cover in years. It’s a pain to use. You have to be diligent in making sure the whole bed gets covered and it’s hard to see the plants under the cover without having to pull it on and off. And row cover won’t prevent slugs. Here’s UC Davis’ advice for dealing with slugs and snails. LA’s abundant mouse and rat population keep our snails and slugs in check. We can send you some if you’d like.

119 A Chat With the Gardenerd

Christy “Garden Nerd” Wilhelmi dropped by the Root Simple compound to talk to Kelly and I about everything from loquats to bees to climate change. You can find her blog posts, podcast, YouTube at She is the author of two books, Gardening for Geeks: DIY Tests, Gadgets, and Techniques That Utilize Microbiology, Mathematics, and Ecology to Exponentially Maximize the Yield of Your Garden and 400+ Tips for Organic Gardening Success: A Decade of Tricks, Tools, Recipes, and Resources from During the podcast we discuss:

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.

The Luddite’s Moonshot

Charles C. Mann’s article in the Atlantic, “Can Planet Earth Feed 10 Billion People?” contrasts the differences between an environmentalism of limits, as extolled by plant pathologist and Rachel Carson buddy William Vogt versus the techo-optimism of the architect of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug. Mann calls these two opposing camps “prophets” and “wizards.” It should be no surprise that Root Simple falls into the prophetic tribe. I believe we need to reduce our consumption and learn to live within the carrying capacity (a phrase coined by Vogt) of our finite planet. The wizards of this world simply do not consider the unintended consequences of their technological solutions nor the destruction brought by the rapacious greed of their Wall Street backers.

In the Atlantic article Mann speculates about a “Luddite’s Moonshot,” a way to feed the growing population of this planet without resorting to GMOs or synthetic fertilizers. It certainly won’t be easy. But it got me thinking about the other Luddite Moonshots we need to work on. I should note that the Luddites were a movement of people attempting to maintain control over their craft and not be exploited by a bunch of factory owning tech bros. Sound familiar? But I digress.

I keep a private list of Luddite Moonshots that, had I the means of B.S. vendors such as Elon Musk or Chris Sacca, I’d throw a ton of money at. Thankfully, this list consists of things humans have done before and that could be done right here and right now. Once the tech bros realize that Mars is a barren and inhospitable wasteland, here’s a list of things they can help with:

  • Mediterranean gardening with perennial food crops.
  • Mammalian garden invasions, i.e. those infernal squirrels/raccoons/skunks.
  • Meal preparation for busy people. I realize the tech bros have taken up this problem with services such as Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. But I think there’s a better way we can do this at home without the shipping and packaging.
  • Preventing food waste in the home.
  • Internet distraction/news addiction.
  • Garden design for small spaces.
  • Getting neoliberal Democratic Los Angeles politicians to back progressive transportation projects that benefit pedestrians/cyclists/users of public transit. This is the most frustrating problem on my list. With just some paint a few concrete barriers we’d have a bike and pedestrian friendly Los Angeles today. No need to wait for those Musk tunnels.
  • Reuniting art and craft.
  • Clutter. Ugh. Clutter.
  • Cleaning for the cleaning challenged.
  • Bringing back shop class.
  • Philosophical/theological literacy in our schools.
  • How to gather people. Kelly cringes when people talk about “community” because it’s one of those words overused to the point of meaninglessness. Nevertheless, we seem to be really bad at getting together and there’s a real plague of loneliness in this country.
  • Memory training.
  • My Generation X postmodern ironic distancing approach to everything.
  • Reviving traditional design without the icky far right politics.
  • The Jurgen Habermas problem.

I’d like to throw open this list to you, my dear Root Simple readers. Please feel free to add some moonshots of your own or comment on the ones I’ve included.

Saturday Tweets: Weeds, Bees and General Crankiness

Installing Solid Wood Flooring

As part of my quixotic war on laminates, I spent a blissful afternoon installing a solid hardwood floor in our new/old closet. I know laminates have defenders, but I just can’t get behind any material that tries to look like another material. Maybe if they made laminate floors that looked like raw sheets of plywood I could support the idea.

If you want to install your own solid hardwood floor I’d suggest getting an online subscription to Fine Homebuilding just to watch their flooring installation instructional video. This is the second time I’ve installed a wood floor and here’s what I learned:

  • Layout is the hardest part.
  • Rent a pneumatic nailer. The last time I installed a floor I used a manual nailer and learned that driving 1,000 nails takes a toil on your joints.
  • Get a piece of scrap wood and practice using the pneumatic nailer. You can also use this test piece to adjust the air pressure.
  • If you’re installing a pre-finished floor, as I was yesterday, be careful not to bang up the floor as you put it in. Don’t lay hammers or crowbars on the new floor.
  • Let the flooring sit in the house for at least a few weeks before installing. I got a moisture meter to check the flooring material that I also plan on using for future furniture projects. In our case the new flooring was significantly dryer than our old drafty house.
  • Take your time. If a board doesn’t look right pull it up and try another one. Inspect each row after it goes in for defects and nailing mistakes. This isn’t a race and you’re not being paid by the hour.

I’m pleased with the results and I like the fact that sold oak flooring will last ten times as long as laminates. Over the next few weeks I’m going to replace the worn out douglas fir flooring in two other rooms with solid oak.

Let me say how thankful I am for the power of compressed air. That said, some time ago I fell into a YouTube hole, watching old films of early 20th century construction. One of the clips showed flooring being installed with just a hammer at the speed of modern workers with a pneumatic nailer. Then there’s the lost art of plastering but that would be another curmudgeony post . . .