Roots Demystified

Ahhhh winter!  That glorious time where we get to slow down and dream and plan next year’s garden.  Might I suggest the intriguing and practical Roots Demystified by Robert Kourik to help get you through the dark times?

The book contains 25 detailed illustrations of real root systems – plan view and with depth – including apple and fruit trees, common garden vegetables, and other plants. They are amazingly beautiful and a little surprising. The geeky/artsy appeal of the revealed secrets of root systems, painstakingly studied, was enough to hook me, but it is a practical book as well.  The subtitle is ‘…change your gardening habits to help roots thrive’, and the surprising details of real root systems have implications for how we all garden.  Soil amending, mulching, watering, planting and spacing all depend on where the roots are active under the visible surface.

root nodules
Clover roots uprooted in my garden – tap root and nitrogen fixing nodules are apparent, but most of this root system was fragile and left behind in the ground, giving a poor idea of the true, in-place extent.

I won’t reveal all of the secrets of this book, you really should read it (the Loussac Library has a copy), but one revelation that will be a game changer for me is that most roots, including my beloved apple trees, extend shallowly way beyond the drip line of the plant/tree.  Especially where the soil is uncompacted and other tree roots don’t interfere.  This will certainly lead to me mulching and watering in a wider ring than I have been used to.  There are many other insights on gardening technique based on the secret lives of roots in the book…as LeVar Burton might have said on Reading Rainbow in the day, check it out!


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