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Gardener’s Notebook

Pomegranate Pizzazz

Ruby red pomegranate seeds enliven our salads, meats, sauces, and desserts with their brilliant color and tart-sweet flavor. Pomegranate trees and shrubs (Punica granatum) grow easily here in the Bay Area and are best planted between September and November. This is also when the fruits are harvested. 

Pomegranate lovers owe thanks to botanist Gregory M. Levin, author of Pomegranate Roads: A Soviet Botanist’s Exile from Eden, who collected more than 1,000 specimens from the vast dry slopes of Central Asia and brought them back to his Soviet research station in Garrigala, Turkmenistan. Levin propagated plants from wild stock and perpetuated several of the varieties we like to plant here in the Bay Area including the Parfianka variety, which he donated to UC Davis as the
Soviet Union collapsed. 

Pomegranate bushes are easy to grow, and since they need water only once per week, we can practically dry farm these rugged shrubs in the gaps between other plantings. Follow these steps for planting and caring for your pomegranate bushes:

  • Start from a cutting or nursery plant and chose a sunny, warm spot for your bush. 
  • Plant before winter sets in. The young plants can tolerate wind, but once there’s been a week of rain, the soil becomes difficult to work.
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Gardener’s Notebook

Growing Food Near Native Oaks


Is it possible to grow perennial food plants near native oaks? 
Yes, with the right plants and methods.

Here in Northern California, we are blessed with many stoic and picturesque native oaks. Quercus agrifolia (coastal live oak), Quercus lobata (valley oak), and Quercus douglasii (blue oak) are all found in this bioregion. While sudden oak death and other oak ailments may be a result of anthropogenic (man-made) influences, fear not: By following some simple rules and planting specially adapted native plants, you can foster life under and around your oaks.

Drip Line Denotes Microclimate

pink flowering currantOur California oaks have evolved to thrive in dry soil throughout our long summer drought. While those conditions would seem to discourage plant growth, an intact oak savanna ecosystem displays a diversity of plants growing in the “skirts” of the oak trees, due to the increased moisture present in areas around the tree where rain (and accumulated fog) drips from the branches. Called the “drip line,” this is a sweet spot for many of the oak savanna native plant species, and gardeners can put it to good use. 

In my consulting work with homeowners and on ranches, one of the main mistakes I see is that irrigation is installed too close to the drip line of the oak.… Read More

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