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Understanding Roots


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About the Author

During the 1976 California drought, Robert started one of the first organic garden-maintenance businesses in the country. Taking to heart lessons administered with great enthusiasm by the School of Hard Knocks, he progressed into landscape design. Over a 40-year period, focusing primarily on horticultural methods known variously as organic, natural, appropriate, sustainable, integrated-system and permaculture, Robert learned numerous growing, design, and maintenance skills from the inside out by working with clients throughout California and the rest of the US. He's been sharing that knowledge in books since 1986.


"As is typical of Robert Kourik's books, he distills complex research to give home gardeners both a great read and the knowledge needed to successfully pick out, plant and grow trees and shrubs in their gardens. Kourik, using diagrams of the actual root systems, takes us on a fascinating underground tour. He explains how and why understanding root growth and soil type greatly influences where and how to apply, water, mulch and fertilizer."--Sam Benowitz, Owner, Raintree Nursery

Midwest Book Review-

Synopsis: "Understanding Roots: Discover How to Make Your Garden Flourish" uncovers one of the greatest mysteries underground -- the secret lives and magical workings of the roots that move and grow invisibly beneath our feet. Roots, it seems, do more than just keep a plant from falling over: they gather water and nutrients, exude wondrous elixirs to create good soil, make friends with microbes and fungi, communicate with other roots, and adapt themselves to all manner of soils, winds, and climates, nourishing and sustaining our gardens, lawns, and woodlands.

"Understanding Roots" contains over 115 enchanting and revealing root drawings that most people have never seen, from prairies, grasslands, and deserts, as well as drawings based on excavations of vegetable, fruit, nut, and ornamental tree roots. Every root system presented in this book was drawn by people literally working in the trenches, sketching the roots where they grew.

The text provides a very detailed review of all aspects of transplanting; describes how roots work their magic to improve soil nutrients; investigates the hidden life of soil microbes and their mysterious relationship to roots; explores the question of whether deep roots really gather more unique nutrients than shallow roots; shares the latest research about the mysteries of mycorrhizal (good fungal) association; shows you exactly where to put your fertilizer, compost, water, and mulch to help plants flourish; tells you why gray water increases crop yields more than fresh water; and, most importantly, reveals the science behind all the above (with citations for each scientific paper).

Critique: Exceptionally well informed and informative, "Understanding Roots: Discover How to Make Your Garden Flourish" is a compendium of thoroughly accessible, nicely illustrated, practical and directly applicable information that will prove invaluable for amateur and professional gardeners alike, and should be a part of every community and academic library Gardening reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

"I realize now that I've been waiting my whole life to read this book. Robert Kourik makes a major contribution to the science of horticulture and to plant lovers everywhere with Understanding Roots. This book gives us an understanding of the whole plant, and that can only make us better gardeners."--Jeff Cox, former managing editor of Organic Gardening magazine and the author of twenty books on gardening, landscaping, food, and wine

"Wow - what a MINDBLOWING book! I love what you have done and you have made me a better gardener! This is some seriously juicy stuff you have here! With Understanding Roots you have some seriously powerful information in your hands right now!"--Ivette Soler, author of The Edible Front Yard, free-lance author and garden designer

"Understanding Roots changed how I think about plants. Much more is going on below ground than we ever imagined, as this book--and particularly its magnificent root diagrams--shows. Robert Kourik brings us up to date with current research and shares his decades of experience in this fascinating journey into the dynamic world of the rhizosphere. Gardeners, farmers, and researchers all will profit from this readable, detailed guide to how plants make their living in the soil."--Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture and The Permaculture City

"Roots are the controlling part of the plant, and we get the best results when we know more about them! Robert Kourik in Understanding Roots makes this possible--with almost double the information as in his previous book on roots. It has been noted that when we improve root health a tiny amount--just two percent to four percent--it is possible to increase yields two hundred percent to four hundred percent. Understanding Roots contains a wealth of information. It is a rare treasure!"--John Jeavons, author and developer of Sustainable Biologically Intensive Food-Growing, Willits, CA

"Fascinating, beautifully illustrated and fun to read!"--Larry Korn, editor of Masanobu Fukuoka's The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert

"A must have book in your library! Robert has always been able to make scientific fact and jargon readable, if not entertaining. Understanding Roots is no exception. Having found many rare drawings of excavated roots he presents many guidelines about how to place compost, mulch, fertilizer and water to make your garden thrive."--Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping and 17 other gardening and cooking books

"Sometimes in gardening, it's what you don't see that counts. So, unless you have x-ray vision, let the very knowledgeable Robert Kourik help you visualize--and improve--the root of the situation."--Mike McGrath, host of Public Radio's You Bet Your Garden and garden editor for WTOP in Washington, DC

"Over the decades, author/researcher/contradictarian Robert Kourik has turned gardeners and farmers inside out with his scientific yet easily accessible books, including Understanding Roots: Discover How to Make Your Garden Flourish. You will have several 'Whoa, I didn't realize that!' moments. This is an important book that will change the way you look at your plants, your soil, your fertilizers, and, especially, your watering habits."--Fred Hoffman, producer/host, Get Growing with Farmer Fred radio shows, Sacramento, CA

"Kourik does it again as he shares his investigations into what makes plants tick (hint, it's subterranean)."--Ken Druse, radio host and author and photographer of twenty gardening books

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