January 25, 2021

The Niche

Trusted stem cell blog & resources

scientist in the garden

3 min read

Are you doing your pandemic garden, even if it’s on a balcony or windowsill? How’s it going? If not, you might consider it as a source of both fresh produce and some peace from the COVID-19 stress. The other day I went to one of my favorite nurseries here in the Sacramento area and it seemed like everyone had the same idea as the garden center was packed. In fact, it was more than packed. When I finally checked out there were 20 people …Read More

2 min read

I don’t study frogs, but they’ve sure been studying bugs in my garden this year. Every so often and more frequently in summer I post about experiences as a scientist in the garden. As long-time readers know, I’m a bit obsessed with growing tomatoes. You can see past posts on tomatoes and tips on how to grow great ones here. I’m going to do a new post on tomatoes soon, but this post is more about frogs. Why frogs? I’ve lived in Davis for …Read More

3 min read

What’s better than fresh “fruit” from your own tomato garden? For the last few years when I think about planning my summer tomato garden, I start months in advance preparing the soil. I had fava beans as my cover crop all this past winter and tilled it into the soil late in winter. It adds a lot to the soil in terms of nutrients and nitrogen. You can see in a plant I had just pulled up the little root nodules that crank out …Read More

3 min read

What are human lab rats? And I don’t mean humans in a clinical trial. I’m one of those people who can accurately be called “lab rats” in the sense of a scientist loving being in the lab doing experiments, analyzing data, and so forth. Ever since I started as a lab technician in 1990, I found myself very at home in the lab. I wouldn’t say I completely love the smell of methanol, chloroform, or other organics or even other typical lab smells that …Read More

2 min read

One of my hobbies is gardening, which helps keeps one’s sanity amongst all the grant writing, etc. However, I have a tough time leaving the science behind when I go out into the garden so sometimes I give in and go all science nerd in the garden. I’ve been doing a series on my blog of occasional posts that I call The Scientist in the Garden. Recently when I went out in the garden with my iPhone equipped with a zoom lens (photography being …Read More

2 min read

I’ve been gardening since I was a kid and I guess I’ve been a scientist that long too so now it’s time for another installment of “scientist in the garden.” You can see past such posts here, which usually include various cool photos.  Today’s post is focused on unusual things in the garden. Getting out in the dirt is a good place to experiment with growing all kinds of unusual things. Arguably the most scientific looking plant is broccoli romanesco, which I’ve grown successfully …Read More

2 min read

If you garden long enough you may start to see some cool critters. We had an unusually wet winter and very hot, dry summer here in Davis, CA. Maybe it’s coincidence, but the range of creatures in my garden seems different. For instance, I’ve been seeing much bigger dragon flies this year and a lot more lizards. A few days ago I saw a very unusual lizard (see above). What a tail! What gene expression makes that unusual tail? The reddish color of the …Read More

2 min read

I’ve always grown tomatoes in my garden and I like unusual varieties. This year I’ve got a bunch of cool tomatoes growing out back. Some are now starting to ripen so it’s getting more exciting. Note that this posted has been updated for 2020. Growing tomatoes is not as hard as I thought originally, but there are some tricks. I’m going to do a separate post fully on tomato growing tips. Some key ones are pick the sunniest spot in your yard, work on …Read More

4 min read

Here’s another edition of my posts over the years in my series ‘The Scientist in the Garden’. Can gardening teach us some important things about stem cells and about doing science more generally? Regular readers of this blog know that I am really into gardening and especially during the last 5 or so years I’ve been growing many kinds of unusual tomatoes. They like it here in the Sacramento region a lot more than they did in my previous city of Seattle, WA. This year …Read More

1 min read

The two main crops growing in my garden now are peas and fava beans. The former is in the last week or two as I overwintered them and got a ton of peas in February and first two weeks of this month. Unfortunately, there are about 1,000 similar, wacky-looking bugs on my pea patch. Helpful people on Twitter identified these are leaffooted bugs. And sure enough, the back feet on these bugs look like leaves and weird reddish-orange eyes. I don’t know if the …Read More