Written by Robert Summers
July 17, 2023
Back in 1955 Robert and Elizabeth Summers, my parents, had a dream to build a mountain oasis for themselves and their family in Pasadena, Calif. They dreamt big and in 1964 broke ground on an amazing mid century modern home with plenty of well-planned and diverse landscape.
Over the span of nearly six decades, they nurtured Meyer lemons, kumquats, navel oranges and various camellias, azaleas, and many other trees and plants. When my father passed in 2020, it gave me
a new perspective on what's important and what I truly cherish: These plants and trees were my heritage, my legacy.
I grew up watching my mom and dad plant these plants and trees, mix fertilizer to feed them, water them on Sundays by hand and care for them. It was a big part of their lives and mine.
It seemed natural to continue the tradition, but I faced several challenges: Heavily compacted soil, a lack of microorganisms in the soil, and stunted growth that included greening and other diseases that would surely take the lives of plants I'd grown up with .
Overcoming 60 years
We sought advice from an arborist, a horticulturalist and other experts in plant and soil health. They all told us to give up and replace the various fruit trees, that greening was unrecoverable and the trees had outlived their life expectancy.
Maria and I refused to accept the diagnosis and set out to understand how to water and feed our tree and shrub friends.
After months of experimenting with bubbler's, spray heads, and other techniques, we started testing delivering water underground. This took us down a path to inventing the Root Quencher.
Root Quencher is an underground watering device that delivers water to where trees, shrubs, and plants need it most: the roots. This approach eliminates evaporation from surface watering, reducing outside water bills by up to 50%.
But it also but took us to a place I'd never imagined. I've discovered Brian, a professional farmer, consultant, and microbiologist at Earth Grower LLC, who taught us about soil health and composting. Through Brian and others we've developed the philosophy that deep watering is important and critical in the vitality of landscape ... but soil moisture and health is critical all around the yard.
An integrated approach
Over the past couple of years we refined our philosophy and practice to include every planting area having a drip grid; and a network of ground level, or slightly below ground level, deep emitter pipes to keep the top 6" of the soil moist and healthy.
In conjunction with deep watering with the Root Quencher devices, this became the winning combination for plant, tree, and soil health.
During the past 3 1/2 years we also have embraced a large composting program, producing and utilizing more than 6 cubic yards of compost annually. We add compost to top our soil, we use it in our deep watering devices to keep the vitality of the soil/root zone energized, and we use compost and native dirt in every new planting.
And along the way we switched to 100% organic growing-what a joy to feed blueberries to my grandsons right off the bushes with no fear of pesticides or poisons!
Today we now have 60-year-old fruit trees producing abundant crops, camellias blooming like crazy, along with azaleas and the new trees and bushes introduced to our yard-slash-farm.
Everything is thriving due to our watering practices and compost program.
In new growing areas on hillside terraces, we've added cherry trees, a guava tree, grapefruit, two peaches, a pair of avocados, and an almond tree. We also added a small greenhouse for year round tomatillos, tomatoes, and other vegetables and herbs.
The composting program is a big part of that environment and healthy watering practices are critical for success.
More than imagined
I know my parents would be pleased that we're now shaping the legacy for our eight grandchildren. I spend time with walking our youngest grandsons through the gardens and orchards, explaining the botanical names for trees and bushes ... just like my parents did with me, touching every plant and tree and talking to them.
It is a truly rich legacy. I wonder if my parents ever imagined what they were starting.
Learn more about Root Quencher deep watering at rootquencher.com