I was skeptical of Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon. Robert had talked about this book for quite a while, urging me to check it out from the library. He had seen several people reference it on Survival Blog, touting it as the cure to watering your garden. That’s right, not watering your garden. You can see where my skepticism is coming from. Now I come from Southern California were rain doesn’t fall on our soil, we steal it from other states, like Colorado. So the idea of not watering your garden seemed like something that could only be plausible if you lived in a rainforest, aka the East Coast or Washington state. I admit I only picked up the book to put to rest these rumors that dry weather gardening was possible.
After reading the book I realized that how to water your garden only accounts for one chapter of this book. Which is why I broke this book review into 2 parts, first the watering issue and then all the rest. And for those of you who like to flip to the end of the book, yes growing a garden without irrigation is possible, even outside of those states that look like overgrown jungles. But…it’s not the one size fits all approach that some have made it out to be.
How is this all done? Plant spacing. Simple as that. The further apart they are the less competition for ground water. The exact spacing between plants depends on several factors including summer rainfall. Solomon provides a handy table that lists 4 types of plant spacing possibilities for lots of different vegetables. In column 1 he has Intensive raised beds (not his recommendation but used for comparison), in column 2 he has Semi-intensive raised beds (his own garden set up), column 3 is Extensive; good rainfall; raised beds, raised rows on the flat and finally column 4 is Extensive; little rain or fertigation; everything on the flat. Obviously he gives explanations and criteria for each of these different growing conditions so you can figure out which area you fall into. We find ourselves in column 4 whereas someone in New York or Georgia might be in column3 and someone who has plenty of irrigation water is in column 2.
This chart was probably the most interesting part of the book. It was stunning to see how little water is needed when the plants are spaced far apart. It was also stunning to see just how far apart the plants need to spaced. Some veggies need lots of room while others can handle closer spacing. Robert and I studied the chart and were able to figure out which vegetables that we would plant with irrigation and which plants we would allow extra space to grow without irrigation. For our climate it seemed that to grow all we needed without irrigation we would have to have a massive amount of land, and really water is not that scarce so we thought a compromise was best. We can’t wait to try it when we own some land.
There are other very interesting chapter to this book that I will get to later, hopefully. Overall I would say this is a great book to check out of the library. We probably won’t buy this one because the other chapters are pretty basic gardening tips but I guess good for the beginning gardener.