Tag Archives: Steve Solomon

Experimentation in Compost Tea

In Steve Solomon’s book “Gardening When it Counts” he shows a very simple recipe for compost tea.  Take a shovel of compost, throw into a bucket and then fill with water.  Stir daily and then apply to the garden after one week.

We’re giving it a go here on our homestead.

Compost tea is a great, natural fertilizer.  Ben Franklin once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  That applies in this case because compost tea is a superfood for plants.  Healthy plants grow strong and provide more nutritious food for us humans to eat.  Healthy plants are also better resistant to drought, insects and other problems.

This reminds me of an interesting story my boss at work told me.  The 2011 growing season was a bad one for apricots at the farm where I work.  A lot of preventative work had been done using organically certified fertilizers, fungicides and pest controls.  About the time the crop should have been ready to harvest (the trees were almost bare) my boss looked across the fence.  A neighbor had a few acres of apricots and they had been badly neglected for years.  No pruning, fertilization, or even watering was done.  Those trees were absolutely loaded with fruit!  It was as if mother nature was saying “you can’t outsmart me!”  Needless to say, we made drastic changes for the 2012 growing season.  We’re not doing anything but applying compost tea (a much more technical recipe and process to brew that what I’ve described above, however) through the foliar sprayer.  Guess what?  Now our trees are loaded with fruit!

Here’s to a successful 2012 growing season!

Thanks, Robert.

Book Review: Steve Solomon’s “Gardening Without Irrigation”

In searching for more books written by Eliot Coleman and Steve Solomon, I came across this link to a copy of the book on Scribd.  I wanted to share the link with you and offer a few thoughts.

Plant spacing has always been a problem for me in my gardening.  I have this problem with always wanting to maximize value or return, and so I squeeze in as many plants as I can into a given space.  Not only is that bad for the plants, but it is also water intensive.  In order to reduce or eliminate water usage, plant spacing is paramount.  One big idea learned in this book is that capillary action within the soil will draw the water in from much further than I thought possible.

Another idea discussed is mulching.  Steve Solomon is a big proponent of dust mulching.  I’ve been a big mulcher in the past, mostly with grass clippings, though.  I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea of dust mulching, because we live in an area that can get pretty windy and I don’t want my valuable topsoil blowing away.  As for me, jury’s still out on this one.  I would love to hear from other’s experience with dust mulching, though.  I’m still intrigued and open minded on this matter.

Thanks, Robert.

Gardening When It Counts: A Book Review Part I

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.

Thanks, Courtney.