Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book Review: Gardening With Less Water by David Bainbridge

I don't know about you, but I'm a natural worrier. I worry that I'm not saving enough money for my nine-year old daughter's college education. I worry that I don't do enough to help people less fortunate than me. I worry that some minor offhanded comment I made to my colleague at work might have offended them. You name it, I worry about it.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? 

So it's no surprise that our current drought has set off alarms for me. But as bad as the drought is (and yes, even after the recent rains, it's still bad), this is one of the problems that's easier on my worried mind. Because saving water is one of those things that I can do something about. And I always feel better when I can do something about a problem rather than just sit around and fret about it helplessly. Which is probably why Amazon's genius algorithms popped up David Bainbridge's new book, Gardening With Less Water, in my email. It knew that I'd be a sucker for a book like this.

Bainbridge's book is great for people looking to save water in their gardens. There are lots of ways to save water in the garden, but Bainbridge primarily focuses on watering techniques--cheap methods that you can implement yourself without an engineering degree or a huge budget. And he includes detailed, colored instructions and lots of tips to make sure you get it right.

In case you're wondering, no, we're not talking drip irrigation systems. For anyone who has read water saving brochures or blogs, you've probably been advised to install one of those. Bainbridge dismisses these pretty quick because 1) they use more water than the other techniques in the book, 2) they are hard to maintain, 3) animals are apt to chew at them in really dry, open climates, and 4) they are expensive. No, Bainbridge breaks new ground with this book by talking about old techniques.

Yup, old is new again. And we're talking really old here. Imagine techniques used by ancient cultures, lost to the sands of time (well, until now of course). Bainbridge is part conservationist and part archaeologist digging these things up. But he explains them well, and tells you how you can use everyday stuff that you have lying around the house (or available at a big box store) to revive these techniques in your own garden and save a lot of water. Good stuff, Baby.

One of the biggies that he talks about is buried clay pots (ollas)--a topic that is near and dear to my heart. But even though I've used them and experimented with them a lot, he still had a lot to teach me. For instance, you may remember that I've sworn off DIY ollas because my experiments show that they don't work as well. In his book, he shows how to make sure you pick pots with the maximum porosity so you don't have the same problems I did.

Wow, I could have saved myself a lot of money if I had this book a couple of years ago. 

He also had some great tips on:

  • Figuring out how closely to place your plants to your ollas based on your soil conditions. (Every blog I've seen before this had generic instructions that didn't take individual conditions into consideration.)  
  • Avoiding "clogged pores" in your ollas by misuse of fertilizers, wrong water types, or failure to clean them properly
  • Automatically filling the ollas using drip systems or gravity-fed systems when you're away for long periods of time

And that's just ollas. He also has great tips on using buried capsules, wick irrigation, and deep pipes for irrigation. If you want to experiment with some new, inexpensive ways to save a lot of water in your garden, I just can't recommend this book enough.

Also, keep in mind, this isn't information you can find on the internet for free. I've spent many long hours looking for it myself. The closest thing you'll find is some academic papers written by Bainbridge himself. Those papers don't go into nearly the same depth as his book though. If you're really looking to save a few bucks, check out the book from the library--that's what I did for myself. I quickly decided I wanted to have it on hand for future reference though and bought a copy at my local bookstore.

As a bonus, when I was there, I saw another book right next to it that caught my attention: Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert, & Dry Times by Maureen Gilmer. That will be my next book review. :)

No comments: