Recent Reads: Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert & Dry Times

Dry VeggiesOne of my favorite things about winter is all the delightful gardening that can be done from the comfort of a cozy armchair. My most recent read, Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert and Dry Times by Maureen Gilmer, is part growing guide for organic vegetable gardeners and part region specific.

I might grow in rainy Seattle, but I figured there were some tips I could used in my own garden to make it more sustainable.

And I have to say it didn’t disappoint. It was informative and fun, with useful illustrations that inspire the reader to d.i.y. in their garden. Gilmer has broken up the book into chapters on specific things that gardeners grapple with like pests, soil health, seed starting and so on. I enjoyed the more general information but also little interesting tidbits, like a reference in the seed section to a 2,000 year old date seed that had been successfully cultivated in Israel. (See National Geographic article here) Fun stuff for garden nerds like me.

I also appreciated how she grouped the various vegetables into families, or ‘tribes’ as she called them. There are so many different types of vegetables and it can be confusing when taken individually. But when you start to look at plants within the context of a larger family with similar characteristics, all of the sudden their quirks and their cultivation needs, start to make a lot more sense.

The book contains a lot of good advice for gardeners, from how to un-coil a new hose (warm it in the sun) to selecting varieties of vegetables that are bred specifically for your region, versus just a generic seed packet from one of the big, corporate seed houses.

I found it interesting that in her chapter on soil health, Gilmer didn’t mention getting a soil test for your garden. She principally discusses the problems that arise from deficient nutrition. However, as I and some of my friends who garden have found, headaches come up if you have too much of a certain nutrient. Over-fertilization or an abundance of organic matter can create their own issues over time, even if you are gardening organically.

Overall, I was happy that I picked this book up and hope to implement some of her ideas for saving water in my own garden. I’d love to try and make my own homemade “olla”(a traditional watering device used in the Southwest). After all, as many Pacific Northwest gardeners know, our summers have their own drought-related challenges.

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