Book Banter: Take these pros’ tips on how to plant a drought-tolerant garden | Lifestyles
With spring well underway, those with green thumbs are ready to plant their summer gardens. But after several consecutive years of intense drought and heat, it’s the perfect time to rethink what you’re planting. Using natural mulch and compost as ground cover and turning to native, drought-tolerant crops just makes sense.
Many gardening tips are available at local nurseries and hardware stores like Silverado Ace Hardware on Lincoln Avenue, but there are also a number of books that deal with starting or maintaining plants using as little water as possible. .
One such book is “The Drought-Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-Water Landscape” by Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren, a 2016 paperback book that explains how to garden in a changing climate. This informative guide highlights 230 plants, all native to California, how to start them and how to maintain them with minimal water, including perennials, annuals, trees, shrubs and succulents. The authors offer advice on designing smart gardens and how to combine the right plants to create the natural symbiosis that occurs within plant communities as well as creating a beautiful garden.
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Another book that deals with hot, dry weather gardening is “Hot Color, Dry Garden: Inspiring Designs and Vibrant Plants for the Waterwise Gardener” by garden expert Nan Sterman. Recognizing that the weather will only dry up, Sterman offers home gardeners ways to create bright, colorful gardens filled with water-smart plants as well as ways to revolutionize our gardening practices. The book includes a directory that showcases an array of dazzling drought-tolerant plants.
“New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home” by Kelly D. Norris came out last year. Norris, horticulturist and planter, shares his ecological but also elegant vision of home gardens using plants that mimic our wild spaces, such as meadows, woods and the edges of streams. Including a basic introduction to plant biology and ecology, the book offers advice on designing and growing a less formal, more natural thriving garden without resorting to pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides.
Advice from across the Atlantic
Although ‘Drought Resistant Planting: Lessons from Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden’ is the story of Chatto’s garden set on a dry, windswept spot in England; it offers a message of hope to gardeners around the world. With stunning photography by Steven Wooster, the book proves essential for anyone dealing with water shortages and poor soil. Chatto plants were planted with the intention of not being irrigated in times of drought and had to “stand alone or die”.
There’s no sweeter, more sensual pleasure than picking and savoring a sun-grown cherry tomato, or harvesting that first crop of green beans, basil or zucchini. Vegetables and herbs have always been the mainstay of Calistoga gardens, but which varieties do best without regular soaking?
“California Fruit & Vegetable Gardening, 2nd Edition: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles for California Gardens” by Claire Splan, updated 2021, addresses the key elements of climate, soil, sun, and water as well as the diverse and constantly changing growing conditions. There are detailed profiles of over 60 edible plants as well as herbs. Whether you grow in containers, raised beds, or in a backyard vegetable patch, this book is an invaluable resource for first-time growers and experienced gardeners alike.
If you’re planning on planting an edible garden, Lauri Krantz’s “Garden Can Be Anywhere: A Guide to Growing Bountiful, Beautiful, Edible Gardens” is the book for you. Kranz is a Los Angeles gardener who is an expert in planning, planting, growing, and maintaining lush edible gardens, no matter the conditions or plot size. She focuses on organic crops and has created gardens for renowned chefs, celebrities and even rock stars.
“Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert, and Drought Times: The Complete Guide to Organic Gardening Without Wasting Water” by Maureen Gilmer is the perfect guide to starting a vegetable garden in California now. This timely book gives home gardeners recommendations on growing produce focusing on four different low water conditions in the western United States: voluntary water conservation (this is us, Calistoga ), drought and high and low deserts. Gilmer combines modern techniques, indigenous traditions and ancient wisdom in this in-depth introduction.
So don’t give up, home gardeners. Take advice from these books, your local garden center and neighbors whose plantings you admire, and plant your drought-tolerant garden, and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables and flowers) of your labors.
Julie Mitchell is a Calistoga resident and lifelong bibliophile. She holds a BA in English/Creative Writing from Stanford University and an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco.