Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gardening during drought without irrigation

Yeah, I know the title seems unbelievable, but apparently it actually works. I ran across this free ebook (sorry, you have to read it from the website) called Gardening Without Irrigation, which I found here. The author, Steve Solomon, said he lives in the Oregon cascades, which frequently go eight weeks without rain, and his irrigation system is less than reliable. Apparently he's able to grow a lot of crops with no water once they're established and some with only infrequent water or over spray from less-hardy plants.

The key seems to be in spreading the plants far apart (four times as far apart as is recommended on the seed package), getting them established while you still have spring rains at your disposal, and ruthlessly keeping the weeds down. This doesn't work unless you have decent dirt at least a few feet deep (eight or more is best) because rocks and gravel don't hold the water content that dirt does, and hard pan is almost impossible for roots to break through (though he gives tips on how to fix this problem.)

While this wouldn't work on my property--I have to do raised beds because the first hundred-plus feet of ground past my back door is far more rock than dirt--it's an interesting concept. I'd be interested in hearing if anyone else tries it and what they think of it.

There are a lot of other books on gardening, permaculture, and self-sufficiency on the site, so check them out!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book Review: "Transcendence" and giveaway!

Transcendent is a terrific book full of YA paranormal short stories--these are all clean with no swearing or sex and no extreme violence (though there are one or two that are fantastically creepy.) The stories range from ghosts to spirit guides, to vampires, and so much more. I don't usually go in for short stories, but these kept me interested from the start with great characters and some terrific plot twists. And several of them have a romance line mixed in the story (which I'm always a big fan of). Perfect for a quick story fix, I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys clean paranormal stories.

My friend Wendy Swore, who has two stories in this anthology, will be listing the publisher's big giveaway on Monday with a whole bunch of giveaways as part of the book release ranging from SWAG to bigger prizes (including a copy of my book Blank Slate). The giveaway goes through January 3rd, so check out her blog here for details. Also, you can enter to win a copy of the Transcendent ebook from Amazon by commenting here on my blog between now and the end of the month. This is currently available only in ebook, but a paper copy is due out soon. Check out these links for more information:

eBook on Nook: Coming Soon!

And below is a list of the other stops on this blog tour if you want more chances to win this ebook.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Winter gardening, the permaculture way

I’ve spent a lot of time lately studying landscaping and gardening sites again—something that would probably gratify my neighbors since I was a total slacker last summer and hardly even watered, never mind weeding my flower beds (grass, what grass?). Anyway, I ended up on some permaculture sites, studying it again. Maybe it’s the anal retentive part of me, maybe it’s the writer who loves research, but I tend to get a little obsessive when an idea really strikes me and study the heck out of it. Permaculture was this way for me five years ago, and it’s grabbing me by the throat again. Unfortunately the actual classes to study the theory are light years outside my price range (not to mention the drive), but there’s a ton of useful information on the web. I spent days watching Youtube videos about permaculture practices—there’s a terrific series out of Australia, the home of permaculture. I can't find it on Youtube anymore, but you can find it here.

What is permaculture? I’m glad you asked! I know most people have never heard of it, but essentially it’s a way of organizing your landscaping to promote healthy diversity, ease of maintenance, and oh yeah, food production when possible. Of course, there’s a whole lot more to it than this, because the principles of permaculture are as applicable if you’ve only got a balcony, as if you have ten acres and can be applied to city planning or building design. And it’s not just about food, but about using natural systems in planning.

Yeah, so it’s ecologically sound, but it thinks outside the box—okay, outside the box of current agricultural trends (of monoculture—like hundreds of acres of wheat) to more natural systems like in forests. Instead of planting a big spot with pumpkins, and another with peas, and a third with corn, you mix things together, grow plants that complement each other (often called companion planting), and encourage bugs and animals into the garden that eat the bugs that want to eat your prize tomatoes. We call this bio diversity—and it works for many people without bug sprays, and with careful planning, you won’t have to buy fertilizers, either. It means planting flowers like nasturtiums and marigolds that discourage some pests right alongside the veggies that those pests like the best.

I did mention bringing in predators and birds right? Well, this doesn’t just apply to song birds. I opened up my garden fence a week or so ago (and then it snowed), but this morning I cleared the snow off of one garden bed and then my poultry went to town eating the weeds and scratching it all up. Chickens, geese, ducks, guineas, and my lone Tom turkey were out there most of the day. Yeah, I get eggs from my chickens (theoretically, but their lack of winter eggs is a topic for another day). But they’re way more useful than that. Last spring I let them into the back yard—which is totally unlandscaped—and they kept my weeds in check. Now, letting them into the garden when I have plants there would be a Very Bad Idea (I learned this the hard way a few years back) but in the off season they can be seriously useful.

That’s permaculture in action.

PS If you'll notice, I'm holding a Goodreads Giveaway for my book, Blank Slate right now. Click on the box at the top of the page to enter. It runs through Christmas Eve. And come back for another Goodreads Giveaway next month for Family by Design.