Book Review: Water Smart Gardening

Book Review:Water Smart Gardening
Author Diana Maranhao
Publisher: Cool Springs Press
Let me start off by saying right up front that I wanted to read this book. Not because my island garden has a lack of water resources. After all we live on the shore of one of the largest fresh-water lakes in the world. I wanted to read it because I want to set up a new water-wise garden (more on that in subsequent posts).
It seems to me that if you’re going to garden where you pay for the water (we have a well fed by the lake) or if you want to set an example (see writer raise hand) then it’s time to take serious action.

This book is divided into different sections:

An introduction:

You know, the usual stuff authors write. If I were pointing out one thing to note, it would be the information on pag 16-17 on the “A’s” you need to deal with. (Assess, Audit, Adjust, Adapt.) and the short definitions/guidlines each short section contains.

Picture Galleries:

Need inspiration, look no further. There are some great pictures here including at least one that looks like my favorite English-style border design.

Water Smart Design:

This chapter, like much of the bulk of the book, contains practical advice,some pictures of real-world examples, drawings and how-to sections. Sections include:

  • berms and catch basins,
  • a pictorial on creating a rain garden,
  • terracing,
  • drainage systems,
  • creating permeable surfaces,
  • harvesting and storing rainwater

Water Wise Watering

I’ve been gardening for a “few” years now and it’s always nice to read a book by a fellow pro who’s willing to tell you the real story. This chapter is one where the author lays out the real world examples of setting up watering systems and how you really do have to water new plants to get them established
(Too many folks think you can simply plant a tough plant and walk away. The reality is quite different as Maranhao rightly points out.)
From installing drip, sprinker and some innovative systems,  this is a chapter worth reading.

Water Conservation Solutions

Again, this chapter has great information. For example, I don’t recall ever seeing a chart with water need “Vegetable Companion Planting” based on how much water a plant requires.
If you want to adjust your water use, using this chart would be a smart first step (pg 97)

Creating a WaterSmart Landscape

This chapter contains a range of information from “where to start” to “retrofitting” to “Questions to ask yourself” in the design process.
A good chapter to get you thinking about your garden and what you want it to become.

Maintaining Water Smart Gardens

Much of this information is pretty standard stuff – from planting to maintaining. You’ll find some of the information (for example on what to do with the roots) is now out-of-date with its relatively gentle handling of the root ball but that’s likely a function of the publishing time frame rather than the author’s knowledge. (It usually takes several years to get a book from the author’s desk to you.)
Water Thrifty Plants

There are 39 pages of water thrifty plants (from USDA 3-10). If there’s a weak point in the book, this may be it. Some plants listed as “annuals” have known to become self-sowing or persistent perennials in warmer areas. You’re going to have to use local-knowledge to determine whether a plant is an annual or self-sower. And yes, this will be more of a problem in the South than in the colder areas of the continent.

Bottom Line:

Good book. If you’re at all concerned about water-wise gardening or having your garden survive droughts, this would be a good book and place to start.

 Click here to check it out on Amazon

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One thought on “Book Review: Water Smart Gardening”

  1. I’m hoping to grow my own vegetables on a plot in the Philippines. My guess is that the biggest problem maybe preventing the plants from direct sunlight?
    If I put a raised high level protective mesh over the bed will that work or am i wasting my time?

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