A Gardener’s Notebook

Landscape water ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’

Special to The CambrianApril 18, 2014 

Visiting granddaughter, Brooke Reynolds, from Walnut Creek, plants strawberry plants in an ‘Earthbox’ in Lee Oliphant's garden.


  • Tip of the month

    I swore I wasn’t going to plant edibles this year. I didn’t think it was worth the trouble. But I can’t seem to say no. A neighbor brought me six tomato plants of dubious ancestry that he’d started from seed. My son brought me a pumpkin plant he started for me and my husband, whom I’d asked to buy me ONE “Sweet 100s” tomato plant because they produce so well here, bought me a six-pack because they “cost less than a single.”

    Here are some tips for growing vegetables in a drought year:

    • Plant them early.
    • Plant cool weather plants like beets.
    • ‘Dark Star’ zucchini, ‘Stupice’ tomatoes, kale, chard, arugula, and many herbs, are considered drought tolerant.
    • Mulch 3”-4” over vegetable beds.

Our community has a wonderful group of supportive and caring people. They come together in so many extraordinary ways. But its underbelly shows a deep division that has kept the community in limbo over the water issue for years. The repeated drought condition has required severe water conservation, making lives more difficult, expensive and cumbersome. To maintain any kind of garden or landscape has become nearly impossible for some residents.

Now a further division among our residents has been created due to the water shortage. There are those residents that have the means (the “haves”) to obtain landscape water, and those that do not have the means (the “have nots”).

I’m not talking about money here, but other kinds of “means.” The “haves” have the physical strength to handle the required hoses and buckets to water their gardens, they own a pick-up truck with a water container strapped to their bed, or a lot size large enough to house storage tanks.

The “have nots” may have none of the above and are “storage limited” by lot size. Regretfully, the “have nots” will be forced to give up their gardens, which is in no one’s best interests.

According to the above criteria, my family could be considered a “haves.” We have a pick-up with a tank and a sizable storage tank on our half-acre. The storage tank is designed to capture rainwater from the roof and works beautifully (WHEN IT RAINS!). As most of my readers know, gardening has been my passion since my retirement and I intend to continue it on a limited basis.

I feel great sadness that the “have-nots” will be struggling, and, I’m afraid, giving up working in the soil, an activity proven to be both physically and spiritually therapeutic.

As for the future months, there is no guarantee that the free nonpotable water will continue to be available. If this water shortage is a permanent condition of living in Cambria, our CCSD must find a solution, and move quickly. We must support them in this effort.

“No growth, no progress” is not acceptable here or anywhere in this changing world. Whether a result of global warming or other changing climate patterns, we can expect more drought years in the future and we need a solution. I do not cry for water so that our beautiful village can become a metropolis, I cry for water so that the residents living here, and future generations, can “stop and smell the roses.”

These water buckets are getting mighty heavy!

Lee Oliphant’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at cambriagardener@charter.net; read her blog at centralcoastgardening.com.

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