California Gardens - The Year Round Gardening Site

Drought and The Vegetable Garden

Drought strikes, what do you do with your garden? Grow on, grow on I say, at least when it comes to the home food garden. In spite of water rates that are the highest ever gardeners continue to grow their own food.

Food from your own garden, it is the freshest food you can get. There is no farmer's market or grocery that can provide food that is so nutritious. Vitamins are so ephemeral that the majority of the vitamins found in corn are lost within the first few minutes of picking. You might want to start boiling the water or fire up the BBQ before going down to the garden to pick those ears. And then walk them straight over to roast or boil. While other vegetables might hold onto their vitamins a bit longer you get the point.

Food from your local chain grocery, it has often been stored for months, shipped from the furthest reaches of the planet, and treated in so many ways both in the field and in transit that you might wonder that it could still be food. You can buy tomatos, apples and carrots on any day of the year. You and I know that you can't go out to your garden and pick these crops all year long no matter how had we try. The convenience is nice but the food quality is compromised in such a huge way.

How much water does it cost to grow your own food? Compare that to the questions - How much water does it cost to pump a barrel of oil? How much more effecient might your industrial farm be for conserving water and energy?

I have heard that 80-90% or more of the cost of that cucumber you bought at the grocery store is the energy that was put into it. Factor in the plowing of the field, pumping of the water to irrigate that field, spraying, harvesting, storing, shipping, and lastly your own trip to the grocery and storage in the fridge. I have heard that if we put our cities where our farms are and the farms where the cities are we could provide all the food we do now on a third of the land. Our cities were originally centered on the best soil. A well mulched garden is much more efficient at slowly releasing water to the plants that grow there. We can lose quite a lot of efficiency in our garden's best practices and still come out way ahead.

Heirloom varieties, there are so many extraordinary food items that never make it to the grocery shelves. There are so many foods that are grown in people's gardens that you just can't get at the grocery no matter how well stocked it might be. If these crops stop being grown because water is scarce much of our food history is lost. We gardeners make that continuity happen each time we buy a batch of seeds from a rare seed merchant even if we don't get a crop. We do it even better when we enrich the palate of our kids and friends with new flavors and continue to grow that crop season after season. There are thousands of varieties of apples, and thousands more of peaches--how many kinds do you find in the supermarket? Surely not thousands. Fruit trees take time to bring into production, years, 3-5 years or more. Turn off the spigot to your fruit trees and so much is lost. Compare that to an almond crop planted where water is not reliable. An almond crop that has been implicated as a major cause of our bee population's decline. An almond crop that isn't grown by a mom and pop farm operation but by a huge corporation. An almond crop that is largely for export. If this is what we are saving our water for I am not ready to sacrafice my vegetable patch. Every river has been overpromised often by a factor of 5-10 times the water that flows between its banks. Water for your own crops is far more socially important that feeding a corporations speculative plantings.

Turn off the water to the lawn, absolutely. Plant an ornamental garden full of flowering plants that thrive on the water produced from the sky, what a good idea. There are plenty of gorgeous plants that come from far harsher parts of our planet than where you garden in California. Turn off the water to your own food production, ridiculous. Raise the price of water so much that you can't afford to grow a garden, that should be a crime.