I’d like to introduce you to David Bainbridge. David has been involved in desert restoration and sustainable agriculture projects for more than 30 years. Back in the 1980’s he was working at The Drylands Research Institute at the University of California, Riverside when he stumbled across a reference to clay pot irrigation.
Here’s the intriguing part of this story: the “book” he was reading was written by Fan Shengzhi, an agriculturist who lived and worked in China about 2,000 years ago.
I have not read Fan Shengzhi’s masterwork, but thanks to David I don’t have to. Instead, I read David’s recently published book, titled “Gardening With Less Water” (ISBN 978-1-612126582-4). This book is really a toolkit for anyone who wants to buy (or build) low-tech, low-cost water saving irrigation systems.
Here’s a quote from the book that I love, “The key to minimizing water use is to get water to the plant just as it is needed, with little or no loss to evaporation and runoff.” (David A. Bainbridge)
I love that quote because it is a spot-on description of Olla irrigation. I describe Ollas as a low-tech, on-demand watering system. Ollas do not leak water into the surrounding soil if the soil is already wet (for example, if it has just rained). They only release water when the soil is dry. So in that sense they are true water reservoirs, conserving water for the moment your plants need it. As a result, the plants around an Olla receive water in a timely manner that keeps them consistently hydrated. They are a very simple but effective ‘demand responsive irrigation’ system.
Featuring Efficient Olla Irrigation
So it should come as no surprise to learn that Dripping Springs Ollas are featured in this book. However, Gardening with Less Water also promotes other efficient irrigation methods, including porous capsules, deep pipes, and wicking systems. David even explores small-scale terraforming…think of swales, micro catchments, and raised grids…where the shape of the land directs water to storage or planting areas.
I like to think that I know a lot about clay pot irrigation. But Gardening with Less Water makes me think that there are ways to make a clay pot irrigation system even more efficient…and by that, I mean even less work for the gardener.
Here’s a diagram from the book (reprinted with permission of the author) that shows how to create an interconnected system of self-filling Ollas. It’s sort of like the love child between clay pot irrigation and an on-demand drip system. David’s system gets extra points because it uses only gravity and water’s desire to seek its own level to operate the system—no electricity needed!
All in all, Gardening with Less Water is a great primer for water-wise cultivation methods. Not only do I recommend this book, but I have a copy that I’ll be sending to one of my Facebook fans at the end of the month.
So if you’d like to be the lucky winner, please follow this link to my Facebook page (or leave a comment on the post about this contest). .
The rules of the contest are very simple. To enter the contest go to my Facebook page, and like this post or leave a comment. Ideally you’ll leave a comment about gardening with less water. For example, you might explain why you want to garden with less water. You could even brag about the water-saving methods you use in your own garden!
This contest will run from July 1, 2016 through July 31, 2016. On August 1, 2016 a winner will be randomly selected from all entries. You must be at least 18 years old to enter, and you must have a U.S. postal address where you can receive the book by mail.
This promotion is in no way sponsored or endorsed by Facebook.