Saturday, June 12, 2010

Drought Tolerant Vegetable Garden

I've learned a little bit about drought tolerant gardening in the last few years.  We had a record two year drought and we also lost access to a well for a brief period of time.  This year, I planted an area of the garden for which I've not yet built a drip system, so I have to water with a garden hose, by hand.  Pretty time consuming, so I planted some really drought tolerant veggies:  hot peppers, calabacita, tomatillos, and zucchini.  I drip the garden hose on one plant at a time, near the base, while I go about other garden chores.  This means that each plant gets a deep watering about every 7-10 days.  So far, we've had enough rains that this has been enough.  As the season progresses, I hope to find time to add a drip system.  But in the meanwhile, the plants are doing great, and producing like mad.  Besides choosing drought tolerant varieties, there are a few other things to do to grow plants with less water:

1. add berms to the garden, to catch and hold rainwater run-off.

2.  study the topography of your garden so that you can lay out beds in a more or less perpendicular manner to run-off patterns.

3.  amend soil with lots of rich organic matter.  I used home made compost and purchased composted turkey manure.

4.  space plants widely, more widely than seems sensible, so that they can really stretch out their toes and have access to lots of water and nutrients.

5.  mulch heavily.  I meant to mulch, and I really should have, but I haven't had a chance.  Poor plants are probably struggling more than they have to as a result.

6. Take advantage of natural clay soils, if you have them.  Our garden has a large patch of heavy clay gumbo soil, and this is where I have my drought tolerant veggies.  Everyone says you can't grow veggies in gumbo soil, but I've found that if I amend with organic matter, it works beautifully.


  1. I've been wondering how your garden is doing? I mulched half and left half as an experiment in weed control. I know the mulched half never seems as dry as the other side, but I never thought about trying drought tolerant varieties with the mulch. I didn't know zucchini was drought tolerant either. Okra seems to be, at least the volunteers that have sprung up in odd places are producing as well as the ones that get water.

  2. Marti, the garden was amazing this year. I put in about a tenth of the effort to get about 50% of the results I usually get. I hope not to be so overwhelmed with other parts of life next spring so I can really get my garden cranking, but considering the situation, it was more than I could have asked for. We ate fresh veggies all summer, I froze enough squash to last the year, canned enough peppers for the same, preserved about 8 bushels of onions as well as a bushel of garlic, and dried about three bushels of tomatoes. That's not enough for the year but not too bad either.