Drought Tolerant Vegetables

I’m fortunate enough to live in an area that gets fairly consistent rainfall from one year to the next, though we do still sometimes go through spells of very dry weather for 4 or 5 weeks at a time. But if you live somewhere with very low, or unpredictable rainfall, growing drought tolerant vegetables is something you ought to seriously consider. When water’s in short supply it’s going to be hard to keep plants with high water demands healthy.

Drought Tolerant Vegetables

She advises enriching the soil with lots of compost and mulching with a layer of straw or leaves several inches deep, because the mulch helps keep water from evaporating from the soil, and the compost helps the soil hold water. A garden with compost and mulch will use far less water than a garden with bare clay soil. Also, with rich soil, you can put plants closer together.

In a drought year like this one, it pays to be mindful of which plants are thirstier than others. This might be a good year to skip corn and pumpkins.

Think about the plants that grow well in southern Italy—most of them don’t need a lot of water: tomatoes, herbs, beans, chard, and spinach.

The advice about compost and mulch is absolutely right. But don’t think you can only use straw or leaves. Just about anything on the surface of the soil will conserve moisture. If you’ve ever lifted biggish stones or concrete slabs that were laid directly onto the soil you’ll know it’s always damp underneath. Some of the things I’ve successfully used in the past include –


old bits of timber

black plastic (I get yards and yards of the stuff that’s only been used for a year from a farmer friend who uses it to line her silage clamp and uses new each year)

grass clippings


shredded paper

old telephone directories


old carpet

Of them all I think the only one I wouldn’t use again is old carpet. After a few years you’ll find plants growing through it and the whole thing will be virtually impossible to get up again and you won’t be able to dig or till the soil in any way.

The advantage of organic things such as grass clippings, paper, cardboard etc is that you can just leave them there to rot. If it looks like they’ve rotted too much to be effective just pile a fresh layer on top.

Couple these techniques with growing drought tolerant vegetables and there’s no reason why low rainfall should necessarily stop you from growing your own fresh produce.

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