How to Grow Vegetables in a Drought

Gutters and downspoutsChoose vegetables that don’t need as much water.

It’s getting hot out. If your garden were a dog, it would be lying in the shade, panting. You look out into that dry, dusty yard and imagine a garden full of vegetables: lettuce that’s ready for the evening’s salad, or tomatoes fresh from the vine. How can you get that dewy-fresh vegetable garden in the middle of a drought?

Choose Your Plants Wisely

If your area is prone to droughts, it makes sense to choose plants that need less water in the first place. Look to historically dry places to find plants that thrive with less water. Many bean plants do very well in the dry heat, and beets and carrots don’t need to be watered as often as you might think. While tomatoes, melons, and squash tend to be water hogs in their first weeks of growth, if you can water less frequently and more deeply, they will establish deeper root systems and will need less water later in their growth cycle. Water them more thoroughly when they are flowering and fruiting.

Be Sensible About How You Water

Your plants need water to grow. In a drought, you probably water your garden plants. If there are watering restrictions in place, you can use grey water from your home as well. Reuse the water you run as you warm up your shower – it’s perfectly clean and ideal for your vegetables. When you’re looking for water sources, put your gutters and downspouts to work as well. Create a rain barrel water catchment system that allows you to store water when it does rain and use it to water your garden. Water using a drip irrigation system when possible, or water closer to the base of the plant, avoiding sprayers that spray much of the water into the air and onto plants’ leaves.

Water at the right time of day as well. Early morning is best for plants, since they’re just starting their growth for the day. It’s not as hot yet either, so the water you place on the ground has a higher chance of being absorbed by the soil than evaporating.

Take Care of Your Soil

Healthy soil is like a sponge. It retains a lot of water, even when it’s dry. This can help your plants store water during wet times or when you water. Build up your garden soil with compost, and avoid stepping on the places where you want to plant. Keep your soil as porous as possible to allow water and air to filter into the soil. If you have very sandy soil, it’s especially important to add a lot of organic material as sandy soil will not hold asequate moisture for your plants.

Gutters and downspouts
Mulch forms a protective barrier on your soil.

Mulch and More Mulch

Adding mulch to your garden not only builds garden soil, it also helps protect the top of your soil. Mulch can be bark, leaves, straw, or other bulky organic matter. It acts as a layer to keep the soil underneath cool and damp, which gives your plants access to more water. When you water your plants or when it rains, the water moves into the soil. If that water is exposed to a lot of sunlight, it can simply evaporate into the air again. If it nestles underneath a protective top layer of mulch, it will stay in the soil longer.

Add Some Shade

You probably know that many vegetable crops love the sun, but did you know that they can wither in too much sun? During the fall when the weather cools off, add a small shade tree or fruit-bearing bushes that give your garden some respite from the heat. If you need shade right now, add a shade cloth over your garden, or install a table and sun umbrella that also casts shade over part of your garden.

When you’re looking for new gutters and downspouts, contact Harry Helmet. We can help you manage the water in your garden when it’s wet and when you’re hoping for rain. View our photo gallery and schedule an appointment today.

Written by Del Thebaud

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