Gardening in a Drought

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on September 17, 2011

Vegetables are water hogs.  To produce the produce we eat, they have to use a lot of water.  When there is a drought, with watering restrictions and little supplemental rain, it becomes hard to give them all the water they need.

First, try hard to use drip irrigation.  Sprinklers can waste 40% of your water due to evaporation.  That is bad when water is plentiful, but is just not acceptable when water is scarce.  A soaker hose is an alternative if you cannot use drip irrigation.  Soaker hoses are not as efficient, but are cheaper.

During a drought, you need to change how you plant so you can make the most use of every drop of water.  Instead of planting rows, plant blocks of vegetables.  Water doesn’t need to travel as far and is used by all the plants in the block.  Plant intensively to get the most out of a small space.

Plant only what you can use personally.  While it is nice to have a huge garden and supply the neighborhood with produce, it isn’t practical in a drought.  Instead of planting all the seeds in a packet, plant half or a quarter.  Pinch off the weak plants and only allow the strong to continue growing.  Poorly producing plants should be yanked early to cut your losses.  Think about the return for your water investment and cull accordingly.

Finally, when plants stop producing well, yank them.  Watering a plant to get one last tomato or pepper is a waste.

Remember that water is a finite resource.  Rainwater doesn’t refill the aquifers, it stays up near the surface.  When the aquifers are drained, they are gone for good.  We need to make them last as long as possible, so use water wisely.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim from kids crafts September 18, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Hello Stephanie,
These are great suggestions, especially the culling of plants. That is the hardest for me to do.
Thanks for the great post.


Stephanie Suesan Smith September 19, 2011 at 5:08 am

My grandmother could put a stick in the ground and it would grow. Every once in a while, she “accidentally” forgot to water some plants to thin the herd.


Stephanie Suesan Smith September 19, 2011 at 5:09 am

My grandmother could put a stick in the ground and it would grow. Every once in a while she got too many plants and would “accidentally” forget to water some to thin the herd.


Mani September 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hi Stephanie,

I simply loved your line here “when plants stop producing well…” Its definitely a complete waste to get one last tomato. Sometimes when there aren’t enough rains, my plants don’t grow well. Then there is no point in nurturing them.


Ivin September 23, 2011 at 2:38 am

Hello Stepnaie. How timely and relevant of you to post this post. It REALLY helps, especially with climate change, water restrictions and I assume, readers from African countries and drought other stricken countries will REALLY appreciate this. Here in SA we have our fair share.


Grace Colin September 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

Some people are just plain stiff when it comes on gardening with some climate change and all. They easily get discourage when their crops get wasted and all due to the might of mother nature. Well it cost a lot of money though.


Guiller Cabatuan September 30, 2011 at 11:21 am

Good thing someone still knows proper gardening these days…


Brian October 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Good point about putting veggies in a block rather than rows. My dads would always suffer when we had a hosepipe but he would only use rows. Maybe this was why?


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