Sustainable Gardening Tips for November

The November newsletter is packed with my best tips on container gardening and how to grow food in a dry climate. Plus a drought tolerant plant list, how much and often to water your plants, what to plant now and a bonus laminated garden guide gift with purchase offer. Dig in!

Sustainable Gardening Tips November from The Micro Gardener

This month’s plant profile is the spice of life, Chilli Peppers. What a powerhouse! I dig deep into how to grow, store and use chillies for health.

Sustainable Gardening Tips for November

In my local climate in SE Queensland, Australia, weather conditions have been harsh for gardeners. This is the toughest season I think I’ve ever experienced. It’s been so dry that even the natives, trees, and hardy perennials are showing signs of drought-stress. Months on end without our normal seasonal rains. These are the rains that replenish the water table and deeply rooted trees. With heatwave after heatwave and no rain respite, it’s extremely challenging trying to grow food.

When you are on town water, that’s not a problem. However, for many gardeners like myself on tank water, every drop is precious. I’m invested in my garden. Each plant is like a member of my family! I’ve nurtured hundreds since ‘birth’ and to watch some of them struggle is emotionally hard.

Most of the vegetables and fruits we grow need consistent moisture. Some plants like our leafy greens and fruiting crops are super thirsty. It’s no surprise that when it’s dry, hot and windy, that plants suffer. There’s no moisture reservoir from recent rains to draw on in the soil. Thankfully, the effort I’ve put into building humus in the soil and thick layers of mulch has helped most plants survive. I find it interesting to watch which plants cruise through hard times like this versus those ‘princesses’ that have a hissy fit as soon as the weather is not to their liking!

List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Foods for Dry Climates

I’d love to help you if you’re trying to grow edibles in dry times. In my latest article, I share an extensive list of vegetables, herbs, fruit, nuts and herbs that are resilient and hardy. I explain how much and how often to water different types of plants. Also, how to select drought resistant species and how plants adapt with some of their incredible survival strategies. I hope you find the practical tips and list helpful. Here’s a peek at just a few on the list! You’ll find the rest here.

Sustainable Gardening Tips November: 20 Drought Tolerant Vegetables for Dry Climates

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring


How to Grow Food in a Dry Climate

  • Strategies for Gardening with Climate Change – Learn how to adapt to changing climate conditions – rain, dry spells and cloudy skies that reduce photosynthesis. I share solutions to help you ‘design out’ problems . Plus crop protection strategies to help you achieve a harvest even in challenging weather conditions.
  • Garden Strategies to Cope with Drought – Part 1 and Part 2 – Practical tips to help you rethink your water management strategies. Design and utilise microclimates; choose plants wisely; and downscale your garden to pots.

Container Gardening Tips

There are so many benefits to growing your food in pots, planters or even raised beds . These are really large containers!

In dry times, one of the key benefits to crops in pots is that plants don’t compete for water with trees and shrubs. Positioning them under trees and taller species can provide welcome shade relief during the heat. Trees also offer canopy protection during storms and a microclimate that mitigates wind damage.

Download these helpful printable PDF tips on container gardening:

Dig into these articles to learn more:



What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD

November has been much drier than average. Heatwaves, storms and unpredictable weather are typical for this time of year! I try to be prepared for just about anything as the growing gets tough. Download your November Gardening Tips PDF for planting ideas, tasks to do in the garden plus issues to watch out for. These articles may also help your garden survive a tough few months ahead.

If you can, try to time planting in harmony with the moon phases. Working with Nature’s timing can improve seed germination, help cuttings take root when propagating plants, and encourage healthy plant growth and establishment. The new moon phase each month is the best time to optimise the quick uptake of liquid nutrients. This helps plants access nutrition and get off to a good start. Working with moon phases and a Moon Calendar has distinct benefits. It helps me stay organised! I plan forward for the best times to take specific actions in my garden and reap the rewards. The natural cycles of energy and water that ebb and flow each month are there for us to tap into. Learn more here.

The Vegetables Growing Guide is a reference chart to help you grow 68 of the most popular vegetables in Australia and New Zealand climate zones. It includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting. 

What to Plant Now in Other Locations

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List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Foods for Dry Climates

If you’re experiencing dry climate conditions, drought or have limited water resources, food gardening may be challenging. Don’t despair! Careful selection of drought tolerant food crops, water-wise gardening practices and improving your soil can all help.

List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Edibles for Dry Climates

Droughts involve both high temperatures and extended periods without rain. The longer gaps between rainfall cause soils to dry out to greater depths. Heat waves occur when there are multiple consecutive days at very high temperatures. Heat waves can cause injury to plant tissues and in extreme cases, plant death.  A deep, fertile mulched healthy soil with vegetation holds a vast amount of water. Unlike shallow bare soil with minimal organic matter. So, a key goal is to improve soil moisture-holding capacity and available nutrition. This will help our plants to grow through rainfall shortages and heat waves. Before we look at drought tolerant food crops, there are other factors to consider for dry gardens.

How Much Water Do Vegetables Need?

On average, most vegetables require around 2.5-3cm (1″) or so weekly. However, this varies considerably depending on the climate, soil characteristics, wind, temperature, stage of plant development and plant variety. Some crops are very reliant on consistent moisture. e.g. Lettuce, corn, cauliflower and coriander. Whereas others can tolerate prolonged periods without watering, like Mediterranean herbs.

Hand watering tomato plant - How much water do vegetables need?

During dry times, I aim to water as infrequently as the plants I’m growing will tolerate. However, I also consider if I want the plant to produce an abundant harvest or just maintain minimal growth. i.e. stay alive! I hold off watering during or after rain, and reduce the frequency of watering during cooler weather. If it’s hot or windy, plants transpire more moisture so have higher water needs.

How much water vegetables need also depends on the irrigation method. For example, drip irrigation, a soaker hose, ollas and wicking bed systems provide a gradual release of water at or below soil level. If you water by hand with a hose or watering can, you may need to water more frequently. If this is the case, you might want to consider some water-wise strategies especially if you have limited water resources.

How Often Do Plants Need Watering?

As a general guide, this is how I water my plants. My gardens are all mulched and plants are in suitable containers that aren’t porous.

Vegetables/Pot Plants: In hot, dry weather I water daily except where I use ollas, water spikes, self-watering pots, drippers and my homemade potting mix. These are all buffers that hold moisture longer. I water less frequently in cooler or cloudy calm weather. Usually every second or third day.

Seedlings and newly establishing plants: I usually water daily during hot dry weather for the first fortnight or so. Then 2-3 times a week after that or if they are under shade cloth. In cooler weather, I can usually get away with watering every second or third day for the initial two weeks. Developing healthy roots and shoots is vital at this stage of growth so I don’t skimp on their water needs.

Fruit trees: During establishment in the first couple of years, heat waves or prolonged hot dry weather, I aim for twice a week. Or weekly during a normal summer with reasonably regular rainfall.

Ornamentals with some drought tolerance: Typically get watered weekly in summer and as needed in winter.

Mature drought tolerant ornamentals: This varies with the plant from every 3-4 weeks to never! When I do water, I try to give the plants a deep drink with liquid seaweed rather than just water.

Plants for Dry Gardens

Drought Tolerant Plant Adaptations and Survival Strategies

A lot of drought hardy plants have inbuilt defense systems that allow them to adapt when there is low soil moisture. These are a few of the strategies of drought tolerant plants.

  • Deeper root systems to tap moisture away from the surface.
  • A symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi help the vast majority of plants to cope with water stress and increase drought resistance.
  • Swollen storage roots (tubers, rhizomes and lignotubers) to retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Silver foliage helps reflect sunlight, cool leaves and reduce evaporation.
  • Releasing a chemical cocktail of sorts to counter heat and water stress, allowing them to survive for short periods of time.
  • Some plants put the ‘pause button’ on their growth. Other species close up their leaves or grow smaller leaves, adapting to the conditions.
  • Fruiting crops often abort those fruits they can’t support.
  • Some plants show stress by dropping their leaves. I look for these clues so I know which crops might be needing support.
  • Fine, thin, waxy, succulent, leathery or hairy leaves.
  • Originating from a desert biome. Many plant species adapt to Mediterranean, arid or hot dry climates.
  • Bush tucker or native food plants.

I grow quite a few resilient crops that handle drought with far less water. They’re hardy and cope well, continuing to grow despite the climate hardships.

Aloe Vera holds moisture within its succulent leaves as a drought tolerant strategy

Aloe Vera holds moisture within its succulent leaves as a drought tolerant strategy

Drought Tolerant Plants Grown from Seed and Seedlings

Seed grown plants often adapt better to dry conditions once established than seedlings from nurseries. Commercially grown seedlings are usually cultivated  in very controlled conditions including temperature and consistent moisture. They may be more likely to suffer transplant shock or be less adaptable to harsh conditions when they leave their comfortable environment!

Self-sown seeds or ‘volunteer’ plants that pop up in our gardens are often the hardiest in my experience. Plants that germinate in harsh conditions are resilient and hardy. I want more of those species in my garden!

Mature fruit trees with an established root system in a larger pot are likely to be more drought hardy than very young immature trees. This may vary depending on the cultivar.

How to Select Crops for Dry Climates Carefully

Some crops are extremely inefficient water users. Corn and melons for instance, are water guzzlers! Perhaps buy those varieties you don’t have space for or water resources to support. Consider growing some of the most water-efficient foods instead.

When selecting seed varieties, look for “drought hardy” or “drought tolerant” in the description. Local seed banks and seed saving groups will also usually have a good source of seeds adapted to growing in your microclimate conditions. I save seeds from crops that have grown well in my soil during dry times as this is a characteristic I want to preserve in future plants. Learn seed saving and propagation skills so you can choose the best plants from your own garden at no cost.

List of 75+ Drought Tolerant Foods

Drought Hardy Vegetables, Herbs, Flowers, Fruit & Nuts

There are a wide variety of heat and drought hardy or tolerant food plants for diverse climates. Once established, many plants can endure short dry periods.  This list is not exhaustive but rather primarily from observation in my own subtropical climate. You  may have different soil types or microclimates and adaptability may vary. However, this is a good starting point if you’re trying to grow drought resistant, heat tolerant food gardens that can survive climate challenges.
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