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.

October 2018 Newsletter

October 2018 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

Welcome to the October newsletter. It’s been a busy few weeks but I have some interesting tips for you to tuck into.

What’s on the menu?

In this newsletter, I tackle a common pest insect enemy – the fruit fly and share strategies for preventing and controlling the damage. If you’ve ever cut open fruit and found it spoiled by larvae inside, it could be this offender. If you are plagued by tiny sap sucking aphids, then you’ll enjoy learning about Hoverflies. These beneficial predators dine out on these pesky insects. Discover how to attract them to your garden. I also share nine clues that may indicate you have problem soil and explain the fascinating reason why flowers make nectar. Dig in!


August 2018 Newsletter

August 2018 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

Hi and welcome to the latest newsletter. Thanks for your patience! I’m playing catch up, so this issue is packed with tips and my latest articles to get you growing a productive garden.

What’s on the menu?

13 Benefits of Growing Flowers in your Vegetable Garden

In my latest article, I share easy ways to get a lot more from your kitchen garden or edible container garden by growing particular flowers. Flowers play multiple beneficial roles in EVERY garden, especially if you want an abundant harvest of fruit and vegetables. You’ll learn how to save money, reduce weeds and pests, get free fertiliser and plants, and use flowers to your advantageREAD ARTICLE NOW


No space wasted in these narrow intensively planted ornamental kitchen garden beds

No space wasted in these narrow intensively planted ornamental kitchen garden beds

Spinach: Did you Know? … and the news isn’t all good!

  • Spinach leaves that have been stored for one week give you JUST HALF the antioxidant (immune building) benefits of freshly harvested spinach greens.
  • So, those bagged leaves in the supermarket are not giving you ALL the health benefits you could enjoy, if you grow a pot or two yourself and pick just before eating. Food for thought hey?

I warn you that the next statistics I share might just kill your appetite:

  • EWG (Environmental Working Group who champion research into safe food and products) discovered in their testing, that “conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested.” Alarmingly, 76% of the spinach samples in their tests were contaminated with permethrina neurotoxic insecticide already banned from use on food crops in Europe. EWG states that “at high doses, permethrin overwhelms the nervous system and causes tremors and seizures.”  The EPA classified permethrin as “Likely to be Carcinogenic to Humans”. If you think non-organic spinach is grown differently in your country, remember the chemical giants (agricultural companies) have their products world-wide and farmers tend to use similar chemicals across their crops, unless banned from doing so by their government.

Spinach – Now this will be hard to swallow:

  • A single conventionally grown spinach sample contained an average of 7.1 to 18 different pesticides or breakdown products. Holey leaves don’t kill people. Chemicals do. Please grow your own!
  • If you’re feeding non-organic spinach to your family, then you may want to reconsider growing this vegetable. In one study, children with detectable permethrin residues in their urine were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as children with non-detectable levels of the pesticide. It’s also used to kill head lice, kill fleas on dogs and embedded in mosquito-repellent fabrics. It has no place on food.
  • If you think that’s bad, residues of DDT and its breakdown products were found on 40% of spinach samples tested. Even though this toxic chemical was banned in the 1970s, residues remain in the soil and are picked up by spinach grown today. Get your FREE copy of 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce here.

So, after that cheery news, are you thinking about growing your own spinach now?

Silverbeet spinach growing in the garden


4 Tips on the Best Ways to Eat Spinach:

  1. If you don’t grow spinach, buy a whole bunch rather than bagged leaves and ideally organic or spray free. Wash them in cold water, spin and pat dry as soon as you get home. Eat as quickly as possible as spinach spoils rapidly.
  2. Spinach with medium sized leaves contain more phytonutrients than baby spinach or plants with larger leaves. Eat when young and tender.
  3. Spinach loses 3/4 of its phytonutrient content after boiling for just 10 minutes. The beneficial nutrients leach into the water. The greener the colour of your water, the higher the nutrient loss. Boiling spinach for 10 minutes leaves 4 times more nutrients in the cooking liquid than in the leaves themselves! You’d be better off drinking the water.
  4. Enjoy raw in juices and smoothies or steam gently for 30 seconds until just wilted.
Spinach, kiwi fruit and apple Green Smoothie juice

Spinach, kiwi fruit and apple Green Smoothie juice

My NEW eBook now available at Online Retailers

After launching my digital eBook GUIDE TO USING KITCHEN HERBS FOR HEALTH in June, I’ve been working on distributing it via online bookstores as well as in my Shop. More retailers are coming on board all the time! I am also planning to eventually print the book in a hardcopy version down the track. That’s a whole other project!

You can now buy my GUIDE TO USING KITCHEN HERBS FOR HEALTH at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBooks, Scribd and more online bookstores including Amazon coming soon. By purchasing my book you can support my education work while learning to use and heal yourself with everyday kitchen herbs. It also makes a great gift.


It’s in 3 digital formats so you can read it on any eReader device, computer, mobile, Kindle etc. You can also read a free sample.

If you’d like to leave a review, you can leave feedback online or email me and I’ll send you a thank you gift for your time: A BONUS companion to the book ‘WHICH HERBS TO USE WHERE – A Guide to selecting the right herb for the right place.’  CLICK TO READ MORE

Which Herbs to Use Where

Quick Tour of My Garden

In my latest blog post, you can lean over the virtual fence to see what’s been growing in my garden. Lots of photos and tips for growing fruit, vegetables and herbs. You’ll learn how I use flowers for multiple benefits; feed hungry crops like zucchini, broccoli and fruit trees; and how to save lettuce seeds + more. Dig in! CLICK TO READ NOW


My garden in bloom under the fruit trees

My garden in bloom under the fruit trees

Garden Tasks – What to do Now

What to do in the Southern Hemisphere

During cooler weather, it’s a good time to:

  • Plant bare-rooted fruit treesAvailable online and at nurseries. You can save money this way. Prepare your soil for planting trees and shrubs in spring.
  • Prune back deciduous fruit trees, berries, vines, perennial bushes and herbs. Give crepe myrtles a hard haircut to shape your tree! This is the time for shaping and making space for spring growth. Don’t delay.
  • Divide perennials like garlic chives, arrowroot and lemon grass if you haven’t already.
  • Manage weeds – pull by hand after rain and mow to reduce vigour until you can get them under control. Solarise them under black plastic and destroy seed heads.
  • Fertilise berries like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with compostrock minerals and seaweed to produce blooms and fruit.
  • Maintain garden structures. Replace wooden or bamboo stakes if they are rotted. Make vertical trellises and frames.
  • Feed your garden. Make compost, feed worm farms, add mulch, and make potting/seed raising mix.
  • Protect frost-sensitive plants. Don’t cut off frost-damaged plant parts. Wait until the last frosts are over to provide protection for the rest of the plant. Treat with liquid seaweed.
  • Provide wind protection – large leafy greens and fruiting crops can dry out quickly with harsh windy days. Consider covering these plants, keeping up soil moisture or providing a screen to reduce plant stress.
  • Plan pest management strategies. Get your fruit fly controls ready and other pest remedies for spring growth. This includes protecting stone fruit and citrus from fruit fly and other pest insects.

What to do in your Garden now

What to do in the Northern Hemisphere

In warm weather, it’s a good time to:

  • Water deeply as required in your location. Pots need more moisture as the soil dries out faster. Follow these Water-wise tips. Try making your own moisture-holding potting mix to save money on watering. Adding the right extra ingredients to your bagged mix can help extend the life of your plants. Less ‘dried arrangements’!
  • Sow seeds for cool-season crops directly into the garden. See my Seed Starting Guide for tips.
  • Succession plant seedlings regularly for a continuous harvest.
  • Stake and tie up climbing plants to maximize space and minimize pest and disease problems. Good air flow is important!
  • Group container gardens in hot weather to create shade or cover with shade cloth.
  • Top up mulch if it is an organic material and starting to break down. This helps feed your soil too.
  • Recycle nutrients from dead annuals, prunings and grass clippings into your compost.
  • Remove dead flowers (dead heading) to encourage more blooms and save seeds. This saves money too!
  • Liquid feed flowering and fruiting plants.
  • Maintain hygiene. Bag up and bin any diseased or pest-infected leaves and plant material. This breaks the cycle.
  • Maintain your garden. Repair/repaint any garden structures, trellises, sheds, fences and garden furniture while it’s warm and dry.

Special Offer on Consultations

Need help to create a healthy abundant kitchen garden? This is one of my client’s front yards. A tiny but hugely productive space, grown in just 12 weeks. I tailor time together to co-create a garden you love.

Anne at Shannon Dodd client garden


Until 31 August, I have a special Spring into Spring discount offer for a limited time until remaining available dates are all booked.

Save $34 when you book a 2 Hour Onsite Garden Consultation for $175 using the Coupon Code 2018GCPROMO. You can also pay by instalments but your personalised one-on-one visit must be during August-October, unless you are purchasing a gift voucher. This service represents exceptional value and includes:

  • Pre-Visit Questionnaire – to help you clarify your needs and optimise time spent together.
  • Plant Material for your garden – yes you get free seasonal seeds, cuttings or seedlings from my garden).
  • Expert advice and/or hands-on help and an Action Plan Report for you to follow up and implement as you are ready.
  • Local Suppliers & Resource List – save time and money when sourcing local garden supplies (my little black book!)
  • Garden Journal Planner & Workbook [Value $4.97] to record your garden notes year after year.
  • BONUS Garden Health Check – Find out which plants need help and what to do to optimise health.

This offer includes 50km round trip and is available for SE Queensland (Brisbane to Gympie) and Sunshine Coast residents only. Please enter this coupon code during the checkout process to apply your discount. LEARN MORE!

Client edible garden with flowers vegetables and herbs

Gardening Guides

To make it easier to grow a sustainable edible garden, I offer a series of helpful gardening guides and resources. Making a purchase is one way you can make a difference by helping support my education work to teach people how to grow healthy food.

If you’re looking for information on a specific topic, check out my free online library.

Dig into my free online Article Library for more topics


Want more inspiring ideas?

Each week I share photos and videos of what I’m growing, harvesting and eating from my garden and ways I use my homegrown food. Follow me for more tips and inspiration in between newsletters.

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I look forward to sharing more news and ways to grow good health soon.

Happy gardening!


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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2018. All rights reserved.

Some links within this newsletter are affiliate links. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. If you purchase a product via an affiliate link, I will earn a small commission (and I mean REALLY small)! There is no additional cost to you. It’s a way you can support my site, so it’s a win-win for both of us. You directly support my ability to continue bringing you original, inspiring and educational content to help benefit your health. Thanks! Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

Peek Over the Fence into My Garden

Time for an update on what’s happening in my garden as I take you on a bit of a tour. In the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed ‘winter.’ If you live in a genuinely cold climate, you’d probably laugh at what I call ‘winter’ here! In this subtropical SE Queensland climate, it’s mainly cold nights and moderately cool sunny days for a few weeks, with virtually no pests to worry about.

Peek over the fence into The Micro Gardener's garden

I’ll take you on a quick tour of my garden


However, it’s dry! I haven’t had rain for a few weeks now, and nothing forecast in the foreseeable future. With two-thirds of this state and 98% of NSW Australia, drought declared, we have to get used to gardening without regular rainfall. It’s tough so you need to have strategies to cope.

A Seasonal Approach to Gardening

I try to time my planting throughout the year, to work in with the weather I live with. That means getting the timing right with preparing, planting, fertilising, maintaining and harvesting.

I mostly get that right, but when busy, I miss things too! That’s where lessoned are learned.

Spring arrived here early mid July. Normally sometime in August but not this year! The unseasonal warm weather has been a catalyst for turning on the ‘Spring switch’ in many plants already. 

I carefully watch the signs in my garden and climate, so I am ready to plant the right edibles at the best time.



13 Benefits of Growing Flowers in your Vegetable Garden

If you’re thinking you don’t need to bother with flowers in your vegetable garden, especially if you have a small space, you may be surprised by the many benefits they offer you.

13 benefits of growing flowers in your vegetable garden to improve pollination, reduce weeds + pests, get free fertiliser & plants

Flowers play multiple beneficial roles in EVERY garden, especially if you want an abundant harvest of fruit and vegetables. Did you know that with the right choices, you can increase your harvests, save money, reduce weeds and pests, get free fertiliser and plants, and much more? If not, dig in!

Powerful Reasons Why You Should Grow Flowers

Growing a food garden without flowers is an uphill battle. If you want fruit and vegetables, you need flowers too!

My compact kitchen garden has some flowering plants year round because I’ve designed it that way. So I’m going to share 13 compelling reasons why I think you should grow at least a few flowers in your vegetable garden.

1. Use as Companion Plants

Flowering companion plants are ‘friends’ with benefits! They offer neighbouring plants, or you as a gardener, some kind of useful ‘service.’ For example, tall flowering shrubs provide shade to sun-sensitive ground covers and strong smelling flowers may camouflage vulnerable crops nearby.

Flowering herbs are some of the best companions to grow in amongst your vegetables and fruit. Let’s just look at one example I mention in my Book, GUIDE TO USING KITCHEN HERBS FOR HEALTH:

“Chamomile has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, and this may be one of the reasons it benefits other plants in the garden. No serious diseases are known to affect this healthy flowering herb. While the fresh flowers are very aromatic, they have a very bitter flavour because they contain a volatile oil, a bitter extractive and some tannic acid. This could explain why pests don’t find them all that attractive to munch on!”

“Chamomile also has a reputation for behaving like a nurse plant, helping to encourage other plants to increase their essential oil content and thus their flavour and aroma. Ailing plants seem to revive. It reportedly helps improve growth, resistance to pests and disease and increase harvests.”


November 2017 Newsletter

Organic Gardening Tips for an Abundant Harvest

November 2017 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

Welcome to the November Newsletter. There are lots of quick tips to get you thinking about the food you eat and grow, to help your health and wellbeing.

This month, I’m sharing another quick ‘How To’ video in my Sow Simple series of free tutorials to help you grow and use food wisely in just minutes. Dig in and help others by sharing these tips!


9 Reasons You Should Grow Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos flowers (Cosmos bipinnatus, C. sulphureus, C. caudatus or Mexican aster) are showy annual flowers that offer you SO many benefits. If you’ve never grown these ornamental beauties, you may be surprised how useful these cheerful flowers can be.

9 Reasons You Should Grow Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos Flowers

Cosmos is a member of the Compositae or Asteraceae family, just like their ‘cousins’: sunflowers, marigolds, yarrow, daisies, zinnias, lettuce and dandelions.

These easy care flowers are perfect for a full sun position in your garden or a pot, growing through spring to autumn.

Not surprisingly, the name Cosmos comes from the Greek word ‘kosmos’ which means ‘beautiful’. Aww! These flowers come in many colours and grow tall with attractive feathery leaves. I encourage you to find a pot or tiny space to sow a few seeds.

“Texture and foliage keep a garden interesting through the season. Flowers are just moments of gratification.”– Kevin Doyle

So why grow these beautiful blooms?



5 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

Why grow sunflowers? There are many benefits to growing these beautiful blooms including their cut flowers and free edible seeds. They also attract pest-patrolling birds and bees to improve your harvest, and even help detox contaminated soil. These flowers are not just pretty faces!

5 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

The botanical name for sunflowers is ‘Helianthus’ – ‘Helia’ meaning sun and ‘Anthus’ for flower. Sunflowers are called ‘tournesol’ in French (meaning ‘turns with the sun’). Curious to learn how to use these cheerful flowers to advantage in your garden? Read on…


5 Reasons to Grow Sunflowers

1. Feed your Pollinators

The showy large outer petals help attract many species of bees to your sunflowers including honey bees and bumble bees. The centre of the sunflower houses hundreds and thousands of tiny individual florets that contain nectar and pollen, a food source for bees.


August 2016 Newsletter

Organic Gardening Tips for an Abundant Harvest

Hi and welcome! In this issue of The Micro Gardener Newsletter, check out tips and inspiration for your garden:

The Micro Gardener August 2016 Newsletter - Organic Gardening Tips for an Abundant Harvest. Want to grow your own food and improve your health? Join my free newsletter for how-to tips, exclusive insights and practical articles every month. Dig in to start learning now!

  • New Website Launched!
  • Over the Fence … in my Garden
  • Blooming Benefits of Flowers
  • Overwatering – Avoiding Soggy Soil Problems
  • When SHOULD you water?
  • Nutrient-dense Food Tips – Garlic
  • Blog articles

So tuck in! If you missed the tips in my last newsletter, CLICK HERE. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader free here.


4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 2

Do you want an abundant harvest? If so, you can improve pollination by making your garden more attractive to pollinators.


There are easy things you can do to improve pollination so you get lots more food on the table.

There are easy things you can do to improve pollination so you get lots more food on the table.

In Part 1 of this series, I discussed pollination problems in depth and the FIRST STEP you can take: Eliminate ALL chemicals from your garden. There’s some critically important information to be aware of in that article, so if you missed it, check out 4 Steps to Improve Pollination and Your Harvests: Part 1.

What other ways can you improve pollination and your harvests? Read on for 3 more practical steps you can take to work with nature for mutually beneficial outcomes:

  1. Learn to hand pollinate your crops
  2. Provide insect hotels for pollinators
  3. Plant bee-friendly flowers



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