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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Sustainable Gardening Tips for February

Welcome to the February newsletter. This year, I’m focusing on helping you grow a sustainable garden. Plants and strategies that sustain you in food, health and medicine. Helping you design a garden you can manage with your unique time, energy, money and resources. A garden isn’t sustainable if you lose your joy, it costs too much and you don’t get the results from your investment.

Sustainable Gardening Tips for February

This month we are looking at ways to save and use water wisely to grow a healthy garden. I rely on rainwater tanks for our house/garden water supply. I’m very conscious of every drop. I intentionally capture, recycle and use water to help the garden thrive. Read on as I share some of my watering practices and principles with you.

There is so much instability in the world. Food producers are closing due to labour shortages and food facility sabotage. Here in Australia, we’re facing a potato shortage. You’re likely aware of accelerating inflation and food prices; fertiliser shortages; supply problems due to transport system disruptions; biosecurity threats; unnatural weather and climate impacts of floods, storms and droughts on crops and farms. Many factors are increasing the likelihood of global famines in the near future. Some countries may experience food riots and rationing. NOW is the time to be growing an edible survival garden with urgency. Find joy in taking empowering actions. Be prepared, upskill and network within your community with like-minded souls. I look forward to helping you grow.


"As I work on the garden the garden works on me" quote garden art sign

“As I work on the garden, the garden works on me.”

The clouds in our minds seem to disappear in connection with Nature. A garden gifts us that healing feeling. If you are experiencing stress and anxiety, especially related to health problems, the good news is that gardening provides us with a wealth of health and wellbeing benefits

“Swedish research studies (Stigsdotter and Grahn, 2004; Stigsdotter, 2005) found that people who had access to a garden had significantly fewer stress occasions per year. They found those living in apartments without a balcony or outdoor area had more stress annually than those with a patio or small garden. Those who had the least stress were people with a large leafy garden, and the more frequently people spent time there, the less stress they suffered.”

Read my article on ‘Growing a Garden for Health and Wellbeing.’ Food for thought!


10 Water Saving Tips for your Garden

Water is a precious resource we need for healthy plants. These easy practical water-saving tips help you save money and manage water wisely in hot, dry weather and drought. By re-evaluating your garden design and watering habits, you can eliminate inefficient practices that waste water and grow your garden more sustainably.

Hand watering with watering can



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14 Water Saving Tips for Container Gardens

Download this PRINTABLE PDF with easy ways to conserve water and grow more sustainable container gardens. It’s packed with simple steps you can take to minimise moisture loss and plant stress, choose plants and pots wisely, and make more informed decisions. Enjoy!

Water saving tips for container gardens


What to Plant Now in Subtropical SE QLD

It’s summer! Heat, humidity, dry spells, storms + rain, sometimes! A challenging growing season in our climate. Time to protect your crops from pests and a wide variety of weather conditions. Download your February Gardening Tips PDF

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. Includes information on companion planting, making compost, soil and moon planting.

What to Plant Now in other Locations

Click here for what to plant and when. Or visit Gardenate.com (USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa)


PLANT PROFILE: Aloe Vera – Living First Aid Plant

Aloe vera barbadensis is one of the lowest maintenance, easy-to-grow perennial herbs on the planet. Everyone should grow at least one plant! It’s a long-lasting evergreen herb with a compact habit, spiky leaves and attractive flowers. Perfectly suited to pots or garden beds. Aloe is an attractive indoor plant, especially in a well-lit bathroom where you can use it as an anti-aging moisturiser, after-shave balm and to promote collagen production. We cut ‘fillets’ from the leaf daily for this purpose. Aloe is an excellent healer for all skin ailments including rashes, bites, stings, sunburn, dry skin, grazes, infections, acne, blisters, scar tissue and burns (keep a few fillets in the freezer). There are numerous research studies that reveal it has anti-aging properties as well as anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and six antiseptic agents to name a few. Dip cuttings into aloe vera gel to promote rooting hormones when propagating. If you only have room for one medicinal herb, this should be top of your list! Read More

Aloe vera herb fillets with healing gel

Aloe vera leaf fillets with healing gel


Shop Gardening Guides and Resources

Use Coupon Code: 10%OFF during checkout to save 10% on all gardening guides and books.

If you are still taking potluck and sowing at any time, your results will likely vary! Some plants might thrive while others fail, bolt to seed, wither or seeds never germinate. Adjusting the timing can make the difference between a productive garden and a frustrating one. It may help to learn more about the benefits of moon gardening. You’ll wish you’d done it sooner!


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How to Grow Turmeric Tips for a Healthy Harvest

How to Grow Turmeric Tips

Turmeric, Curcuma longa is an edible, medicinal, attractive self-pollinating perennial plant. Turmeric is worthy of a place in everyone’s garden, even in a pot. I believe it is one of the most healing herbs you can grow and use for preventative health benefits. It’s a member of the ginger family and is known for good reason as the Spice of Life!

How to Grow Turmeric Tips for a Healthy Harvest

Where to Grow Turmeric – Likes and Dislikes

Turmeric is a rhizome (root crop) and is planted from a piece of turmeric rather than seed. It prefers a well-drained, consistently moist compost-rich soil in a partial to full sun location. Turmeric thrives in warm, humid subtropical and tropical climates protected from strong winds and frost. In these conditions, turmeric will grow with just morning sunshine. However it  benefits from shade relief in intense heat, especially over hot summers.

If you are in a cool climate, plant it in a full sun position with maximum warmth. Avoid wet or waterlogged soil or the rhizomes can rot. Turmeric is sensitive to drought or drying out completely. Avoid frosty conditions or heat stress.

How to Grow Turmeric in a Container or Garden Bed

Turmeric is very well suited to growing in large pots (35L or 9 gal). Perfect for renters, those who don’t want to dig to harvest and small space gardeners.

Use a nutrient-rich, moisture-holding potting mix and a thick layer of mulch. I have several in pots that just keep producing year after year with very little effort required to maintain them. The quality of the potting mix makes a HUGE difference, so don’t skimp.

If planting into a garden bed, improve the soil with plenty of compost and mulch. Turmeric is a hungry feeder! So prepare the soil well with nutrients (rock minerals and trace elements). Make sure the soil is well-drained so your crop doesn’t rot.

Turmeric is grown from plant material. Start with a large healthy organic turmeric rhizome. Ideally, it will have roots or small knobbly bits that are starting to shoot. The larger the original rhizome, the more energy the plant will have to grow and produce more turmeric. Makes sense right? So don’t skimp on your planting material! Sow 5cm (2″) deep and 15-20cm (6-8″ apart).

How to grow turmeric tips: Turmeric rhizome ready for planting new buds or eyes

Propagate a new plant from an organically grown turmeric rhizome

Always put a plant marker in the garden or pot. It’s easy to forget your dormant turmeric plant is there sleeping! You can lose it while it’s snoozing, accidentally damage it or forget to care for it. So label it well!

When to Plant and How to Feed Turmeric

Turmeric is planted in early spring. If you sow at other times, don’t expect a flush of growth! It may stay dormant until warmer soil temperatures arrive. Turmeric will take around 8-10 months before the leaves die back and it is fully mature in winter. This is when it will have produced a full ‘hand’ of rhizomes that look like little ‘fingers’.

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Gardening Tips for February

The last few weeks have created a lot of uncertainty around the world with the threat of a pandemic. It’s a timely reminder to reflect on our health, how sustainable our lives are and whether we can feed ourselves from our home gardens or are dependent on our global food system. So, this month’s newsletter focuses on practical and positive ways you can support your health with nourishing foods and herbs.

Gardening Tips for February | The Micro Gardener


Gardening Tips for February

Here in subtropical SE Queensland, Australia, we’re still in the thick of summer heat, humidity and rain. Last month we were in drought, had bushfires and dust storms, and now it’s too wet in many areas! Soggy soil, high temperatures and humidity create the perfect environment for many fungal diseases like powdery mildew and root rot. Not to mention the increase in hungry insects like grasshoppers and caterpillars feasting on the new growth!

Subtropical SE Queensland – What to Plant Now

If your water tanks are full and soil moist from recent rains, it’s an ideal time to sow seeds to raise seedlings ready for autumn planting and put in the last of fast-growing summer crops. Or sow sunflower seeds as microgreens for fast-growing protein-rich ingredients. Citrus, pumpkins, tomatoes, summer spinach varieties, spring onions, herbs and cucamelons are growing like crazy in my garden. With a move to a new garden soon, I’m taking cuttings in the new moon cycle so they strike roots quickly. You can propagate your garden for free in this way.

READ Gardening Tips for February for what to do now in SE QLD, pests to watch for and more. (Download PDF)

Subtropical Planting Guide – a laminated perpetual guide to the 5 seasons in SE QLD

For other locations, read my article on what to plant and when.


Grow a Medicinal Herb Garden to Build a Strong Immune System

One of the reasons I grow my own food and specifically, a wide range of herbs, is because a Home Pharmacy Garden is the first place I ‘shop’ to support my family’s health. I believe there’s never been a more important time to focus your energy on the medicinal properties of the plants you grow. Herbs, in particular, help support a healthy immune system with phytonutrients like vitamins and antioxidants. (more…)

October 2019 Newsletter

In this newsletter, I discuss earthworms in container gardens; risks and safety tips for using bagged soil mixes; introduce a new herb and medicinal plant guide; share tips for changing seasons and moon gardening timing. Grab a cuppa and dig in!

October 2019 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener


Earthworms in Pots

Earthworms provide incredible benefits in the garden. They help aerate the soil with their tunnels, opening soil pores and improving soil structure and drainage. This helps plant roots access oxygen and allows moisture and nutrients to penetrate. They digest organic matter and leave their castings (‘vermicast’ or poop) with soluble nutrients plants can access immediately, improving crop yields. Vermicast is humus and a pure plant food and soil conditioner. Earthworms are wonderful soil workers indeed!

If you have container gardens and add garden soil or compost to your potting mix, then you may sometimes find an earthworm or two. Whilst earthworms perform many valuable roles, they can occasionally be problematic in pots, especially small ones. If you have just one or two worms, it may take a while for their tunnels to make an impact. However, if you have a community (yes they will breed!) then the plant roots may become exposed to too much air in the potting mix.

The other thing to watch for is if you are raising seedlings in a small pot and there is little organic matter in the potting or seed raising mix, any earthworms present may resort to eating the plant roots if all the organic materials are consumed. I was doing container garden maintenance once and picked up an old pot that was very heavy. Curious, I discovered it was almost pure worm castings that were retaining moisture and the pot was filled with earthworms! They had turned all the potting mix media and mulch into vermicast.

Earthworms with their rich castings

Earthworms with their rich castings

Feeding Earthworms and Repotting Plants

If you notice fresh worm castings on top of the potting mix or mulch, or around the base of the pot, these are a clue of their presence. If you notice a potted plant declining and suspect you have earthworms in your potting mix, you have a couple of options. Keep providing plenty of alternate organic matter like mulch to the top of the pot for the worms to eat instead of your plant roots.

Alternatively, repot your plant. This is simply a matter of upturning your pot and gently setting aside your plants in a cool location. Give them a quick soak in liquid seaweed as a boost. Then look for a network of tunnels in the potting mix and worms squirming around. If you can, rescue your earthworms and add them back into your garden soil where they can continue to work for you. The worm castings are indeed beneficial, so you want to retain this valuable free plant food in your potting mix.

Get your own easy DIY Homemade Potting Mix Recipe Guide using worm castings.

Learn more about the business and biology of worms with the Worm Farming Secrets eBook.

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March 2019 Newsletter

In this newsletter, I’ve got lots of thought provoking tips and answer some interesting questions, so dig in!

March 2019 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

I’m also grateful to Profile Magazine for sharing my story in their March issue (p30-31). It’s a privilege and joy helping others prevent illness by growing a vibrant edible garden, but more importantly growing good health. In this story, I dive into what ‘nutrient-dense food’ is and the medicinal benefits – hope you enjoy the read online.  [Flip to p30-31]

Anne's story in Profile Magazine March 2019


Can you use Garden Soil in Pots?

Pot grown plants are totally reliant on YOU during their life. Their roots are confined, so they can’t reach out like they would in a garden to find moisture, air and nutrients. The growing medium your plants depend on needs to hold adequate moisture, air pockets and a high level of nutrients to sustain healthy growth and stability.

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2019-04-01T07:55:04+10:00Categories: Newsletters|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

3 Herbs to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Do you feel stressed or anxious? If so, spending time in nature outdoors, especially enjoying your garden as a peaceful sanctuary is one of the best ways to centre yourself and relax. Taking time out to listen to nature sounds like birds and bees, watch plants grow and thrive, and experience the colours, aromas and beauty around you can help lessen life’s worries and put life in perspective. Soak up the vitamin D from morning sun to boost your health too.

3 Herbs to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

I’ve discovered many herbs can also provide relief. One of the aspects of growing herbs that I find so beneficial is not only using them for flavour, but for their medicinal benefits too.

Grow a Home Herb Pharmacy Garden

There are many herbs that are easy to grow in your own ‘home pharmacy’ garden for every day relief of common ailments including anxiety and stress.

These herbs are three of my favourites and can also be combined into a relaxing herbal tea.

1. Tulsi, Sacred or Holy Basil (Ocimum Sanctum)

In warm climates, grow Tulsi Basil as a perennial or as an annual in cold and temperate climates.

Use Tulsi or Holy Basil in a herbal tea to help ease anxiety, stress and adrenal fatigue. Brew up a few fresh basil leaves or about 1 teaspoon of dried leaves as a herb tea to aid digestion, calm nerves, reduce tension and stress. You can also add your other favourite herbs.

Tulsi, sacred holy basil herb is one of the best herbs to reduce stress

Tulsi, sacred holy basil herb is a valuable addition to your garden

Cautions: Tulsi basil is a uterine stimulant so avoid if pregnant or seek medical advice.


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March 2017 Newsletter

Organic Gardening Tips for an Abundant Harvest

Welcome to the March Newsletter. I’m sorry it’s a little late due to my work commitments, but I’ve put together some helpful tips to get you growing and inspired.

This month, I’m sharing another quick ‘How To’ video in my Sow Simple series of free tutorials to help you grow an abundant, healthy garden in just minutes. Dig in!


How to Grow More Basil Leaves

In this quick 2 minute video clip, I share tips on how to grow more leaves on your basil plants. I show you an easy technique to stimulate new growth so you get an abundant harvest of this delicious herb.

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Like this video? Let me know in the comments if you found this helpful.

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2022-10-17T07:21:38+10:00Categories: Newsletters|Tags: , , , |4 Comments

Easy Guide to Growing Basil

How to Plant, Grow, Use and Harvest Basil

Easy Guide to Growing Basil - How to Grow Basil + Planting, Using & Harvesting Tips

Why Grow Basil?

As a gardener and cook, I couldn’t bear to have a garden without Basil. This fragrant herb has many benefits.

  • FLAVOUR: Basil is a favourite ingredient in so many dishes. From pestos to pizza, pasta, sauces and savoury meals, basil has no comparison for flavour. I use it in our kitchen as much for its delicious taste as I do for its medicinal properties.
  • MEDICINE: Countless studies confirm basil species have many health benefits. For example, in one study the essential oils were found to have “much better antibacterial activity than ampicillin” (penicillin antibiotic). In addition, the results revealed basil oils showed “a great ability to inhibit fungal growth, which was 10-to-100-fold higher than the commercial antifungal agents ketoconazole and bifonazole.” Not bad for a humble herb!
  • FOR POLLINATORS: I grow a variety of basils for bees and beneficial insects as the flowers provide valuable food. Perennial basil and Tulsi or Sacred/Holy basil are in flower all year in my subtropical climate. They are literally bee magnets for many species. I intentionally position them where I want pollination of fruiting crops and fruit trees. They make perfect companions.
  • BEAUTY: The attractive flowers look beautiful in any garden and have a long vase life in arrangements.
  • EASY TO PROPAGATE: Basil self-sows readily and it’s easy to save seeds. It can be grown from cuttings and propagated by layering.

Interested in growing basil? Try it in a pot, garden or on your kitchen bench as sprouts or microgreens. Every year, I allocate ‘prime real estate’ space to basil in pots, as well as around my garden. Read on for how you can use this versatile herb.

Basil Varieties – Which Basil should you Grow?

Basil (Ocimum Basilicum) is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae). Like its mint ‘cousins’, basil comes in a large range of aromatic varieties, with flavours to please even the fussiest taste buds. Annual varieties will last you a season and then provide you with free seeds. Perennial cultivars last much longer and are even better value. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Sweet Basil and Genovese are two of the most popular basil choices for pesto as they have mild sweet flavours.

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