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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18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

Gardening in dry climate conditions can be really stressful but there are loads of simple strategies you can apply to make it easier. Many gardeners in Australia and around the world are struggling to keep gardens alive and thriving. Drought, winds, dust storms, extended heatwaves and fires have been impacting plants, people and our wildlife.

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions | The Micro Gardener

Extreme temperatures and long periods without any significant rain in many places are some of the biggest problems. It’s no wonder many gardeners are giving up trying to grow an edible garden.

Yet a garden – no matter how small – gives us hope as well as healthy food. It feeds our mind, body and soul. A garden provides wonderful stress relief and is a welcome sanctuary to escape to. Even a single, well-cared-for plant can bring great joy and healing.

For many gardeners though, water – or lack of it – is our biggest issue. Struggling, water-stressed plants become magnets for pest insects as nature’s ‘clean up crew’ move in to feed. It’s natural to expect some casualties in hot and dry weather. Without sufficient water, crops can’t take up nutrients from the soil to grow, flower and fruit. Small container gardens also need more frequent watering.

So, what can we do to help our gardens survive and even thrive?

Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions and Hot Temperatures | The Micro Gardener

18 Top Tips for Gardening in Dry Climate Conditions

For years I’ve endured all sorts of harsh growing conditions in my gardens. I’ve spent time carefully observing, applying Permaculture design principles and journalling where my gardens have been exposed to harsh dry or hot weather. This data has been vital for decision-making. I’ve learned how to grow a kitchen garden that not only survives but thrives! This has enabled me to help my clients who suffer similar problems but in different locations to get the most out of their edible gardens.

I hope by sharing some of these strategies, you will be able to enjoy an abundant productive kitchen garden too.

1. Audit your Garden and Make Tough Choices

That’s right! If you can’t save ALL your plants, prioritise and focus on keeping the most valuable ones alive. What if conditions are really tough and you have limited water resources? Concentrate on your high-value fruit trees, perennials and essential herbs and food crops.

Turn thirsty, low-value plants into compost to feed your soil. Some plants may just have to survive without your help or be sacrificed to save others.

Collect seeds and take cuttings to pot up as a backup plan! You can always start again with these. Small plants use less water resources. Learn propagating skills to help your garden survive.

Save seeds from your garden to sow again in more favourable weather

Save seeds from your garden to sow again in more favourable weather

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Tips to Grow Food in Hot, Dry or Windy Weather

Regardless of where you live, it’s likely you have some climate challenges to deal with when growing food. Dry hot conditions with no rain make it especially tough. It’s particularly difficult growing food in extreme heat with drought due to low rainfall. El Nino weather patterns and a changing climate are affecting food growers globally. Home gardeners need a plan and strategies to prepare and cope.

Tips to Grow Food in Hot, Dry or Windy Weather | The Micro Gardener

Growing Food in Hot Dry Weather

Here in my subtropical climate in SE Queensland, Australia we experience five seasons of different lengths. Some months are almost perfect food growing conditions and others are extremely challenging.

During our summer months – December through March – it’s typically hot and uncomfortably sticky. We can get sudden storms which often bring torrential rain and even hail, flooding the garden and potentially damaging plants or even destroying them. Hail damaged leaves, fruit and stems are more vulnerable to diseases as the plant tissues are exposed to pathogens.

Baking hot days often results in heat stress and scorching temperatures can cause sunburn. Many plants can suffer dehydration very quickly. Exposure to intense direct sunlight, higher-than-average temperatures and wind, without sufficient soil moisture is a recipe for plant damage and poor yields.

During storm season, strong gusty winds can stress plants, particularly if they are hot and dry. During storms, wild weather can cause stems and branches to easily snap or fruit to drop. Wind also causes fungal spores to spread quickly, worsening diseases like powdery mildew.

Not to mention the pest insects and diseases that thrive in hot, humid and windy conditions! At times it seems like everything is stacked against us as food gardeners.

An El Nino weather pattern can be particularly harsh with drier and hotter conditions than normal. I find the best way to cope is to know what to expect in your climate and be prepared with suitable strategiesOnce you understand your unique microclimates, you can make more informed choices about which plants to locate to suit the conditions.

Likely you have difficult weather at times too. So, what can you do to help protect your precious plants?

3 Ways to Protect your Crops from the Weather

1. Provide Windbreaks

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November 2018 Newsletter

Welcome to the November newsletter.

November 2018 Newsletter | The Micro Gardener

What’s on the menu?

In this issue, I dish up tips on your favourite squash family vegetables with a practical grow guide; help you learn where to water your soil for the most benefit; share 7 ways to prevent plant diseases; and you’ll discover some disturbing and fascinating facts about lemons. I also share some inspiring before and after photos from a couple of my local clients’ gardens. Dig in!

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2018-11-25T15:21:54+10:00Categories: Newsletters|Tags: , , |0 Comments

5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil

Why does soil health matter? Because if you want pest and disease-free plants that are nutrient-dense to nourish your health, you need healthy soil!

5 Simple Secrets to Building Healthy Soil

“Healthy soil has an ongoing capacity to function as a vibrant living ecosystem that can sustain plants, animals and people.” – Anne Gibson

Do YOU have Healthy Soil?

There are many factors that indicate soil health including:

  • a stable pH (not too acid or alkaline);
  • good soil structure;
  • ability to hold and release nutrients to plants;
  • level of organic matter; and
  • biodiversity of soil life.

A soil test kit will help you discover what your soil pH is. Picking up a handful of soil will allow you to get a feel for its structure and how ‘alive’ it is with worms and other tiny soil creatures.

Healthy soil does not look like dead dry lifeless dirt!

If your soil looks and feels like lifeless dry dirt, you may have a lot of work to do!

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7 Sustainable Garden Design Tips

Want a productive, edible and sustainable garden? One that nourishes you with healing delicious foods? Growing your own organic food garden is one easy way to live more sustainably and tread lighter on the planet.

7 Sustainable Garden Design Tips

When you ‘shop’ for fresh ingredients from your garden, you save time and energy. Home gardeners don’t need to use huge amounts of precious water, toxic petrochemical fertilisers, expensive fuel, transport, tonnes of material and lots of land. Designed cleverly, a small sustainable garden avoids wasting resources and minimises environmental impact.

I believe being ‘sustainable’ is a lifestyle that helps sustain you physically and provides you with short and long-term benefits. Being a sustainable gardener is about making conscious choices about the actions you take and the resources you use. Giving back to the earth and not just taking from it.

Recycling food waste back into the garden is a sustainable practice

Recycling food waste back into the garden is a sustainable practice

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Summer Heatwaves in My Garden

Weather extremes – hot or cold – make it challenging to grow food. Don’t you agree? Severe conditions with intense heat and long periods of drought are especially tough to deal with.

Summer Heatwaves in My Garden - Growing Food in Hot Dry Conditions

Normally, January and February are our ‘wet’ rainy storm and cyclone season. On average, we’d have received about 360mm (14 in) by now. How much rain have we had here in subtropical SE Queensland, Australia over this time? In my garden, just 55mm (2in) all year!

On top of these unseasonally extreme dry conditions, we’ve had soaring temperatures since December. We’ve experienced the most 30°C+ (86°F) consecutive days for years. Today, it’s 40°C (104°F). Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to a forecast cooler day – just 33°C! Not to mention drying winds. Nice!

So, as a gardener, it’s essential to be flexible and learn to adapt to changing weather conditions. I’m no exception! We have to learn to accept we get too much or not enough sun or rain sometimes, and go with the flow of life. Plants adapt and we can too.

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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.

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9 Secrets for a Low Maintenance Easy Garden

Do you feel your garden is hard work? Too much digging, weeding, watering and fertilising? For minimal results?

The principles for doing less work, with greater rewards are simple. These are just a few of my secrets for creating an easy garden. Dig in!

9 Secrets for a Low-Maintenance Easy Garden - Tips include Good Design; No-dig Gardens; Choosing Plants Wisely; Mulch + more. Dig in!

 

Easy Garden Ideas

1. Good Design

  • One of the secrets to less work in your garden is thoughtful planning. You may feel overwhelmed if you aim for perfection. I spend time applying Permaculture principles to ‘design out’ potential problems. You can refine and add to your plan later.
  • Begin one project at a time. A simple DIY edible planter is a good place to start. Once you gain confidence, you can create the next element in your garden.
  • Locate your edible containers and food gardens close to your kitchen for easy access.

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