Help Your Garden Survive Summer Drought
Keeping your plants properly watered during dry, hot summers isn’t easy. See our article (and a video extra) with expert tips on how to deal with drought conditions in your vegetable garden.
Prioritize your watering for the most needy plants: young seedlings to help them establish, salad leaves to prevent them from wilting, thirsty fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, and container plants.
Halve the time it takes to water using a watering can - try using two! It will help you balance as you walk back and forth too. If your water source is not close to your beds, you could use a portable tank to quickly transport water to where you need it.
Avoid blasting potting soil out of containers with a strong spray from a hose by simply placing the end of the hose in a watering can. It will fill as you pour, so you can enjoy the convenience of a hose without wasting a drop.
Use water reservoirs to water potted plants. Fill up a container with water to act as your reservoir, pouring in any liquid fertilizer you’d like to apply at the same time. Place your pots in the water and leave them to soak up the liquid for an hour or more. Add a splash of water to the top of the pot before it’s left to soak to speed things up.
Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses, controlled by a timer, to take the strain out of watering and make efficient use of water. Set the timer to come on very early in the morning, while it’s still cool. Connect it to a water barrel if you can, to make the most of any collected rainwater.
See 10 smart watering tips for a healthy garden.
Success with Summer-Sown Seedlings
Persuading seeds to germinate in hot dry conditions isn’t easy. The solution is to mark out seed drills and water into them before sowing. Allow the water to drain away, then fill and drain once again. Sow your seeds into the moist drill, cover over with soil, and then don’t water again until after germination.
Young seedlings, and cool-season crops in general, will cope better with hot conditions if given a little shade. Shady areas in your garden are ideal for growing crops that prefer cool conditions, such as salad leaves, or use taller crops to shade shorter ones.
Suspending shade cloth over your plants can also help protect them during a heatwave. Remove it when the weather turns cooler.
Keep Soil Moist and Cool
Mulching helps to shade the soil, keeping it cooler, and locks in soil moisture. Use organic mulches such as compost, leaf mold or even dried grass clippings. Bulkier mulches such as bark chippings can be used around fruit trees and bushes.
Soak the soil before adding your mulch, and if it’s particularly dry, water again a few hours later. Then lay the mulch at least an inch thick all over the soil surface.
Learn more about mulching to save water and control weeds.
If you love growing your own food, why not take a look at our online Garden Planner which is available here: http://gardenplanner.almanac.com
Sometimes you can find varieties that tolerate drought better. Saving seed from plants that have survived drought also works well by taking advantage of genetic drift. I've found that plants that do well south of where I live now do well here.
I was starting a new garden during the worst drought in our area in living memory. Cape Town almost ran out of water entirely. I found cutting the bottom off a 1 or 2 litre cooldrink bottle and burying it next to a plant, tree or shrub, (obviously without the cap screwed on, and allowing about an inch of the cut end exposed above soil level to avoid the bottle filling with dirt) is a great way to get water down to the root zone without having to get it through the layers of soil. It cuts down the frequency of watering and is amazing to see plants flourishing through extreme water restrictions