You are on page 1of 2



Drought-Tolerant ^Gardens
What benefits does your garden provide?

A drought-tolerant edible garden can feed you

and your family, perhaps with extra to share with
your neighbors and the food pantry too. A droughttolerant edible garden boosts the nutrition in your
food, provides you with exercise and fresh air, helps
reduce your food miles, and can sequester carbon
(which helps to reduce global warming).

A drought-tolerant California Natives

garden can be a beautiful haven for bees,
pollinators, butterflies, beneficial insects, birds,
and urban wildlife.

Sustainable Gardening

Functional Landscaping
Edible plants, herbs
Wildlife habitats, restoring native plants
Use shade trees to reduce air conditioning use
Insect Pest Management (cultivating natural predators)
On-site composting
Cultivate a rich web of soil microorganisms
(helps sequester carbon)
Plant choices that match our climate
Preserve biodiversity; choose Safe Seeds
Capture and infiltrate rainwater
Treat the garden as a whole ecosystem

Gravel + suck-ulents sustainability.

For a low-water vegetable garden

1. Build great soil, rich with live soil organisms - the earthworms and all their microscopic friends. Think about what

the worms would like, and you'll have great soil. Mix in compost, to feed your worms & their friends. Cover with mulch,
to shelter your wriggly friends. Walk on the pathways, never on the growing beds, so that your worms have air pockets in
the soil. Great soil absorbs all the water you give it, with no runoff waste, and holds water longer, for much slower
evaporation. Meanwhile, the cutting edge of soil science is discovering that great soil, well-managed and rich with
microorganisms, is the cheapest and hugest carbon sink we have, with enormous power to slow down global warming.
Learn more in "The Secrets of Soil Building" ebook available at

Environmental Change-Makers Joanne's blog:




Design with water in mind. For every gallon that comes to your property -- via municipal pipes or rainfall figure

out how to keep it on your property and use it. Re-think the surface of your landscape: use grading and sunken beds to
encourage water to sink in instead of running off. Rather than sending rainwater to storm drains, capture it and channel it
to infiltration pits or tanks. Quit discarding lightly used water (graywater), and soak it into your landscape instead.
Make a garden sink to wash vegetables, and shift how you use the kitchen sink. Design vertical structures, such as vines
on trellises, both to maximize growing space and to utilize the shade spots they create.
Match your plant selections to the water reality we have. Leave tropical plants to tropical geographies. For every
vegetable plant species, generations of seedsavers have created varieties which are more tolerant of heat and drought; we
should be using these varieties exclusively. Match your plant selections to the season: cool season plants in cool season,
and warm with warm. Use hydroscaping, sorting plants in your garden by water needs; for your few water-needy plants,
put them together in a shady spot.
Learn wiser watering techniques. Water your soil, not your plants, to save water and prevent diseases. Test the
soil (the one-finger test) before you water anything, so as not to overwater. Apply water long and slow and deep. Handwatering is best for vegetables so you can observe what is happening with each plant. Consider low-tech, like ollas and
bucket-drip. If you absolutely must use tech irrigation, get a weather-sensing controller. Never water sidewalks and
asphalt; they wont grow.

Vegetables and food plants that thrive in low or ultra-low water conditions
in Southern California

Lentils need water turned off once the pods form
African basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum)
Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens)
Arugula sylvetta the small-leafed, intensely-flavored perennial Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida)
Molokheiya / Egyptian spinach (Corchorus olitorius), a mildArugula (W)
flavored green with coarse woody stems which tolerates searing
heat quite well
Chicory (W)
Nopales (Opuntia species) both the paddles and the fruit of
this large cactus are edible
Cowpea / blackeyed pea especially the varieties developed by
Par cel herb leaf celery (W)
Native Americans in the desert southwest
Fennel perennial in our area. Produces fennel seed under Quelites are a form of Lambs quarters used as greens
Quinoa source of the high-protein grain that is gaining in
severe drought conditions. Bulbing varieties needs some
irrigation to form the succulent stems we call fennel bulbs popularity, the young leaves are edible as a potherb
Garbanzo beans need water supply turned off once the pods Spanish mint / Cuban oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus)
Tomatillos, especially varieties from the desert Southwest
Italian dandelion/Catalogna chicory (Cichorium intybus) (W) Watermelons, especially varieties from the desert Southwest
Heirloom varieties (of familiar vegetable plants) that were developed for drought-tolerant conditions. For instance there are
squash, bean, melon, and corn varieties that were developed by Native Americans in the desert Southwest. There are
drought-tolerant rice varieties developed over generations in India.
Mediterranean herbs such as oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme all perennials in our area
Certain medicinal herbs, like aloe vera, lavender, calendula, California poppy, feverfew, horehound, ma huang ( Ephedra
sinica); white sage (Salvia apiana), yarrow.

Low-to-moderate water needs

Artichokes (W) since they flourish in our winter, and die

back in summer, they can tolerate summer dryness
Bay leaf (Italian Laurus nobilis or California Umbellularia
Chili peppers the hot kinds tolerate drought conditions
better than the sweet/bell kinds (F)
Citrus (lemons, oranges, tangerines, limes, grapefruit,
kumquats) most want to dry out between waterings
Fava beans (W)

Figs (F)
Feijoa / pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) (F)
Jujube / Chinese date (Zizyphus jujube)
Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus)
Strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum)
Some tomatoes some of the wilder varieties of cherry and
current tomatoes are remarkably drought-tolerant

(F) = plant itself does fine in drought conditions, however irrigation improves fruit
(W) highly drought-tolerant during Southern Californias winters, when cooler temperatures mean slower moisture evaporation

Environmental Change-Makers Joanne's blog:

You might also like