Vegetable gardening is hugely popular these days. It is not only practical, it’s fun, for kids as well as adults. Those of us who now have to focus on water conservation can still enjoy growing the foods we love. The key is choosing varieties that are able to thrive with minimal water.
That’s not really a problem, because the list of drought tolerant veggies is pretty impressive. Across the country, gardeners are more conscious than ever about using sustainable growing practices, especially minimizing water. In response, nurseries continue to develop hybrid vegetable varieties that are drought tolerant. Many also offer entertaining features such as unusual colors. You are guaranteed to find some of your long-time favorites as well as new future faves.
Here are just 10 ideas to help get you started on a garden for a drought tolerant landscape:
1. Black-eye Peas
Black-eye peas, also known as cow peas, are actually a type of bean. They grow best in warmer climates where the temperatures remain moderate throughout the night. Full sun is also a requirement. While they do need sufficient moisture to germinate, they do not require as much as other types of beans.
There are several varieties of cantaloupe that will fit nicely into your home garden. Consider honeydew or Catawba, too. Short on space? Try one of the newer (and super-tasty) mini-melons.
“Sugar Baby” is a smaller watermelon that is also one of the sweetest. It grows on a more compact vine and requires less water than plants that produce traditional jumbo melons. Watermelon is a good kid project, because it is so easy to grow.
Eggplant varieties are not only ornamental in the garden, with their lavender flowers and fuzzy grayish-green leaves, they are nutritious as well. Smaller Japanese varieties mature quickly and are perfect for summer grilling.
Surprised? Most spinach varieties prefer cool weather, but New Zealand spinach actually thrives in heat, making it a great candidate for your drought tolerant veggie garden. You can harvest leaves right up until the first frost.
6. Mustard Greens
Add a little zip to your salads and other dishes with mustard greens. The flavor can range from spicy to mild, and the plant can come in a range of greenish-purple hues.
If you love crawfish gumbo, it makes sense to grow okra. “Clemson spineless” okra is one of the most popular varieties. It’s flavorful, spineless as the name implies, easy to grow, thrives in warm, dry climates, and matures in just a few weeks.
8. Pole Beans
Also known as snap beans, you can grow these fast-growing vining veggies on a pole or any kind of trellis, free-standing, along a wall or fence, or to create a summer privacy screen. Try Golden Gate, an outstanding Romano variety that is a pretty butter yellow. The beans get big, but they’re never tough. Green beans come in purple and speckled varieties, too.
9. Black Aztec/Blue Corn
Also known as Indian corn, blue corn varieties thrive in extremely dry climates. Corn requires ample water to germinate, but once growth has started, it will continue with only modest amounts. Blue and variegated varieties of corn make excellent tortillas, cornbread and other items made from ground corn, not to mention lovely dried arrangements for fall. Look for “strawberry” corn, just three inches long with tiny red kernels.
10. Chile Peppers
Jalapeno, poblano, and their many chile pepper cousins are native to dry-climate areas, so they are ideally suited for drought resistant veggie gardens.
Aside from planting drought tolerant varieties, there are other steps you can take to grow veggies in drought or low-water conditions. Bon appétit!