How do you keep your vegetable garden healthy during a drought?

Ah, the question of gardeners everywhere when waiting patiently for much-needed rain.

As parts of the U.S. break high temperature records and we enter the peak summer season, the potential for drought conditions continues.

But with a plan in place, you can still enjoy your vegetable bounty, even in dry conditions.

Here are 6 ways to keep your vegetable garden healthy during a drought.

Collect and reuse rainwater.

Set out rain barrels to collect any water that does happen to fall from a passing rainshower. Use this to water your plants. 

Even in non-drought conditions, rain barrels are a sustainable way to reduce your water consumption—and save money on your water bill!

You can also set aside water you’ve used to cook pasta, rice, or potatoes to use for watering your plants.

Water only in the early morning hours.

In steady conditions, the best time to water your vegetable garden is during the early morning hours—this is even more important during a drought. Water evaporates more quickly during the peak heat of day. By watering early, water can soak into the soil before the sun’s harsh rays hit. 

If watering early in the day is a new routine for you, set an alarm to help you remember your plants need a drink.

Avoid sprinkler systems.

In a drought, every drop of water counts. A sprinkler system disperses water over a broad area, wasting precious water on areas that don’t need it, like garden pathways. 

A drip system, soaker hose, or watering by hand is a more efficient and targeted way to make sure your plants stay hydrated. If you have a soaker hose, you can cover it with mulch. This allows the water to soak directly into the ground, while the mulch reduces evaporation and keeps the moisture in the soil.

Reduce water evaporation with mulch.

Mulch is a veggie garden’s BFF. Make sure your vegetable garden has a 3 – 4 inch layer of mulch. Not only does mulch keep the soil cool and reduce water evaporation (two important things during a drought), but it also cuts down on weeds.

Speaking of weeds…

Keep your garden weed free.

Weeds compete with your vegetable plants for water—a precious commodity during a drought. Keep a keen eye on your garden for any weeds attempting to make a home among your vegetables.

Say no to chemical fertilizers. 

At Stoney Creek Farm, we avoid the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers altogether. In a drought, it’s even more necessary to avoid chemical fertilizers; chemicals and salt can build up in the soil due to a lack of rainwater to wash them away, harming your plants in the process.

Organic compost, compost tea, and vermicomposting are three natural ways to fertilize your garden. Adding organic compost to your garden also plays double-duty during a drought, since the organic matter will increase the soil’s capacity to retain water.