Preparing your garden for extended dry periods and drought.


Following on from my blog about preparing your garden for extremely hot days, and as we head into summer, I thought a bit of advice of preparing your garden for extended dry periods would be appropriate.

The 1997-2009 drought in eastern Australia was one of the longest and most severe droughts the country has experienced, with annual rainfall 12% below the long-term average. This month we have only had 5mm of rain, when on average in November we get 90mm. Admittedly the month is not over but having been out digging in the garden this week, most areas are dry. We have had a warmer than average spring, with lower than average rainfall and the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting that this November to January period will be warmer and drier than normal. Now I am not saying we are in drought again, but as gardeners in Australia we should always be prepared for extended dry conditions. So here are a few tips on what can we do to counteract expected increase in occurrence, duration, as well as the severity of extended dry periods and droughts.

For your annual vegetable and herb garden, install enough rainwater collection devises to enable you to water annual plantings. Make sure there is enough capacity to get you through the dry times. This obviously has to be balanced with the amount of space they take up.
Be creative! Often in the vegetable garden where you have plants at various stages of growth and having different water requirements, hand watering may be the most effective form of watering.
Just a few tips here:

  • Water in the mornings and avoid wetting the foliage, this easy if you have a long handled water breaker on your hose.
  • Water thoroughly to encourage deeper root growth. Always check the depth the water has penetrated by moving aside any mulch and sticking your finger into the soil, if soil is not moist to at least a finger depth then continue to apply until it is.
  • Apply Seasol regularly during hot, dry weather to improve the hardiness of your plants.
  • Mulch. This should be applied at least 10cm thick which will reduce evaporation and reduce soil temperature which will reduce the plants use of soil moisture.
  • Mulch also adds organic matter to your soil. Adding organic matter to your garden increases the humus content of the soil and this acts as a reservoir of moisture, both capturing available moisture and making it available to plants as they need it.

using a long handled water breaker

For your ornamental and permanent food producing plants planning is the key here:

  • Plan you plant selection with extended dry periods and water restrictions in mind. Once established, that is getting newly planted plants through their first summer, permanent plantings, particularly ornamentals, should survive on rainfall only. However in the case of food bearing plants this needs to be balanced with your need for production. Here a decision has to be made as to how you will supply supplementary irrigation to your food producers, often the solution again is by installing rainwater collection devises and Installing water efficient irrigation (drip or underground porous hoses) to maximise the usage of the water you do have.
  • Grow plants that are drought hardy, often these are local indigenous plants or those from arid areas or plants from similar climatic zones around the world such as the Mediterranean, California, Mexico and the Western Cape Province of South Africa.
  • Group plants according to their water requirements; this is an effective way of using water and reduces unnecessary watering of plants that will survive on rainfall only.
  • Apply fertilisers sparingly and apply in a slow release organic form which will encourage strong hardy plants, as soft growth will not withstand extended dry periods and drought.
  • Mulch, mulch and more mulch.
  • Grow trees – they have a much deeper root system, enabling them to search out and reach available moisture in the ground; they cool the surrounding area and reduce evaporation particularly for plants growing underneath them, which reduces their water needs.
  • Reduce lawn areas as they are very water reliant. Where you need/want a lawn choose drought tolerant species suitable to your location and water thoroughly to encourage deep root growth.

So with a little bit of planning and good management, our gardens should not only survive during extended dry periods but be productive as well.

Are you suffering from a bit of dryness in your area? I would love to hear about what you are doing in your garden to help your garden. You can share pictures, tips and tricks on my Facebook Page, Twitter page or via Pinterest.
Happy gardening, Kathy

Posted on November 15, 2014 in SUMMER

Share the Story

About the Author

Responses (11)

  1. […] – Always try to increase your humus content of the soil as it acts as a reservoir of moisture. – Always water your garden thoroughly till the soil is soaked to a good depth to encourage deeper root growth. This is extremely important for lawn which will suffer during hot weather. Obviously the depth of soaking will depend on the plant, for annual plantings and lawn soak to at least 20cm whereas for large established shrubs and trees you want a long deep soaking of about ½ meter. – Give the garden a good soaking just before an extremely hot day or extended heat wave. – Mulch heavily, at least 10cm think -only ever mulch soil that is moist, so a good soaking before you apply. – Apply wetting agents to soil that has become difficult to wet (Hyrophobic) and as a matter of cause apply to potted plants once a month during the warmer months. – On an extremely hot days water thoroughly in the morning before it is too hot( before 9.00am), if things start to wilt during the day, water the soil around the plant again, but try not to get any on the foliage as this can cause burning of the foliage. – Apply seaweed extract (like Seasol) before an extremely hot day as it will help protect the plant. – Build a frame over tender plants and cover with shade cloth; this is especially important for young seedlings. – Grow your softer foliage plants like lettuce and silver beet in the shade during the hottest months. – During the hotter months avoid growing plants that “bolt” easily in hot weather, like coriander and lettuce or plant in a cool shaded position. – If you have plants in pots move them into the shade before an extremely hot day or for the duration of a heat wave. Next week: What to do during drought. […]

  2. Saving the Apple crop! | myproductivebackyard
    November 23, 2014 at 12:24 am · Reply

    […] netting. I also found fruit fall which led me to conclude that the trees are stressed due to this long, hot dry period we are having. Normally in the meadow I do not have to  supplementary irrigate my established trees so I am […]

  3. […] on with how to prepare your garden for extreme weather events, the next few blogs will cover thunderstorms. Thunder storms usually bring lighting, heavy rain […]

  4. A Changing of the Seasons | myproductivebackyard
    February 22, 2015 at 12:22 am · Reply

    […] about 10cm high. Growing seedlings in pots can be a bit risky for me at this time of the year, as we are still getting some hot days and if I miss a day’s watering I can lose the crop. The ground does not dry out quite as quickly […]

  5. Bumper Apple crop | myproductivebackyard
    March 15, 2015 at 9:54 pm · Reply

    […] to the ground with paves or lengths of old wood. This takes two people about ½ an hour. Water- if the season is extremely dry I will supplementary irrigate a couple of times during […]

  6. […] As a general rule water annual plants, such as Basil and Parsley, at least weekly (more often in very hot dry windy weather) where as perennials, such as rosemary or bay tree, a good soaking once a week in dry weather, […]

  7. […] early in the morning so moisture is available all day for plant growth. • Try not water in the heat of the day as plants may “burn” and evaporation will be high which wastes […]

  8. […] Excessive heat and strong winds are booth extreme weather conditions that can also cause fruit fall. It can be difficult to protect large in ground trees, which is one of the reason I grow a number of citrus, including the finger lime, in pots (on casters).This allows me to move them into a more sheltered position in times of adverse weather. […]

  9. […] find you will need to water your citrus a least weekly in cooler months, twice weekly in summer and daily on extremely hot days or when there is a hot dry wind blowing. I like to apply a liquid wetting agent once a month in […]

  10. […] old wood. This takes two people about ½ an hour. You can read about it here. Water– if the season is extremely dry I will supplementary irrigate a couple of times during […]

  11. […] and healthy by providing them with optimal growing conditions. This is especially important in hot weather where it is necessary to keep the water up to them. I also like to keep my pots in as natural an […]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seventeen − 5 =

Back to Top