Ongoing drought conditions in the west mean serious trouble for those of us who rely on vegetable gardens to feed our families. Without water, it’s nearly impossible to grow a crop which is why I’m changing what type of vegetables are going into my garden this year.
So what vegetables are considered to be low water? It’s almost impossible to turn up a definitive list since it all matters on the condition of your soil, how water-wise you are in your gardening practices and where you live. Personal opinion also weighs in heavily since some gardeners weigh the yield against the watering needs when it comes to identifying low water vegetables. From my own experience in growing veggies in a high desert climate, here’s my list of vegetables that do well in low water conditions.
Low water herbs
With the exception of broad leaf herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and basil, most herbs are naturally water wise. I’ve had great success with thyme, oregano, rosemary, and sage which I only need to water about once a month.
Water wise tomatoes
I’ve experimented with all types of tomato varieties over the years and discovered that early yielding plants with smaller fruit use far less water than Beefsteak or Big Boy varieties. Cherry tomatoes (all varieties), pear tomatoes, Jet Star and Roma have amazing yields in relation to their watering needs.
Peppers have been a staple in my vegetable garden forever and do quite well with little water. Spicy peppers such as jalapenos and Anaheims fare well, so do the Bell varieties.
Most salad greens won’t make it without gobs of water, neither will beet greens or turnip greens. Leafy greens that do tolerate low water are Swiss Chard and “slow to bolt” varieties of spinach.
You can forget about growing peas and pole beans during drought conditions, though chick peas and cowpeas seem to do fine with minimal water. If you must have green beans, consider planting bush beans instead which seems to have lower watering needs.
While yellow crookneck and zucchini squash doesn’t turn up on any of the low water lists I’ve seen, it’s been my experience that they have a fantastic yield in relationship to their watering needs. Cumshaw squash also does well, however winter squashes (hubbard, pumpkin, spaghetti, acorn) produce very little for the amount of water they need to survive a summer growing season.
Wrapping up the list of low water vegetables include okra, eggplant, asparagus and rhubarb. What I particularly like about asparagus and rhubarb is that they are perennials and once established require no water at all since they start their growth in the early spring while the ground is still moist. Also worth a nod (though I’ve never tried eating it) is Prickly Pear cactus which is growing in popularity as a drought tolerate veggie.
Having a low water vegetable garden begins with selecting vegetable varieties that don’t need lots of water. Low water veggies combined with water saving gardening practices makes it possible to continue gardening even in a drought year.
More by this contributor:
How to shade your garden during a heat wave
10 easy garden chores for early spring
How to start vegetable seeds indoors the cheap & easy way
Extensions services OSU Conserving water in the vegetable garden
Treehugger.com: 5 tips for a bountiful, water-saving vegetable garden in a Time of Drought