Drought Strategies for a Fall Food Garden
In years with ample rainfall, gardeners can choose from a broad palette of food crops for planting in late summer for fall and winter harvests. But with an especially hot and dry summer expected to last into early fall or longer, it makes sense to tailor late-season planting for drought conditions.
A fall food garden under drought conditions requires advance planning. Here are several considerations:
- Limiting the size of a food garden when less water is available.
- Determining the best time to plant.
- Considering a delay in planting until cooler months with a greater chance of rain.
- Holding seedlings in pots until optimal planting time.
- Choose varieties with short days-to-maturity (DTM).
- A shorter DTM allows for planting later and harvesting earlier when it is cooler and rain is more likely.
- For example, a baby Japanese turnip variety will be mature in 30 days after direct seeding whereas one of the globe-type turnips will mature in 60 days or longer.
- Aim to bring semi-hardy, cool-weather vegetables to maturity and cold-hardy cool-weather crops to near-maturity before November 18. Later weeks and months in Sonoma County experience less than 10 hours of daylight that causes crops to stop growing. (Count back from this date using your varieties’ DTM to determine planting dates. See link below.)
- Plant only what your family will eat. This is not the time to overplant—an over-abundance of vegetables requires more water.
- Stay within your water allotment. Facing severe water restrictions, this may mean only one 4x8 ft. bed, for example, or only one or two large pots.
- Add compost to the planting area. It increases water retention in your crops’ active root zone and fortifies the soil.
- Cover the soil with mulch to reduce evaporation.
- Use re-purposed water captured while the shower is warming, or save water used to wash produce. Experiment with other water-saving techniques.
- Install drip irrigation, the most efficient way to deliver water to your crops. (See link below.)
- Determine precisely how much water your food garden needs to prevent overwatering and waste.
- Use structures, shade cloth, tall plants and/or other items such as outdoor furniture and umbrellas to create shade to protect tender greens when hot weather spikes or to block wind that dries out plant foliage.
- Food Gardening with Less Water
- You Can Food Garden in a Drought
- Drought Gardening Tips (YouTube video)
- Fall Garden Sowing/Planting Dates, How to Calculate
- How Much Water Does My Food Garden Need