Growing drought resistant vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices

by Matilda George, NEW GARDEN GIRL
(Africa Zimbabwe, Bulawayo)

I would love your help on what to plant and at what time of the year. please advise on what drought resistant crops i could plant. i live in Zimbabwe and have this year decided to plant my own fruit, vegetables and spices.
thank you

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Megan says...
Growing drought resistant vegetables, fruits and herbs


The best thing for you to do is to find out locally what grows well and what other gardeners nearby recommend for drought tolerant vegetables, herbs and fruit. It's such a wide question with many possibilities and like all gardeners, you will find what works for you as you go along.

Even though you can grow many drought resistant plants, it is important to give them a good start. All seeds will only germinate with moisture. Young seedlings and plants need water to get established and be well settled in the ground before they can withstand harsh, dry conditions.

Once established, certainly most plants would still struggle mightily in hot and dry conditions. You would be best to leave out cooler growing veggies like peas, cabbage family, most big leafy greens like lettuce, English spinach and similar.

Some veggies love the heat but still need adequate water, so you would need to set up drip hoses, thick mulch, maybe even shade cloth. Tomatoes and vine plants like melons, etc, would be good to grow. One of the best melons for coping with dry conditions is sugar baby watermelon.

Some vegetables love the heat and are also very tolerant of drought, such as New Zealand spinach with its fleshy leaves, chard, purslane with small thick leaves, eggplant, and quite a few bean varieties, such as snap and pole beans which have short growing seasons; snake beans, sometimes called yardlong or asparagus beans; garbanzo beans, often called chickpeas, moth beans which are common in India, the dessert growing tepary bean, and the hardy black-eyed peas or cowpeas.

With fruit trees, often you need to coddle them along for several years until they are well established and can stand the drought conditions. Some fruit trees don't mind some drought and heat but need cold winter for the fruit to set after blossoming. Some of the, what we call here, exotic fruits, you would find easy to grow, such as kumquats and loquats, plus many citrus varieties.

The woody stemmed herbs grow well in hot dry conditions. Try sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and savory. Do make sure that the soil is loose enough so that their roots can go as deep as possible where it is cooler and sometimes some dampness.

A golden rule with growing drought resistant vegetables, herbs and fruit trees is to space them further apart than normal. Allow 1½-2 times more space between plants than usually recommended, as this allows roots to have access to a larger area to tap into for moisture.

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