Grow vegetables at home with less water by watering by hand, watering in the morning when the weather is cooler to reduce evaporation and water at the base of your vegetables. Use mulch around vegetables 2-3 inches thick, create a soil wall to direct water to the roots and use drip irrigation instead of sprayers.
Top 11 ways to grow vegetables with less water
It is wise to use less water when growing vegetables. I was living in the driest state in Australia so I was always thinking about ways to save water in my vegetable garden. Here are 11 easy ways to save water in your vegetable garden that have worked for me.
- Water by hand to give vegetables exactly the amount of water they need
- Water in the morning when the weather is cooler
- Water at the base of your vegetables
- Use mulch around vegetables 2-3 inches thick
- Water vegetables deeply
- Create a soil wall
- Add more organic matter to the soil
- Remove any weeds in your vegetable garden
- Use drip irrigation instead of sprayers
- Group pots together to create shade and catch water
- Plant vegetables that need less water
Easy ways to save water in your vegetable garden
Water in the morning
Watering your vegetable garden in the morning is a great way to give the plant the best opportunity to absorb the water while avoiding any root rot. Watering vegetables in the cool of the morning will give the soil and the plant time to take up the water.
If you water at the end of the day there is also the risk that water will sit on the leaves and may encourage fungus growth. Watering in the cool of the morning gives the best balance for your vegetables to take up the water before the weather warms up.
Water vegetables by hand
Water by hand so you can be selective about which vegetables you water and how much water you give them. Apply water by hand using a garden hose with a sprayer nozzle or use a watering can. If you use a watering can this can be an easy way to add extra liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion or seaweed solution to improve root growth.
Check the soil moisture before watering the plant and work out if the plant really needs the water. My front garden has a mix of Mediterranean herbs and shrubs which like to dry out between watering to small seeds that like to be kept damp.
By hand watering I can give each plant the right amount of water and avoid wastage or overwatering plants.
Water vegetables deeply
Giving your vegetable garden a good deep water 2-3 times per week will save you water in the long term. When you water vegetables deeply, the roots are encouraged to grow down to reach deeper, moist soil.
If you water small amounts less often, vegetable roots will stay shallow and won’t grow down to reach deeper soil water. This means your vegetables will dry out quicker.
How often you will need to water your vegetables will depend on your weather but watering deeply will give you longer times between watering.
Water at the base of your vegetables
Adding water close to the root ball of the vegetables will make best use of the water you have. Keeping water around the root zone will give your plant the best chance of using the water rather than it escaping to other parts of your garden.
I love to keep my soil moist if I can but applying water directly to the plant is the best way to save it. I like to keep my soil moist instead by using mulch which will keep any extra rainwater in.
Use mulch around vegetables and on soil
Using mulch around vegetables is my favorite way of saving water. Mulch will stop the water from being lost from the surface of the soil so you will need to water less often.
Use straw or sugar cane mulch around vegetables 2-3 inches thick. This will allow water and rain to get through to plant roots while keeping water in the soil.
Create a soil wall
For water loving vegetables create a small wall of soil around the base of the plant to hold water in when you water. Watermelon and pumpkins will appreciate this as you can direct the water straight down to the roots and the soil wall will stop it running away.
Watermelon and pumpkins will both happily grow out the top of your compost heap if you let them. To keep water around their roots, build up a soil wall so that any water you give them reaches the plant.
Add more organic matter to the soil
Adding organic matter to the soil before planting vegetables or on top of the soil as mulch will help to save water. Mix compost, worm castings or aged cow manure in vegetable garden soil before planting or scatter it around the root zone of vegetables.
Organic matter will trap and hold water in the soil for your plant meaning you need to water less often.
Remove any weeds in your vegetable garden
Keeping weeds out of your vegetable garden will mean that you need to water less. Weeds will take water away from your plants so pull them out as soon as you see them. Using mulch will mean that less weeds will grow but you will still need to check for sneaky weeds that will make it through.
Weeds will be easier to remove when you use mulch and those without seeds can be put in your compost bin, worm farm or in a bucket of water to make weed tea.
Use drip irrigation instead of sprayers
Using a drip irrigation system in vegetable gardens is a very efficient way of giving your plants water and avoiding waste. Overhead sprinklers can lose water in the air while drip irrigation will give your plants water directly near the root zone.
Lay drip irrigation before planting your vegetables and connect it to a timer so you can set the drippers for exactly the right amount of time. Test your dripper system to make sure that your vegetables are getting a deep water and adjust it as the weather changes.
Group pots together to create shade and catch water
Vegetables grown in pots will get the most out of your watering if you group them together. Large and small pots will shade each other and the soil will not lose water as quickly. It also make it easier to water as they are all next to each other and less water will be wasted around the edges of the pot.
Plant vegetables that need less water
Planting vegetables that need to be watered less often is a great way to save water. Here is a list of vegetables that will need less water to try at home.
- Eggplant or aubergene
- Bell Pepper
- Globe artichoke
- Swiss chard
Growing vegetables with less water – FAQ
Vegetables that grow with little water include kale, rhubarb, sweet potato, globe artichoke and eggplant. Cover the soil around all of these vegetables with a 2-3 inch layer of mulch. This will hold the water in well and reduce the amount that you will need to add throughout the season.
Vegetables can be grown with no to little water if the soil is prepared correctly and they are properly mulched. Winter vegetables can survive well with no additional water after they have established. Broccoli, cauliflower kale and winter strawberries will all grow through the winter in areas that receive rain without extra water.
To grow a garden with limited water choose drought tolerant plants and vegetables. Prepare the soil with organic matter like compost to help it to hold water and mulch around the plant with straw mulch laid 2-3 inches thick. Use a dripper system to deliver water to the root system of plants and minimize wastage. Test the soil first to see if it need it an only add water if the top soil is dry.
When growing vegetables in a dry area preparing the soil beforehand is the most important part to growing them successfully. Worm castings are a great addition to the soil before planting your vegetables and adding compost will improve the soil even more. Tree mulch is a great, long lasting mulch for vegetables and will only need to be re-applied after around 6 months.
Tomatoes need regular water but their watering needs can be reduced if they are mulched well. Growing tomatoes in hot areas can be a challenge if you are planning to use less water. Sudden additions of water can split the tomato after a dry spell. Mulch will help tomatoes to stay moist in warm weather but a dripper system will work best to add water close to the root system and avoid wastage.
Onions do not need a lot of water but prefer regular applications of water. Grow spring onions or shallots for a faster growing variety of onion that will still give that onion flavor, without needing the months of growing time that large onions need. This will save water in the long run and save water.
Growing vegetables with less water – final thoughts
Growing a vegetable garden with less water is a great aim even if you live in an are that does get lots of rain. Anytime we can save water that would come from our rivers or damns we will save money and help river systems to thrive.
Now that we have moved to a sub-tropical area, I still use these water wise ideas in my vegetable garden to save time, money and water. Happy gardening.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.