Taking care of your garden and making sure your plants reach maturity can become a hustle even when perfect growing conditions are met. Imagine what it would be like to grow food when drought and heat are two constant pains in your behind. Let’s see how growing food can be achieved when the lack of water become a problem.
Some people may not find this topic interesting as they live in zones where the climate is kind with their crops and they don’t have to worry about drought and heat. However, seeing that the climate is heating up and change is upon us, it wouldn’t hurt to learn about short-season annual crops and various strategies to grow food when things are heating up. If you are a gardener like me, you should know by now that climate change is putting a lot of stress on gardens and farms everywhere. This is why, I believe, it is important to adapt to these new changes.
To adapt as best as possible to the drought and heat waves hitting our regions, we need different annual crops varieties that can grow in continually changing climatic conditions. We would need to select varieties that can withstand new strains of diseases, but that can also resist to pests and weeds. This all sounds simple, but how can one do that?
After much consideration and research, I realized that I could learn more from my southwest gardener friends than any book I could find. In fact, many of them study the plants growing in the desert and they try to get tips from their evolution. After all, these plants are the perfect example of how drought and heat can be approached. Many of these plants are drought evaders since they begin their life cycle with the onset of rains that trigger germination and they complete the cycle just as the short wet season ends.
As you can imagine, when we talk about drought and heat, short-season crops have an exceptional value when water shortages are a constant problem. These crops usually mature in 60 days and they require 25 percent less irrigation than conventional crops. For your convenience, I’ve also included a list of heat-tolerant plants that you can try if drought and heat are a common occurrence in your area.
Food growing strategies for drought and heat:
There are a few effective ways to increase crop resilience and boost food production during drought and heat waves. In fact, these strategies are our best chance of having food in a climatically uncertain future.
Get rid of monoculture
I’ve learned that the best way of succeeding when growing food throughout drought and heat is to grow several varieties of the same species in the same plot. If you mix varieties of the same species (or related), you will have various flowering times and water requirements. Even more, you will be able to analyze how the species tolerate frost and heat, and you will prevent damaging your entire harvest.
Think of planting some drought evaders
As said before, to succeed during drought and heat periods, you need plants that can evade those conditions. The so-called drought evaders should be plants that mature early and can germinate during brief wet seasons when soil moisture levels are temporarily adequate, lowering the demand for irrigation and the risk of crop failure.
Perennials are must
Using intercropping of annual and perennial varieties in regions where drought and heat are a problem becomes a must. This is a smart strategy to establish polycultures that are able to collect more rain and sun and use less groundwater and fossil fuel. Planting vegetables under canopies of fruit trees (also known as alley cropping) you can buffer the vegetable crop from temperature extremes and minimalize the damage from hailstorms.
Intercropping is the way to go
The natives used to take gardening to the next level as their harvesting season would greatly influence their way of life. Many vining plant varieties, such as pole beans and squash were used for intercropping. They were planted next to corn, millet or sorghum to climb right up the stalks. Also known as the three sisters garden of corn (corn, beans and squash) the combined yield of this planting technique would result in a higher yield than what any of these crops planted individually would produce in the same space.
Use your microclimates
Knowing your land and taking advantage of the moderate microclimates is required when fighting against drought and heat. This means that you should use the terrain from your surrounding landscape to your advantage by matching crop needs with each agro-habitat.
Growing food in drought and heat affected regions will provide you with some hard-earned lessons. By the time you get it right, a lot of your crop will suffer. However, you can create your “boosters” by planting local varieties that are designed specifically for the natural environment of your homestead. In time, you will be able to observe the plants that do best and I recommend you save seeds from the plants that thrive.
Crop varieties recommended for drought and heat affected regions
I’ve tried many varieties for my garden and I’ve had a lot of help from my experienced friend. If you want to evade drought and hear, but also other climate disruptions, you should pick short-season crop varieties for your garden. Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Tiny Tim – usually, it takes around 45 days to harvest
- Native sun – 50 days to harvest
- Orange king – around 55 to 60 days to harvest
- Porter – 65 days to harvest
- Ozark pink – around 65 to 70 days to harvest
- Snake melon (also known as the Armenian cucumber) – 50 days to harvest
- Beit Alpha – around 56 days to harvest
- Edmonson – around 65 to 70 days to harvest
- Golden call wonder – around 65 days to harvest
- Belle Charleston – around 65 to 70 days to harvest
- Tabasco Short Yellow – 75 days to harvest
- Six week browneye – 42 days to harvest
- Brown Crowder – 55 days to harvest
- Bisbee black – around 65 days to harvest
- Harisnoso de Ocho – 55 days to harvest
- Black Mexican – 62 days to harvest
- Black Aztec – around 70 days to harvest
- Foordhook Giant- 60 days to harvest
- Perpetual spinach – 70 days to harvest
- Applegreen – 62 days to harvest
- Turkish Orange – 65 days to harvest
- Aswad – around 70 days to harvest
- Ichiban – around 70 days to harvest
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- Blue coco – 55 days to harvest
- Rattlesnake – 60 days to harvest
- Henderson Bush – 60 days to harvest
- Alabama Blackeyed – around 60 to 65 days to harvest
- Willow leaf – 65 days to harvest
- Casaba Golden Beauty – 90 days to harvest
- Desert king – 85 days to harvest
- Arkansas black – 85 days to harvest
- The Georgia Rattlesnake – around 90 days to harvest
These are my recommendations and if you have any other crops that you would need to let us know about, please use the comment section at the bottom of the article. I would love to hear about other crops that you have succeeded growing in drought and heat affected regions.
Short-seasoned crops have exceptional value in a world where Climate Change is no longer just a movie script. In an era of water shortage, we should be able to adapt and face an uncertain future. We either try to improve our growing techniques or we wait on others to feed us, and eventually go hungry. Using the recommended techniques and the crops listed in this article, will not only ensure you have something to harvest and put on your table, but it will also help you conserve water and energy.