Tips for Surviving a Summer Drought

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems

Continue to enjoy good harvests this summer – here are some tips to help you deal with drought conditions in your garden.


When water is scarce, prioritize what you use it for. The most needy plants are young seedlings, leafy salads, fruiting vegetables, and anything growing in a container.

If watering using a watering can, try using two at a time – it will halve the amount of time it takes to water, and will help you balance as you walk back and forth too. Or if your water source is far from your beds, use portable tank to transport water to where you need it.

Photo by Getty Images/Halfpoint

A strong spray from a hose can blast potting soil right out of containers. Avoid this by placing the end of the hose in a watering can so that it fills as you pour, meaning you can enjoy the convenience of a hose without wasting a drop.

Water pots from the bottom to save water and time. Fill up a container with water to use as your reservoir. Add any liquid fertilizer you want to use to the water. Place your containers in the reservoir and leave them to soak up the water for about an hour. You can speed things along by adding a splash of water to the top of your containers before leaving them to soak.

An automatic irrigation system using drip irrigation or soaker hoses to deliver water right to the roots of your plants, controlled by a timer, is the ultimate in water- and labor-saving. Set it to water early in the morning while it’s still cool. Fit one to your water barrels if possible to make the most of any rainwater you’ve collected.

Keeping Seedlings Hydrated

Getting seeds to germinate in hot, dry conditions can be tricky, especially seeds of cool-season crops such as lettuce. To improve germination, water the seed drill before sowing. Allow the water to drain, then fill and drain once again. Sow your seeds and cover them over with soil, but don’t water again until they’ve germinated.

Shade Your Seedlings

Young seedlings will cope more easily with the summer’s heat under the protection of some shading. Use shady areas of your garden for growing crops like salad leaves that prefer cool conditions, or use taller crops to shade shorter ones.

Shade cloth can also be suspended over plants to cast some shade. Remove it when the weather turns cooler.

Keeping Soil Cool and Moist

Using mulches of organic material such as compost, leaf mold or even dried grass clippings helps keep the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.

Water the soil well before mulching. If it’s exceptionally dry, water again a few hours later before laying the mulch.  Spread the mulch at least an inch thick all over the soil surface.

Get More Tips with These Great Gardening Resources

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

More Videos

Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.