Edible Ideas for Drought-Resistant Landscaping
You don’t need to sacrifice beauty or usefulness to make your garden drought-resistant. Drought-tolerant plants can bring color, shade, and texture to your landscaping while also providing your family with fresh and truly local food.
To maximize your chances for green-thumb success, shop for varieties that are bred for your local climate. Talk to a local nursery knowledgeable about local cultivars or shop at online stores that specialize in regional varieties.
Here are some great ideas for drought-tolerant, edible plants to get you started.
A well-filled herb bed is one of the most cost-effective of tricks up the home-gardener’s sleeve. Store-bought green herbs are costly, but homegrown herbs are inexpensive, easy to care for, require minimal soil inputs, and take up little space. Plus, you simply can’t beat fresh-picked herbs for flavor.
Many popular herbs, such as lavender, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, and mint, require little water to thrive once they are established, which makes the savings even greater. To maximize your herb production and minimize your water bill, separate drought-tolerant herbs from those that require regular watering, like parsley and basil. That way you can focus your watering efforts solely on the herbs where it’s needed most.
Find great ways to use herbs in our All About Herbs article.
Nothing says summer quite like majestic sunflowers nodding their vibrant yellow heads in the balmy breeze. While most gardeners plant them for their towering beauty, they also provide food in the form of their seeds. Pick the flower when its back has turned brown and the seeds will dislodge easily by rubbing two heads together or by rubbing one head with your hand.
Although they are drought-tolerant and don’t need much water to survive, theses food-producing flowers will do best if they receive at least one inch of water per week. In most parts of the country, that means just a bit of supplemental watering in the summer—with no worries about dry conditions if you leave on vacation for a week or two!
The serviceberry has been providing people with a tasty blueberry-like fruit long before Europeans brought their own species of berry plants to the United States.
This unusual bush produces showy clusters of white flowers in the spring with blue to purplish fruit later in the season. The serviceberry shrub will eventually grow to be between 6 and 18 feet tall, making it a lovely alternative to a fence that will provide some shade and privacy. The bush will grow well in full sun to partial shade. The tasty berries attract birds, so if you plan to eat the fruit, be sure to cover with some netting before they ripen.
Originally from the dry Mediterranean, fig trees are a natural choice for regions with warm, dry summers and mild winters.
These beautiful trees grow to be quite large—and pruning to control size can negatively impact the otherwise ample fruit production. If you have the space, these deciduous fruit trees can be a great way to provide cooling shade to your home and yard in the summer while still letting in much-needed light in the winter.
Other low-water, edible plants
This list of drought-tolerant edible plants is by no means exhaustive. A wide variety of plants—including artichokes, blackberries, muscadine grapes, and citrus trees—can thrive in low-water conditions while still producing food.
When searching for low-water food plants that will thrive in your area, it pays to ask around. Your state’s agricultural extension service, local nurseries, and master gardeners can provide you with a wealth of information. And don’t forget about the neighbor whose garden is the envy of the block. Most gardening enthusiasts love sharing the knowledge they’ve gained through years of experience.
Remember: Even drought-tolerant plants will need regular watering early on to get them established.