Water-Wise Plants For Your Kitchen Garden

Summer is here, and while that usually means rain, it can also mean long periods of sun beating down on your garden. Here are the plants most likely to survive!

Give them a good start

Even plants that are classified as water-wise need a good start in life. Give them that, and when they’re established they will be fully equipped to deal with whatever the sun throws at them.

We recommend a good-sized planting hole improved with a top-quality organic fertiliser, some bonemeal for root development, and some added organic matter in the form of compost.

Once planted, make sure to give the plant a really good watering and then repeat this until the plant is well established. Mulch around the base of the plant will make it even more resilient.

The herb garden

Herbs are for more than just windowsill gardens – some of them can be incredibly effective and beautiful in a water-wise garden. Here are some herbs that will shrug off the sun to thrive in dry conditions:

Oregano is a staple in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines, its pungent, earthy flavour used widely in all manner of dishes. It loves well-draining soil and full sun conditions, and needs space to spread – it will form a low, bushy mound that will need to be clipped so as to not become leggy.

Chives are drought tolerant once established, and are a more useful herb in the kitchen than they are credited with. Plant in full sun and water when the soil has dried out. Snip off a few leaves when you need a subtle onion flavour in a meal, and enjoy the pretty flowers in the garden.

Sage gives us a clue as to how it copes with dry conditions – its silvery-green leaves. Plants with silver or grey leaves are often very drought hardy, as the lighter colour reflects sunlight, reducing the temperature of the leaves and therefore the amount of moisture they lose. Sage is very useful in the kitchen, but it deserves its place in the garden for its handsome appearance alone.

Marjoram is a delicate and aromatic herb that is known for its mild and slightly sweet flavour, and is often used to add a subtle herbal taste to soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. Marjoram is also used in herbal teas for its potential relaxation and digestive benefits. Low-growing and spreading, it is a really low-maintenance plant.

The vegetable patch

Chickpeas are grown around the world in dry areas, so there’s no reason why they won’t thrive in your garden, even without pampering. The peas are packed full of nutrients and energy, and they’re delicious too!

Carrots are full of crispy deliciousness because they are a store of food and water to keep the plant going through dry conditions. That said, they’ll taste better if you do give them regular water. Remember that carrots are a cool-weather crop, so plant them in autumn.

Jerusalem artichokes produce beautiful sunflower-like blooms on stems up to 2m high. Once the plant has died down in winter, a scrabble around its base will reveal a treasure of edible tubers. These allow the plant to survive all conditions, and the following spring you will have more green shoots poking through the soil.

Okra is a plant that many of us aren’t used to eating, never mind growing, but it is as tough as it is delicious. Full sun, well-draining soil and warm weather will give you a great crop – you might have to stake the plants if they grow too tall.

For more information visit www.lifeisagarden.co.za

The Gardener