Caring for your garden during a drought


PINEDALE – Sublette County remains in drought conditions created several months ago.

This has brought hardship to multiple facets of the community. Ranchers depend upon moisture for their operations. Local forest service entities have warned about the wildfire dangers while fires rage in Carbon and Johnson counties.

One casualty of the lack of precipitation can also be a garden. Without a proper response, gardens can succumb to drought conditions and yield little to no fruits or vegetables.

There are ways, of course, to be prepared. Dominique Charles, an avid gardener herself, a garden consultant and founder of Plots & Pans – a renowned gardening website – listed a few tips for saving vegetable gardens during dry conditions. Some of those tips included how to establish a healthy foundation for a garden.

Set up for success

A proper soil mixture with ample nutrients planted before drought conditions goes a long way.

“I’m big on setting a strong foundation,” Charles said. “Having good soil will get you ahead of the game, so by the time you get to a drought, your foundation is already strong.”

She said soil combined with compost or organic matter aid in deep root formation while retaining moisture.

Composting aids are available at gardening centers if a homeowner hasn’t established one. 

Add mulch

Charles suggested topping soil with about 2 ½ inches of mulch or hay to lock in moisture. Replenish sparse areas as needed throughout the drought.

Stop weeds

Keeping weeds out remains vital to keeping a healthy garden, even in a drought. Maintaining that top layer of mulch may also contribute to keeping weeds out.

“Weeding is especially essential during a drought, since weeds, like all plants, grow with water,” she said. “Remove anything in excess that could contend with the limited water supply available to your vegetable garden.”

Make a watering schedule

Charles recommended watering gardens in the early hours of the day, preferably before the sun begins to shine its harsh rays on produce. Setting a “watering alarm” could help establish a consistent routine, as well as healthy vegetation. Don’t try to overcompensate for a lack of rainfall. She suggested gardeners explore using rain barrels, which collect water through small holes, for use at a later time to water plants. 

Plot a layout

Considering a plant’s proximity to another can be very important, especially in areas prone to droughts. Do they require opposing watering needs?

“Plant like-minded things together so they get the water they require and you don’t waste resources on vegetables that don’t need it,” Charles said.

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