22. June 2018

Tips for growing vegetables in dry soil

Growing vegetables in dry soil might seem like a big challenge, but it doesn't have to be that hard! I use row cover to keep my newly sown seeds healthy, even in the middle of summer.

The soil gets really dry in a few spots that are exposed to a lot of sunlight here in the garden. My polytunnels are just one example. I produce most of my vegetables in the polytunnels and I really need to think about watering them enough.

Prepping for winter

Last year, I decided to do a sowing in July that I could start harvesting in winter and early spring. This project was a bit of an experiment, I simply wanted to know how late in the year I could start and still get a good harvest of fully grown vegetables. I filled the bed with black and purple salsify and winter carrot. Sowing summer carrots in the middle of summer is of course not a big deal, but I had not tried winter carrots (winter carrots take longer to grow and are easy to store.)


Inifrån tunnelväxthuset där potatis växer i ena bädden och den andra bädden är täckt med fiberduk. Growing vegetables in dry soil, one bed is covered with garden cloth, potatoes are growing in the other one.

The bed is around 20 feet long and 3 feet wide, I can fit 3 rows here.


Keep the soil moist with row covers

I usually only water this polytunnel when there's plenty of rainwater in my barrels outside. When I do, I give my plants a lot of water in a short period of time. The upper layers of soil are really dry in summer but the plants grow quite well anyway. I need to be more careful when I sow new seeds in this dry soil though. I have a special tip for growing vegetables in dry soil that works really well for polytunnels and out in the open on warm summer days.

Row cover is often used to protect newly sown seeds or plants from the cold. But you could also use it to prevent the soil from drying out. When you put the material over the soil, you prevent the moist from evaporating. The cover does "breathe" a bit of course, but plenty of moist is still trapped underneath.

I water my seeds straight after sowing them. I add plenty of water. And then I just put the row cover on top. The surface stays nice and moist for at least a week even though I don't water it. This will make the vegetables grow quicker.


Jord i tunnelväxthuset. Growing vegetables in dry soil, soil in the polytunnel.

The soil is cool and damp under the row cover. The soil I'm standing on is bone dry. I watered here five days ago.


Små plantor, gröna mot jorden. Growing vegetables in dry soil, little green plants.

My black and purple salsify and winter carrot are growing nicely. The black salsify has been weighed down by the row cover but will soon straighten out again.


Jord under fiberduk. Growing vegetables in dry soil, under the garden cloth.

If you're growing vegetables in dry soil, try using row cover right after sowing the seeds. The vegetables will grow faster in damp soil.


Place the row cover close to the ground

You get the best results if you put the row cover straight on the ground. If you're growing your vegetables in a raised bed (like a pallet collar) and you think it's easier to put the fabric above the soil, I would instead suggest that you cut out a piece of the row cover that fits the measurement of the bed, and put it right on top of the soil. If you leave some space between the soil and the material, the space between will turn into a miniature greenhouse. The air will be very moist when the water evaporates from the soil. But your goal is of course to keep as much water as possible in the ground. That's why you should always put the fabric close to the soil.

I remove the row cover when the seeds have germinated, partly because I don't want it to get too hot for the plants, but also because it's easier to remove snails without the cover.

I hope this post gave you some suggestions on how to get started on growing vegetables in dry soil too!
/Sara Bäckmo


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