Dry Season Vegetable Production

Asked August 5, 2013, 5:49 AM EDT

Hello All-

I am working in West Africa, in the country of Mali with an NGO focused on agriculture development. We are working on providing extension services and inputs to rural farmers for vegetable production. We would also like to start using new techniques and crops that are more suited for the dry season of October to May. From October to February it is bone dry but cooler and from February to May it is bone dry and very hot. Irrigation is non existent.

I am doing some field trials with using the waffle planting method used by the Zunis in the dry southwest and I was curious if anyone has any other ideas about methods and vegetable crops that are well suited for the dry season where only hand watering is available.

Thank you in advance!

Outside United States

1 Response

The guide is; Collect all the moisture you can, and hold onto it for as long as you can. - Aside from the use of sunken beds (waffle gardens) , buried clay pot irrigation is another ancient water-saving method used in areas of perennial drought like Mexico, Central America, Asia and Africa. This method is estimated to be two times as effective as drip irrigation and 10 times more efficient than conventional surface irrigation. Large earthen jars were used 2,000 years ago, but unglazed clay pots work just as well today. If you’d like to try this method in your own garden, here’s how to do it: Select any size clay pot and cover the hole at the bottom with masking tape. Fill in the drainage hole with silicon caulk and let dry. Then bury the pot to its lip in your garden. Next, place plants or seeds near the container. Fill the pot with water and cover with a simple lid, like a planter saucer. Continue to fill the pot with water as needed throughout the season. The water will slowly seep through the pores of the pot, keeping the surrounding soil moist. Delivering water directly to plant roots like this has two advantages: Plants receive a constant supply of water during the growing season, and weeds are kept to a minimum. You can use this buried clay pot irrigation method to grow annuals, perennials and even container gardens. Another gardening method borrowed from the ancients is companion planting eg. Native Americans understood the benefit of planting corn, beans and squash together. This vegetable combination is called the “three sisters” because the plants complement each other. The corn provides tall stalks for the pole beans to climb, and the beans help replenish the soil with important nutrients. The large squash leaves serve as a living mulch to maintain soil moisture and choke out weeds. You can plant the three sisters in your own garden in the same hill, or try it in a waffle garden. Simply plant the corn in the middle of the hole, with the beans surrounding the corn and the squash planted in one or two corners. Native Americans survived for centuries in the desert by harvesting rainwater to grow their crops. Today’s smart gardeners can still tap into these ancient strategies to make the most of every drop.