Experts say these are the best drought tolerant vegetables to grow at home

Take that, climate change!

Garden with terracotta plants all along brick raised bed walls
(Image credit: Alamy)

Keen to grow your own food? It's well worth researching the best drought tolerant vegetables, then – especially when you consider the recent run of sweltering summers we've endured here of late.

That's right: while it's tempting to limit yourself to the easiest vegetables to grow, particularly if you're a beginner with a small vegetable garden, it's vital you pay attention to our shifting weather patterns.

'Climate change is making our weather more unpredictable with more intense rain and more regular, prolonged drought conditions,' says Mick Kelly, founder of GIY Ireland.

Mick Kelly of GIY Ireland
Mick Kelly

Mick Kelly worked in the IT industry for 10 years before starting GIY in 2008 after a chance encounter with a bulb of Chinese garlic in a supermarket.  He co-presented/produced three series of Grow Cook Eat for RTE which is now watched around the world on Amazon Prime.   He also presents and co-produced the 6-part series Food Matters on RTE 1.

So, what to plant in our raised beds if you want to ensure 'your veg can survive and thrive during a hot spell'?

The best drought tolerant vegetables

A major garden trend for this year, somewhat unsurprisingly, is planting drought-tolerant vegetables.

'One of the best things you can do is plan perennial crops that, after a year or two of care, are resilient and provide food year after year, such as asparagus and rhubarb,' says award-winning garden designer Zoe Claymore, who was recently named ambassador for the National Allotment Society.

Zoe Claymore - headshot
Zoe Claymore

Zoe Claymore is a multi award-winning garden designer based in London. She focuses on creating outdoor places with emotional connection and ecological integrity for her private and commercial clients.

With that in mind, then, here are the best drought tolerant vegetables to plant in your garden...

1. Asparagus

Purple asparagus in a vegetable garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the best drought tolerant vegetables around, it's never been a better idea to swerve extortionate supermarket and restaurant prices and grow your own asparagus.

'It's important to note that asparagus is only drought-resistant once it's been established, when you first plant your asparagus, you will need to water regularly,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex.

'After it's matured, you'll only need to water during really long dry spells,' he adds.

Where to buy asparagus seeds:

2. Swiss chard

'Swiss chard is an underrated vegetable in the UK and can survive drought due to its long roots,' says Zoe, noting that this drought tolerant vegetable actually 'prefers part shade to full sun'.

While Morris adds that 'it's important to keep the soil moist throughout the summer, watering frequently during particularly sunny spells,' this tasty vegetable will repay you with its deliciousness.

'Blanch the stalks and fry in butter, then sprinkle with parmesan,' suggests Zoe. 'It's great with fried eggs!'

Where to buy Swiss Chard seeds:

3. Squash

Squash 'Turks Turban'

(Image credit: Crocus)

If you're in the market for a truly striking drought tolerant vegetable (or fruit, if we're splitting hairs), try the not-so-humble squash.

'Once established, squash is a fantastic addition to any drought-tolerant garden,' promises Morris.

'Summer and winter squash are both drought-tolerant so you have a great choice of what to plant. When planting squash, ensure you leave plenty of room for them to grow as they can become quite large, and plant them in a sunny spot in your garden.'

Where to buy squash seeds:

4. Black eyed peas

'Renowned for being low maintenance, hardy and drought-tolerant, black-eyed peas are ideal for growing if you're a first-time gardener or someone without a lot of free time on your hands,' says Morris.

'Ensure your soil is well-drained and water minimally over the summer months to avoid overwatering.'

Where to buy black-eyed peas seeds:

5. Plum tomatoes

tomatoes in pots in greenhouse on white shelving in greenhouse

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp/Future PLC)

If you've already learned how to grow tomatoes, you're in luck; Zoe considers them to be one of the best drought tolerant vegetables (fine, fruits!) around.

'These sorts of tomatoes (like San Marzano and Roma) originally come from southern Italy and mature best when left alone, with occasional watering – especially at first,' she says.

'In Italy, they often let the plant die naturally while the tomatoes ripen, which might raise eyebrows in the UK. Tomato watering is something I don't do often as although I get a slightly smaller crop the flavour is much improved. Pick up a small potted plant now for a bounty over the coming months.'

Where to buy plum tomato seeds:

6. Okra

Another of those drought tolerant vegetables that's technically considered a fruit, Morris says okra is another brilliant option for gardeners hoping to grow their own produce even in the hottest of hot weather.

'It's one of the most heat and drought tolerant plants and actually thrives in the warmer weather,' he says.

'In fact, it can actually be difficult to grow in the UK as we don't typically see the kind of temperatures okra thrives in, but growing yours undercover in a greenhouse will do the trick!'

Where to buy okra seeds:

7. French beans

French beans climbing a rustic trellis outside a greenhouse

(Image credit: Getty)

'Surprisingly drought-resistant, French beans need less water than courgettes,' promises Zoe.

'They grow quickly in summer, with climbers being usually more productive than dwarfs. Do multiple sowings from spring to July for a longer harvest. They're versatile, and perfect for salads, stews, casseroles, or pickling. Pick up a plug from a garden centre now!'

Where to buy French bean seeds:


What vegetables are the most drought-tolerant?

There are a surprising number of drought tolerant vegetables to choose from, including asparagus, Swiss chard, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, French beans, okra, squash, and rhubarb.

Mustard greens and Jerusalem artichokes are also great to grow in hotter, drier climates.

Do vegetables need to be watered every day?

Do vegetables need to be watered every day? Not necessarily, says Mick Kelly of GIY Ireland.

'Different plants have different watering requirements,' he explains. 'In general leafy greens like sprouts and fruiting crops like beans and peas have a higher water need than root crops like carrots, parsnips and beetroot. And vegetables in pots, containers and raised beds will require more water than a regular veg garden because the water drains through them more quickly and the sides of pots can heat up when it’s sunny, thereby drying out the soil.

Knowing when and how to water is, he adds, often more important than the quantity of H20 you douse your crops with.

'Watering first thing in the morning or last thing at night minimises the impact of evaporation during warmer parts of the day,' he points out. 'And, as a general rule, you want to give a good soaking once a week rather than light watering daily.'

a water butt by a wooden shed in a garden with trellis and plant pots - Milos Ruzicka - GettyImages-1494799426

(Image credit: Getty Images/Milos Ruzicka)

Remember, healthy soil means more resilient plants. 'Digging in some farmyard manure, compost or seaweed over winter will help with water retention during your growing year,' promises Mick – as will a layer of mulch.

More importantly? Don't forget to give rain harvesting a go! 'A 200-litre water butt will cost around €60 and stores around 20 standard watering cans of water,' says Mick.

'Bear in mind the roof of the average 3-bed semi can throw off 25,000 litres of water per annum. Don’t waste it!'

And just like that, we're off to make our own drought-tolerant vegetable dreams a reality. Come join us, why don't you?

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.