Supports Needed

A problem you may have with this soil is that, because it's so loose and friable, heavier plants may fall over in heavy winds or rain. I'll show you how to build simple, inexpensive supports in chapter fourteen.

The final step is to rake the soil level, then to decide what method of planting you will use.

The hill-and-furrow method is ideal for closely spaced plants, hot, dry climates, and areas of the country that limit the use of water for gardens. It is also ideal for plants that require uniform moisture. To plant using this method, you shape the bed into a series of furrows, spaced so that seeds can be planted at the proper distance apart and in the bottom of each furrow. Thus, when the bed is watered, the moisture runs to the bottom of the furrow where it is most needed.

In arid areas, shape your soil into hills, then plant on the lower levels. Plant lettuce 6 inches apart, beans, 4 inches, and carrots, 3 inches.

Plant lettuce in dish-shaped depressions, for easier watering later.

Cup-and-saucer planting is best for widely spaced plants such as peppers and eggplants, which won't be injured if the saucer fills in during a heavy rainstorm.

Cup-and-saucer planting is placing each plant in a saucer-shaped depression about the width of the full-grown plant and about one inch deep. By watering in these saucers, you ensure that the moisture goes down to the roots, and that you're not watering where you will encourage the growth of weeds.

For those who want the ultimate in water conservation, try my New York Times garden (sometimes called the Chicago Tribune garden). It combines the hill and furrow shape with a mulch of newspapers. First, shape the soil to the spacing of whatever you're planting. Then lay down a six-page thickness of newspaper to cover the hills. You can leave a one-inch strip of soil showing at the bottom of the furrow if you're planting seeds. If you're putting in transplants, you might cover all the soil with newspaper and then poke a hole in the paper for each plant, using a knife.

No weeds can grow through the paper, and all water rolls down the hill and into the furrow.

Soil preparation is going to be not only the most expensive part of your garden, but the most work as well. Don't skimp on this step because it is the entire foundation of your business. Without good growing soil, you will constantly struggle to produce a decent crop.

You should hear the comments of gardeners who have switched to the square foot method and have taken the time, trouble, and expense to obtain the perfect soil. They say it's like a whole new world of gardening. It really makes that much difference.

So start small and build only as many boxes as you can fill with a perfect soil mix. Don't be tempted to fill them with a load of topsoil or bags of $1.29 black soil on sale, or even the soil in your garden. Stick with the perfect soil mix and enjoy gardening like you never have before.

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