Watering

In your cash garden, keep your plants growing as fast as possible. Don't let them go through dry spells or get to the point of wilting. This will subject them to water stress, which not only affects their rate of growth, but in most cases alters their taste. It produces bitter lettuce, coarse radishes, tough carrots, and tasteless tomatoes and corn. Water stress occurs when the plant can't take up enough moisture from the roots to the leaves. This can happen on avery hot day when the sun is drying the moisture out of the leaves faster than the roots can replenish it. It can also occur even when the sun isn't out, if you are having a dry spell with little moisture in the soil.

To avoid water stress, set up a regular watering schedule. I recommend dipping sun-warmed water by hand from a bucket. Since your garden will be much larger than a typical square foot garden, you'll need a couple of buckets. One trick to having enough

These are the tools for watering. A pail and a cup are fine for individual plants such as lettuce and cabbages. For more extensive watering, use a hose with a spray nozzle and a shut-off valve near the nozzle.

warm water is to leave a hose coiled up in the sun, have it dripping into one bucket while you're using another, and have a third in reserve. With three buckets you should have no trouble keeping ahead of the game and having a full bucket ready at all times.

If you live in a very hot climate, have sandy soil, or have a very large garden, you might want to form your soil into the hill-and-furrow shape described earlier. This can be done with or without the paper mulch described. Now it's very easy to water using a hose extender, shut-off valve, and spray nozzle. Just move the nozzle up and down each furrow. Your shut-off valve can be adjusted so the water pressure won't wash the soil or young plants away. By coiling an extra length of hose in the sun, you'll get warmer water so the plants aren't put into shock.

Watch Your Plants

Take advantage of the time you spend watering to get close to your plants. Be observant. Look for any pest damage; determine if the plant is ready for harvest; notice growth, soil conditions, and anything else that may affect your garden. One advantage a square foot garden has over a single row garden is that it is so small that you have time to look at each individual plant as you water it by hand.

Too much moisture can also damage your crops. While it's unlikely that you'll actually overwater them, it is possible to have too much rain. Then it's time to throw on those wire cages and cover them with clear plastic. This keeps out all the moisture but lets in the air and light. (Don't cover the sides, just the top.) This technique will help your soil drain. Since you provided that perfect soil, it should drain quickly. Your plants will not become waterlogged and they'll continue to grow in the light that's available.

If too much rain is a problem, protect your plants with a sheet of plastic.
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