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With Mel's Mix you cannot Overwater. I repeat: you cannot Overwater.
I suggest watering by hand because it allows you the time to nurture your plants. Youre able to stop and notice how your plants are growing. You can appreciate their beauty and color, notice their blossoms and fruit. It tells you when the plant is going to be ready for harvest. It's a satisfying feeling to work in your garden with each plant. You're not standing off in the distance with a hose, which is very impersonal. Youre not opening a big valve and letting the sprinkler system take over or the irrigation water come in. (And guess what? Irrigation water is filled with weed seeds. Have you folks who live in states that irrigate ever wondered why you have to weed your single-row garden so often?) Even a drip irrigation system is impersonal—though, I must admit, efficient.
Existing watering systems give all different types and sizes of plants the same amount of water at the same time. This is not only very impersonal; its also very inefficient. If our farmers did that we'd have water shortages all around the country. Hey, wait a minute, we do have water shortages all around the country!
In conclusion, only water as much as each plant needs. And the best way to tell is from experience—the same way you know your child needs a drink. Yes, it does take a little bit of experience to raise a family, but gaining this experience brings a lot of pleasure.
Alternate Watering Methods
For those who want to use a more traditional method, there is always the hose. Yes, its a nuisance to get out or put away, and in row gardening it always seemed to be knocking plants down as it has to be dragged around the garden. Another advantage to SFG boxes is the hose won't do that anymore as the box corners keep the hose from crushing the plants.
If you do use a hose, make sure you have one of those shut-off valves right at the end of the hose so you have complete control of the force and amount of the water. I here are many short and long extension hand wands that come with a spray nozzle. This also allows you to water directly under your plants, and the nozzle on the end of the wand can be poked down and worked around the lower leaves of the plant so that most of the plant remains dry.
Leave an extra length of hose coiled in the sun to help warm the water up a little, maybe just to take the chill off tap water, but you have to be careful at the start if it's hot out and a hose full of water has been laying in the sun for some time. You don't want the water to be too hot. Do what you do when giving the baby a bottle—test the water on your wrist.
Drip, Drip, Drip
A very efficient way to water your SFG is with a drip irrigation system. I know it was designed for row gardeners, but it can be adapted for SFG just as easily. The only problem I have is it sort of takes away the nurturing and close attention paid to your plants. If you just turn a valve or worse yet, a mechanical timer turns the water on and off, you never get c ose to your plants and they will miss you.
But I must admit the watering gets done very efficiently and effectively. Try running small soaker tubes spaced every 6 inches the length of your box for complete coverage of eveiy square foot.
Some people tell me they have located their SFG on the lawn, and they have an underground sprinkler system that goes on and off automatically. What should they do, they ask? What can you do—rip up the lawn or turn off the system? No, you just live with it. I tell them to make do with what they have and just keep a bucket or two around for special plants as needed.
Harvesting your crop is the culmination of the gardening experience. The harvest should be a joyful and exciting time because, after all, this is why you're growing all these plants in the first place.
The problem with traditional gardening is that there is too much to harvest all at once. If you plant an entire row of something all at once, it's all going to be ready to harvest all at once, and it becomes an overwhelming task. Not so great for the home gardener who just wants dinner tonight, not a months worth of lettuce in one day. So, after the first few pickings, the rest becomes all drudgery.
Everything is different with a SFG. Now, every time you begin to plant something in your SFG, look the item up in a gardening book to find how many to plant per square foot. Prepare the soil, smooth it out, do the zip, zap, bing, bing, bing, bing to mark the spacing. Now, select the varieties you want from your seeds, pour some into the palm of one hand, and plant a pinch in each hole. As you smooth the soil over the seeds, water with a fine spray. T hen ask yourself, "Do I want any more than sixteen radishes all at once? They'll be ready in four weeks and they'll all come to harvest within one week." Usually the answer is "No. I really dont want any more than this. I ll wait a week or two to plant another square foot of radishes somewhere else." Right then and there you can see one of the huge advantages of your grid establishing boundaries and SFG giving you automatic control—simple and easy.
Remember that the SFG theory is to visualize the harvest. Ask yourself, "How much do I need for one or two weeks?" Then only plant that much. It takes about a minute.
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