Keep those weeds OUT.No matter how you "till it," maintenance comes with the job of gardening. Er- I mean the joy of gardening. Gardening is a joy, especially when the business of upkeep is kept to a minimum and managed with smarts!
What kind of work are we talking here? Weeding. *gasp* The horror!
In the weeds...
If given the chance, weeds will crowd out your plants in the span of one sunny afternoon, water or no water. It's actually an amazing feat when you stop to think about it. No water, no food-shoot... some weeds don't even need sun! (I have several growing under my weed paper to prove it). Not kidding.
Upgrade your weed paper to heavier and darker but don't toss it out altogether because it's an important part of weed prevention. Most weeds will succumb. Line your rows, your walkways, your borders and by all means cover any unused beds with the weed paper.
Don't have any paper? A heavy layer of mulch-hay, pine straw or bark to name a few will do. Left long enough, they'll also provide you with a "pseudo" compost effect. I do like to multi-task. Speaking of multi-tasking, you have other chores to ponder as you stroll through your garden, like water, food, pinching, pruning, plucking...
You get the idea. There's a lot to be done, so don't dilly-dally... get busy!
Right way to water...
Successful watering is all about conservation. It's a precious resource and spraying it willy-nilly through the air via your sprinkler is NOT preferred. Use a drip line or soaker hose. Perhaps your space is small and not worth the effort of installing a drip line. Consider the old-fashioned watering can. They do work! As do hoses.
Related: Feeding Your Plants, Au Natural
If you must resort to a sprinkler system of some kind, be sure to water in the early morning hours or late afternoon/evening. This will reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation. In the spirit of beauty sleep and busy schedules, you'll also want to utilize a timer. It's convenient, consistent and never forgets. Unlike some gardeners I know.
Either way, without a good watering system, your plants are toast. Literally. But how much water? Think of what you're growing. Garlic and okra don't require as much water as squash or eggplant. You know this by the makeup of the vegetable itself. Juicy equates to lots of water. Dry equates to minimal. Simple!
Some plants vary in their water needs, depending on their stage in the growing cycle. For example, beans require low water at planting, medium amounts at flowering and heavy during harvest (when they're in full production mode). "Know what you grow" is my motto.
Read your labels, buy a book, ask a specialist, but keep in mind consistency is the key. Plants don't like to dry out any more than we do. Also, pinching and pruning can make all the difference in the world in focusing growth where it needs to be focused. By eliminating tiny suckers and/or scraggly limbs, you direct your plant's full energy into the main stems. So pinch those tiny growths between your tomato stems and remove a bloom here and there. Trim back sprawling zucchini and winding cucumbers. Cut back spindly okra and strawberry runners and you'll see an increase in yield.
Now what are you waiting for? Get outside and get gardening!
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