Caring for your vegetables
For the best possible harvest, keep your vegetables growing steadily ― without setbacks ― throughout the season.
Those started from seed sown directly in the ground usually require thinning, so that each plant will have enough space to develop properly. Thin plants when they're a few inches tall, spacing them as indicated in the descriptions here or on the seed packet.
Provide a steady supply of water from planting until harvest. Transplants need frequent watering until they're growing well; keep the soil moist but not soggy.
Rows or beds of seeds and young seedlings likewise need steady moisture, sometimes requiring sprinkling as often as two or three times a day if weather is very hot.
As transplants and seedlings grow and their roots reach deeper, you can water less often - but when you do water, be sure to moisten the entire root zone. To water your vegetable garden, you can use sprinklers, furrows, or a drip system.
Mulching the garden conserves moisture and suppresses weed growth. An organic mulch such as straw or compost will also improve the soil's structure as it decomposes, making the top few inches looser and more crumbly.
However, because organic mulches keep the soil beneath them cool, it's best not to apply them until warm weather arrives.
A mulch of black plastic sheeting, on the other hand, helps warm the soil quickly in spring. After preparing the soil for planting, cover it with black plastic; then cut small holes where you want to sow seeds or set out plants. This tactic is especially useful for growing heat-loving crops such as melons and eggplant in regions with cool or short summers.
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