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I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

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Sprouts is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.


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Watering Your Small Kitchen Garden

There may be as many opinions about watering a small kitchen garden as there are gardens in the world. Of course, plants need water to grow. Many articles make specific and even forceful statements about a kitchen garden’s actual needs. But don’t let these articles scare you into working harder than you need to, or running your tap water into the ground.

An article written by Carly Romalino that appeared yesterday in a blog called South Jersey Life, provides some useful insights into the small kitchen garden. It suggests, for example, that beginners might start with tomatoes, and then add herbs and peppers as they gain experience. I’m all for tomatoes. In the words of at least one garden store operator: Tomatoes are weeds. When I first settled in rural Pennsylvania, I landed work in Connecticut and realized I’d be home only one weekend a month through the first growing season. I planted tomatoes—if any garden plant would produce with near total neglect, it would be a tomato plant.

Romalino goes on to encourage gardeners to plant vegetables now, listing spinach, broccoli, rabe, squash, and raspberries as good candidates. I add lettuce, peas, beans, and carrots to that list, but suggest caution if you’re much farther north than Pennsylvania. Our gardens will continue to grow into October, but gardens farther north may get frost-kill several weeks earlier. The most cold-resistant common vegetables are lettuce, spinach, peas, and some members of the cabbage family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts). Of course, the edible portions of root crops handle cold well, though the tops may die off with an early frost.

But, How Much to Water?

Romalino quotes Lorraine Kiefer, a professional horticulturist who tells us, “’Don’t even think about planting if you aren’t going to water at least twice a week with a soaker hose.’” The article goes on to say, “Overhead irrigation causes fungus and rot, but can be avoided with soaker hoses that lay on the ground and have holes that allow water to seep directly into the soil.”

This is where we differ. You must keep the soil moist if you want seeds to sprout. It might mean watering daily for as many as two weeks, depending on what you’ve planted and whether you get rain. After that, you shouldn’t let the ground become parched… however, you don’t need a soaker hose, and you don’t need a rigid twice-a-week watering schedule. Have you gotten rain lately? Do the plants look healthy, and are they a little bigger each day?

In truth, if your garden plants develop fungus and rot, it’s likely that you’re watering too much. Once the vegetables establish themselves in my small kitchen garden, I let them tell me when to water—and I hose them down by hand. This has been a dry summer, but I’ve watered my tomatoes only twice in the past six weeks. Still, the plants are nearly seven feet high, and I’m harvesting dozens of large fruits weekly.

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