I combine mulching and watering in step 5 because they have so much in common. In my own garden I have found that mulching not only helps keep the weeds from taking over your garden it also conserves moisture and moderates soil temperature.
You can use many different methods of applying water to your garden but I have found that some type of slow dripping water directly at the base of the plant that will get the water to the rootzone and keep the leaves of the plant dry is the best by far. Keeping the leaves dry will cut back on diseases from fungi and bacterial infection that need moisture to survive.
You can find different types of drip irrigation supplies at home improvements stores and online. I have used a source online called DRIPWORKS to order the pipe and supplies. They have simple kits that you can use to get started. Your drip irrigation can be installed under the mulch you are applying to your garden.
Mulching has so many benefits to an organic vegetable garden. Mulching will conserve moisture, smother weeds, moderate extreme temperatures, prevent diseases, prevent erosion, add organic matter back to the soil and it adds an attractive covering for the soil.
You can approach mulching two ways. Either mulch the garden first and plant your pre-started plants through the mulch and into the soil or plant your seeds directly into the soil and when the seedlings are large enough apply mulch around them. Always remove weeds from the garden before adding mulch because some weeds are strong enough to come up through the mulch. I apply mulch 2 to 3 inches deep and pull it up next to the plant.
The kind of mulch you use in the garden can vary. I have used wood chips, leaves, straw, paper, cardboard, plastic and different types of fabric. The thing to remember is that you don’t want to incorporate things that are not decomposed back into the soil. Materials like green wood chips should only be left on top of the soil and not mixed in . Things that don’t decompose like fabric and plastic should be removed after each crop and reused later if in good shape. One way not to mix mulch that is not decomposed into the soil is to rake back any undecomposed mulch to the side to be reused on the next crop.
A little extra work in the beginning by mulching and installing drip irrigation will save so much time later and will have great benefits for the vegetables you are growing.