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(central South Carolina)
My plant goes in the center of a 3-foot diameter circle. I plan for 1 1/2 feet all around plant.
Then I pull up about 4 -5 in. of soil all around the perimeter, to make a circular mound aroung the entire plant.
I insert a cage and mulch with hay, 4 inches deep all inside cage so that no soil shows from the inside of the cage.
Water each plant through hay until moat is full. Be sure not to splash water on plants. Each plant gets approximately 3 inches of water in the moat.
It takes a little time to set up this system at planting time, but then I have no worries for the rest of the season.
I only have 30 plants and can water them very fast with this setup. No leaves ever touch the ground and as each plant grows bottom branches are pruned at least up to 1 ft. above straw, usually more as the plant grows.
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