Busy Gardeners Can Save Some Time
Every year I start the season with good intentions. I have a plan. I get my beds prepared in a frenzy. My back aches and I pull a muscle that I didn’t even know I had. But I get it done, water it in, weed around the seedlings, fertilize, and then…somehow it all gets away from me mid-June. The weeds take over parts of the garden and I have trouble getting it all under control. I think we’re all busy gardeners, aren’t we?
Usually, I’m pretty good about harvesting the goodies and eating, freezing, or canning them…but the weeds seem to rule the garden for the rest of the year. I have trouble getting my fall crops planted at the right time. Zucchinis the size of baby dolphins hide in the chaos. Cucumbers lurk under the leaves and get all orange and swollen like weird pumpkins. I cringe at the thought of doing anything more than picking and preserving.
And even though I am one of the worst offenders when it comes to lazy gardening, I do have some tips for keeping it all under control. So whether you would rather sit in the shade in July or you are super, super busy, and just don’t have time to spend hours weeding, you can learn from my mistakes!
- Start Small: This might seem obvious, but many new gardeners overestimate how much garden they can care for and how much produce they will use. So start with a container garden, a raised bed, or a small space in full sun for your first garden. Plant in blocks or a grid pattern instead of rows to increase harvests from smaller spaces. As you figure out how much time you can spend in your garden, and what crops you use the most you can increase the size of the garden to make more room for your favorites. If you’ve tended a large garden every year and are realizing you can’t keep up with it, downsize!
- It’s All About the Soil: As you prepare your beds, be sure to add plenty of compost to the soil. Well-rotted manure, composted leaves, or mushroom compost make great amendments to your garden soil. As the fertility and structure of the soil are improved each year your harvests will increase. When fewer plants produce more food your workload is decreased.
- Mulch, Mulch, Mulch: Use straw, shredded leaves, newspaper, or cardboard to line your paths and areas around plants whenever possible. It will reduce the weed population and hold in moisture.
- Grow Up: When you grow pole beans, cucumbers, peas, and other vining plants up a fence or trellis it reduces your workload. The harvest will be easier to reach, reducing back strain. The fruits are less susceptible to mold and fungus up off the ground. Vertical gardening will also increase your yields from a smaller space.
- Weed ’em and Reap: Keep the garden weeded early in the season and keep the weeds from going to seed to save work later. There’s an old saying, ‘One year’s seeding makes seven years of weeding.’ Of course, this depends on the weeds, but most produce seeds that lie dormant in the soil for many years. And that makes it tough to keep your garden clean in the future. Believe me, I know!
- Wise Watering: Supply water right at the base of your veggie plants with a drip irrigation hose or hand watering instead of using a sprinkler that waters the whole garden. Why water the weeds when you really want to water only your garden plants? Less water for the weeds means slower weed growth and less weeding! It also helps to prevent fungal diseases in your plants.
- Stop and Smell the Roses: Remember that gardening is supposed to be enjoyable. Put a bench in your garden so you can take breaks from the tough jobs. If you can plant the garden close to your porch, deck, or kitchen door you’ll find yourself out enjoying the garden, snipping herbs for dinner, and picking lettuce for lunch every day. When gardening is a relaxing part of your day you’ll spend more time on it and the rewards will outweigh the work. So don’t hide it way out at the back of your lot, unless that is the only sunny spot you have. When you have to spend time walking out to the garden, hauling hoses around, and trucking wheelbarrows of compost out to the ‘back 40’ you’ll feel less like gardening and more like sipping mojitos on the porch.
Did you notice that there’s a bonus hint? I got carried away. 🙂
Sometimes It All Gets Away From Us…
And that’s ok. Life happens and when you’re drawing your last breath I doubt that you’ll be thinking about the weeds in your garden or the zucchini that got away. If you can keep most of the weeds at bay and the veggies watered, you should still have some fresh produce to harvest and enjoy. And isn’t that what gardening is all about? So don’t sweat the small stuff in life!
Do you have any other tips for all of us busy gardeners?