Recently a friend asked me how much time I spend tending to my garden/yard. I think my answer surprised him – just a couple hours a week. While many home gardeners like to spend hours each day tending to every aspect of their garden, I have a different approach – maximum edible yield and maximum enjoyment of the garden with minimum effort. Here is how to keep your garden working for you and not the other way around.
Time Saver #1 – Automatic Irrigation
Seems obvious, but setting up drip or spray irrigation on some kind of timer saves significant time over watering with a hose or a watering can multiple times a week. If there is a hose bib close to your garden, the process couldn’t be easier. Get yourself a soaker hose from any home store and connect to a variety of battery powered timers. If you are a little more handy, try drip line irrigation. Mixing and matching the perfect emitters for your specific needs can insure your garden gets the perfect drink.
Time Saver #2 – Mulch Mulch Mulch
I can’t stress enough the need for mulch. Not only will it keep the roots of your veggies at a more constant temperature, but it will also keep out most weeds. The act of weeding sucks the life out of any enjoyment of the garden for me, so anything to help keep weeds away without harsh chemicals is a good thing.
Time Saver #3 – Don’t Weed
I don’t mean don’t deal with your weeds, but remove them in an easier way than getting down on your hands and knees and pulling them up with your hands or trowel. Hoe. Using a hoe cuts down your weeds in a fraction of the time and those weed trimmings return vital nutrients to the soil. Better yet, depending on what weeds are coming up in your garden, you may choose to just leave them grow. For instance, clover returns nitrogen to the soil, and flowering weeds like dandelions can attract beneficial pollinating insects.
Time Saver #4 – What are you Planting?
The simple answer is that some edibles take a lot more time and effort to properly grow and thrive. Everyone loves to plant tomatoes, but they require caging, pruning, perfect water conditions,fertilizing more often then other plants, and constant pest control. Instead, plant vegetables that grow under the soil (Carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, beets, etc). They need almost no pruning and are less susceptible to pests and extreme changes in weather. Better yet, grow fruit bushes and trees. Blueberry bushes can provide an ample harvest with very little weekly work. Fruit trees, once rooted will give you more fruit than you can eat and all you need to do it fertilize once a season.
So sit back and watch another episode of your favorite TV show or bring your kids to the park for the day. The garden doesn’t need your undivided attention.