Though the title of this post is a bit tongue in cheek, I really haven’t been a terribly conscientious or hardworking gardener so far this spring. Just feeling all-around busier this year than last, and having to contend with a 5, 6 and now 7 months pregnant belly, has quite simply cut down on time, energy and motivation to really get out there and get the hard work done.
And so here are my “tips”, from a truly “lazy” gardener, and how it’s been working out for me so far!
1) Keep Fertilizing and Soil Care Simple.
Unless you’re just starting out with really poor quality soil (as I was somewhat last year- it had lots of worms but definitely needed some TLC), you can get by with doing less if you have to. I simply didn’t have the energy this year to source out a whole bunch of compost or manure (and my compost last year had some issues, some of my own doing and some because someone tinkered with my bin, so I haven’t had a whole lot of usable compost).
Instead, after I hand-tilled each of my raised beds, I simply sprinkled in a good amount of a store-bought fertilizer that I found last year and mixed it in well before planting. The fertilizer I’m using is called Nutri-Rich and it is a 100% natural, organic fertilizer containing no synthetic ingredients. I bought it from Azure Standard food coop. It is a 4-3-3 fertilizer mix and also contains calcium.
As some crops get nearer to harvest and need a bit of a boost, I am just adding another sprinkle around the plants and then watering well to release the nutrients into the soil. I also picked up a bag of composted cow manure, just to change things up a bit, and I’ll add a bit of that to my plants as well. Though there is much more that I could be doing in terms of really feeding my soil, this is what I have energy for right now, and therefore this works for me!
2) Plant Wide and Thick.
This is a technique that I am just trying out for the first time this year. I got the idea from a book called Joy of Gardening. Basically, rather than doing square foot style planting or row planting, you sow blocks of soil (mine are about 2-3 ft by 2-3 ft, depending on the block) with a thick covering of seeds. This works with crops like turnips, radishes, beets, lettuce and other greens, carrots, peas, etc. Depending on the size of plant, you do it a bit more thickly or thinly as needed (carrots a bit more thickly than peas, for example).
Although this has it’s downsides, namely some uneven germination and spacing and the need to do some thinning, it also has several benefits. One is ease of planting. No digging holes or making lines to follow, no trying to separate individual seeds or carefully measuring out your plot. My method was to prepare the block of soil, grab the packet of seeds, try to distribute them evenly over the area, then cover with a bit of soil. So easy!
More recently, the second benefit I see is that even though I have done basically zero weeding, the blocks are so full of plants that there isn’t a whole lot of room for weeds to grow. This has been especially true with my turnips, peas and lettuce. Carrots take longer to get big and leafy tops, so that patch is certainly a bit weedier, as is my spinach patch where I had poor seed germination and therefore very few plants. Overall, though, this technique definitely has it’s perks!
3) Let Your Plants Get Their Own Water.
I think this is a lesson that you learn increasingly the longer you garden. It’s simply not necessary to get out there and water every two days or so. I think that I have only purposefully watered my entire garden 3 times in 2 months, and that was simply because I didn’t want my seeds to dry out while germinating (because then they would die), and once before going away on a weekend that I thought would be quite warm and not likely to rain at all.
When plants are left to fend for themselves without being fed by the sprinkler or hose, they learn to develop long and strong roots that are capable of reaching deep down into the soil to get the necessary moisture for growth. In the long run, this produces stronger plants overall. The major added benefit of doing this is that you don’t have to spend your time and energy watering, as well as needing to rely less on unfiltered city water (which contains chlorine and other such lovely chemicals), but rather on rain and groundwater (which in theory should be a bit cleaner of a source when you’re trying to grow organically).
4) Lighten Up About Looks.
My garden isn’t the prettiest it’s ever been. There are a lot of weeds around the edges, in the pathways (though my hubby cleaned those out a bit yesterday- thanks sweetie!) and yes, in with the veggies. Some spots look a bit random because of how the seeds happened to spread out and germinate, without careful planting.
I’ve decided to not care this year. I’ll do my best to keep up with it, and I do have more weeding and tending to the garden in my future plans (this afternoon, even). But, I have happily discovered that even with weeds as their neighbors, my plants are still growing and yes, producing! Here’s a clip from a gardening ebook I like (Mama’s Guide to Growing your Groceries) that encouraged me in this:
I feel a slight bit of shame as I write this today. As I sit here typing, it is no longer January; it’s October, and having dealt with a sprained ankle and high heat most of the summer, my garden looks like I am trying to create a meadow. That is a fancy way of saying I have weeds so huge my garden doesn’t look like a garden. Under the goldenrod, and milkweed, I find pumpkins, squash and tomatoes. My red peppers did very well this year. We actually got quite a high yield, despite what it looks like. Again, ideals are one thing; reality is quite another.
5) Pick, Eat and Be Merry!
If you have followed all of my steps above, within 1-2 months of planting you should be able to begin my recent late afternoon ritual: walk barefoot out to the garden, overlook the weeds, revel in all that it growing and gloriously green, then fill a bowl with choice baby greens and radishes, and mosey on back inside to make us a salad.
Next, we look forward to the peas that began to flower this past week. And the baby turnips just about ripe for the plucking. The carrots and onions that could start to be consumed in a couple of weeks time. The spinach and kale that are nearly pickable. The cauliflower and broccoli that should start to produce heads any time!
Really, truly, it’s easier than you might think. You, too, can be a lazy gardener and enjoy a bounty of fresh, organic veggies straight from your backyard! 🙂
Any other tips from my “lazy” gardening buddies out there? How do you keep the work in your garden minimal? What has worked for you in particularly busy or tiring seasons of life?
Other Related Posts You May Enjoy:
- A Tale of Two Gardens part one and part two
- How to Plan Your Garden part one and part two
- Organization in the Garden: Evaluating What You Have and What You Need
- Getting Organized in the Garden: Seed Starting and Planting Schedule
- Naturally Controlling Pests in the Organic Garden
- Gardening in Less-than-Ideal Spaces
- 7 Gardening Lessons from a Novice Gardener
- Selecting Seeds for Garden Success
- Gardening with Herbs 101: Where to Begin
- Gardening with Herbs 101: What To Grow
- How to Plant a Garden that Works for Where You Live
- 7 Reasons to Square Foot Garden
- Plan & Plant Now for Sustainability, Freedom, and a Backyard Revolution