Everybody loves food straight out of a garden. Especially when prices at the grocery store keep going up for quality that keeps going down.
Everybody also loves it when the work to keep that garden producing doesn’t take over every free afternoon.
So let’s talk, how do I keep my gardening as easy as possible? I grow about 1000 square feet of vegetables and that’s in between my 2 jobs.
First off, quit tilling your vegetable garden. Yes, that’s right, just stop. I know, I know, it looks so nice right after you till it, all black and fluffy. I get the appeal, but you are destroying your soil structure, disturbing every last beneficial insect you had, plus the first rain will just compact all that bare soil back down again. You bring a whole new crop of weed seeds to the surface, and those will immediately start sprouting, giving you the crop of weeds you’ll be fighting all summer.
There’s a better way. Deep mulch. Every fall mulch your beds; in the spring, just use a hand trowel, make a small hole in the mulch and pop your transplants or seeds in. No gas/oil/motors, no blisters, no renting of tillers involved. The mulch will increase your soil tilth and give you nice fluffy soil all by itself.
Speaking of beds, MAKE SOME BEDS! Quit walking all over your growing space, dedicate some space for growing and some space for walking, and keep the two clearly marked and treat them differently. You’ll compact soil only in the pathways, which you can mulch with something sturdy like wood chips to keep weeds down. Less compaction in your beds means easier weeding, harvesting and planting, as well as better water retention.
Know what you like to do, and stick to that. If you don’t like to wrestle with 7 foot tall indeterminate tomato vines, don’t plant them. Plant a couple small cherry tomatoes, and pay your friendly farmer’s market vendor for a flat of ripe slicers. Your garden can still be a success if you don’t plant every last thing that could be planted. Stick to what you like to grow, and your experience will be more enjoyable.
Speaking of every last thing that can be planted, there’s a fine line between square foot gardening, efficient use of space and over crowding. Over crowding may keep weeds down, but you won’t get as much produce as you may have hoped for. Know how much room your mature plants will need, and plan to give them that, either through thinning or proper spacing. Thinning is my favorite because it’s an easy way to get baby and micro greens out of the same space where you’ll harvest mature greens in a few weeks. I sow thickly so I get the benefits of a fully shaded soil base. (Less weeding.) Then I thin, every week, and eat the little thinnings. Weeks of baby greens, then after the babies have been thinned to proper spacing, the weeds won’t have enough time to sprout and over take the almost mature greens.
Hate digging roots? Try some vertical towers. I caution you though, it may cause just as much work in the moving soil and watering department, but if that sounds better than digging down into the dirt, go for it!
What have you found to be troublesome in your gardening? Shout out in the comments and we’ll see if we can’t find you an easier way to handle it.
– Jennie Erwin