With increasing food shortages, produce recalls, and the rising costs of groceries, more and more people are starting a home garden to cope with the seemingly continuous uncertainty. Whether it is to avoid the myriad of pesticides in store-bought food, commit yourself to get outside more, or save a few bucks, gardening is a great skill to learn and will benefit you in more ways than one. While you may think that you need a ton of time and space to grow your food, the “lazy gardening” tips and tricks we are sharing today will prove otherwise. Give yourself some grace and know that even the most seasoned gardeners have to start somewhere - you will perhaps surprise yourself with how quickly and easily you pick up this new skill once you get started.
First and foremost, take the winter season to plan. Depending on your current zone, you may still be in the cold and snowy months of the year, and this is a perfect time to sit back with a cup of tea and brainstorm for the upcoming growing season. While some seeds require an early start, many will only need to be started a few weeks before the last frost, while others can be sown directly in the ground once the weather gets warmer. Even in colder climates, you will notice that garden supplies are starting to line the shelves at your local dollar and hardware stores in preparation for the warmer times to come.
Before you get out to the garden center, grab a notepad and take down these tips to help make this year’s garden planning a breeze.
1. Grow What You Eat
When starting your first garden, avoid getting over-ambitious. After all, you want this to be simple and not consume your time. Additionally, if this is your first time growing, expect to run into a few setbacks, and remember that this is a learning process. When making a list of what seeds to purchase, start with regularly consumed items. For example, if you are the only person in your family of five that enjoys beets - consider continuing to purchase those instead of using up valuable space in the garden for them.
Focus on the items you purchase most at the store - and research the time to harvest for each. If your garden space is limited, check what grows best in your growing zone and stick to relatively low-maintenance crops. If you have lots of room to work with, then still focus on what you consume most, but use some space to experiment and try different things.
Depending on your setup, waiting until early spring to buy seedlings you can transplant might make sense instead of starting crops from seed yourself. If you have the indoor space to start a few crops, try it! Empty egg cartons, egg shells, and even plastic cupcake boxes make great containers for seed starting. Set up your seeds in a window that gets lots of light, and have fun watching them slowly break the soil's surface.
2. Use What You’ve Got!
Speaking of empty egg cartons and cupcake boxes, our next lazy gardening tip is to start by using things you already have. You would be surprised with how much can be reused when starting your first garden - and may find yourself coming up with fun ways to challenge yourself to be as sustainable as possible. Saving your coffee grounds for nitrogen-rich fertilizer, using raked leaves and grass clippings as mulch, and finding items in your shed that can be repurposed for a makeshift trellis are all great ways to save time and money in your new garden.
Look around your garage and shed to see what you have lying around before making a trip to the store. Think outside the box, and don’t be afraid to experiment. There is no need to go out and buy a ton of supplies - the only things we would suggest to invest in and purchase new is a good pair of gardening gloves and a few essential tools (like a hand pruner, a trowel, and a simple rake for starters).
3. Try GardenSoxx®
If you are willing to invest some money into your garden space, whether you have a little or a lot of room - GardenSoxx® may be an ideal solution. If all you have is a small patio and no useable soil - GardenSoxx® allows you to maximize that space and start growing on the concrete or wood. For those of you with a larger backyard who want to get set up with a garden that is as low-maintenance as possible - they can also help you to do just that.
The durable and reusable mesh can be filled with pure compost and fitted with a drip irrigation system (in fact, everything you need for this system is included with a GardenSoxx® kit!). Once filled, you can place the GardenSoxx® in any configuration you have space for - even vertically as a garden wall!
Cut holes in the mesh and transplant your seedlings of choice - you will be amazed at how much you can grow in just a few feet of GardenSoxx®. And the best part? Weeding is virtually unnecessary with GardenSoxx® - as the mesh and growing medium keep your garden weed-free.
4. Install Drip Irrigation
Whether as part of the GardenSoxx® kit mentioned above or just added to your existing Garden beds - an irrigation system is a MUST for the lazy gardener. This will take the guesswork out of watering and ensure your plants are always well-hydrated. Hook the system to a timer, and you will never need to worry about watering again.
A drip system is much more ideal than a sprinkler head or soaker hose, as it will ensure that the water is fed directly to the garden soil and not landing on the foliage of your plants. Water that stays on foliage can cause burning on hot sunny days, and you can also risk over-watering your plants.
5. Raised Beds Are Better
If you plan to do some building of your own to install a dedicated garden space in your backyard, then some preliminary planning can go a long way. First, you can choose an area that gets a good amount of sun for most of the day. If parts of your backyard also get some shade, then plan your crops wisely to fill those areas with plants that may not need as much sun.
Make sure to build the garden beds narrow enough, as you want them to be easy to work in when planting and harvesting. Consider a size of about 3-4 feet wide by 6-8 feet long. Raised beds are ideal for helping minimize the strain on your back while planting and harvesting - and remember to add a wide ledge around the bed, as this can make a perfect seat during bouts of weeding and other garden tasks.
When filling the beds, you can start with large stones and thick cuts of branches or chunks of wood to promote drainage at the bottom of the bed - layer on raked leaves and other organic matter before topping with garden soil. This will minimize the soil you need to fill the bed and provide a good base for all those microorganisms to start multiplying.
6. Stop Pulling Weeds: Smother Them!
When starting a garden, ambition and excitement can sometimes cause us to forget the amount of maintenance that can come with this new task. On top of watering, pruning, and harvesting - your garden will likely need to be weeded regularly. If you do not have a ton of free time, this task can get out of hand pretty quickly and end up making your gardening venture less desirable than you had originally hoped.
Thankfully, a simple solution can greatly minimize this task and does not involve any chemical sprays or investment. (If you have decided to go the route of using GardenSoxx® - then you will be happy to note that your time can be spent doing other tasks, as weeding is not something you need to fret over in that case).
If you are using raised beds or planting directly in the ground soil, do yourself a favor and find some cardboard in early spring before your planting starts. Ensure the cardboard has no colored dyes or chemical coating, as this can contaminate the soil. There are two ways you can go about smothering out weeds:
If you are starting a garden bed from scratch, place the cardboard down on the ground and your compost and garden soil on top of it. Provided you are starting with quality compost and fresh soil, you will have minimal weeds with this method.
If you are using an existing garden bed or plot - lay down some cardboard (a plastic tarp also works well) over the soil a few weeks before transplanting your seedlings. Weigh the cardboard down with stones or pieces of wood, and leave it there until you are ready to plant. When left for a few weeks, the cardboard will block out the sun and kill off a good part of the weeds lurking under the soil's surface.
7. Focus on Soil Health
The most effective and efficient way to grow a successful garden is to start with healthy soil. This is the best way to prevent the setbacks of plant disease, pests, and poor growing conditions. While building up soil can sometimes take time, there are some quick and simple ways to speed the process along. Investing in good quality compost can benefit your garden, but it can get expensive if you grow in a larger space. Making your own compost is also great - but as this is a guide for lazy gardeners, that may not be the ideal solution for you (don’t get us wrong, it CAN be easy, but it requires some time and effort).
Using a natural soil amendment like Kaytonik™ can save you tons of effort, speed up your time to harvest, and leave you with healthy, luscious vegetable yields that will impress your family and neighbors. Not only does Kaytonik™ build soil health by adding in organic matter, but it will reduce watering needs as it retains moisture and nutrients in the soil where they are needed most for plant uptake.
8. Do Less, Harvest More
Finally, our last tip for the lazy gardener is to take a break. It may sound silly, but some garden tasks are unnecessary, and leaving them out ultimately can help your garden thrive. One example of this is tilling; reducing the amount of soil disturbance in your garden will significantly increase the health of your soil by allowing the microorganisms to keep multiplying. Also, when a crop is wholly harvested, and the plant is no longer producing, do not strain yourself by trying to pull out those deeply rooted plant roots! Cut the plant at the base and leave the roots in the soil - as they decompose, they will provide essential food and nutrients for the soil microbes.
Let’s be honest - gardening is no easy task in general. It takes time and patience and may require you to learn new skills and tricks you did not know before. That being said, it does not have to be all-consuming, and it can be an enjoyable way to get your family outside in the spring and summer. The satisfaction of growing your food is a great reason to make an effort. Whether you want to repurpose your backyard into an ample garden space or plant a few crops in containers on your balcony, the tips we laid out here can help you save time, money, and energy.