One of the biggest obstacles to planting a garden I hear in talking with people is time. I get it. Time is short already; how does one squeeze in another project?
One thing is certain. Gardening can be time-consuming. But, it doesn’t have to be. By following these principles, you CAN have your garden and eat it, too.
The biggest gardening mistake I see is trying to plant more than you can keep up with. In the spring, it’s easy to do the labor when weeds are growing slowly and the heat isn’t unbearable. But come July, it becomes difficult to keep up with the weeding, fighting insects, and watering.
If it’s your first year, plant one or two raised beds. Or a small in-ground garden. You can always expand next year, or even expand for a fall garden. By starting small, you get an idea how much time gardening takes and you can adjust next year.
Set Aside Time
It’s easy to take a Saturday in April to plant a garden, but after everything is in the ground, you’ll have to make time for maintenance. What has worked best for me is to set aside time in the morning and evenings (when it is less hot) 4-5 days per week. Even with my 2000+ square foot garden, I can usually keep up with it in 1-2 hours per day. If you only have a couple of raised beds, your time spent will only be a fraction of that.
If gardening every day isn’t your thing, set aside a few hours each week. Just be sure and plan for it.
Make it a Family Activity
Children as young as 2 can place a seed in a trench or pull weeds. You’d be amazed at how much more work can be accomplished when kids help. It may take a bit of coaxing but they will learn valuable garden lessons and enjoy it as well! When my children were 8 and 4, they planted their own raised beds.
Use the Most Efficient Tools
Weeding my garden by hand took up hours of time unnecessarily. Last year, after I bought my Rogue Hoe, my weeding time was cut dramatically. In addition, installing an irrigation system with a timer made it unnecessary for me to water most of my crops.
Write Down Your Goals
It has been said that we make time for what is important to us. Before you begin gardening, set goals you want to accomplish this year. It may be as simple as “having fresh tomatoes all summer” or more complex like, “growing enough of these seven foods to last all year.” By writing down your goals, and keeping them within sight, you’ll be more likely to carve out time to devote to your garden tasks.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
My biggest time-consumer in my garden – by far – is weeding. By covering your ground after planting with a thick layer of mulch, your time spent weeding will be cut dramatically.
Start Early in the Season
To make the most of your time, planning ahead is key. By the time the weather warms, ideally you should have your garden plan drawn out, raised beds built, seeds bought, and tools acquired.
With my weekly gardening e-newsletter, I have broken down the main pre-season gardening tasks and spread them out in the months prior to anything being planted. (Sign up to receive those e-newsletters each Friday here.) By having a plan and major tasks already done, you can make the most of your time during the gardening season.
Yes, there’s no way around it. Gardening takes time. But anything worth doing takes time! And gardening has always been worth it for me. So whether you plant one raised bed or a whole garden plot, I hope these tips will help you to spend your time wisely so you can truly enjoy your time in the garden and enjoying what it produces for you.
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