Tips from a Lazy Gardener

Being a lazy gardener, I’m always looking for the easiest way to garden. I will say that my family and I are not dependent on my gardening to be able to eat and survive. If that were the case, lazy would have to be thrown out the window. But since I’m gardening for the enjoyment of it and to grow vegetables and herbs that might be difficult to buy in the store, then I can afford to be a little lazy with my gardening. So I put together a list of sorts–tips from a lazy gardener–so that you can benefit from my own laziness. Ha!



Tips from a Lazy Gardener - How to Make Gardening Easier with a no till garden and no weeding #gardening



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In the quest for finding easier ways to garden, I actually found some great gardening tips that actually work. Maybe these ideas were invented out of necessity, but I’m convinced that other gardeners looking to lighten the workload experimented and came up with these ideas. To them, I am grateful.

This is a good place to say that some say necessity is the mother of invention. I say that laziness is the mother of invention. Haha. What do you think?

Because I hate weeding above most any other gardening chore, removing the need for weeding was my first goal. So this article could also be called–weedless gardening. And while gardening without weeds is still work, but it’s a different kind of work. Much of your work can be done in the cooler months of spring and fall. Curious? So this is what I do.

No-Till Gardening

My first gardens were all at rental properties, so I fit in a few veggies here and there between the shrubs and such–as much as the landlord would allow. My first real vegetable garden came when we bought our first house. I had talked with my grandfather about the desire for a garden, so he came during garden prep time and, under his supervision, we killed the grass and had a huge garden plot plowed with a tractor by a neighboring farmer. He was doing it the way he had learned to garden growing up and it ended up being a lot of work. We didn’t “need” that garden. It was just for “fun”. Long story short, by the end of the season, it was full of weeds. We plowed to large of an area and we could keep up with. So I began to research easier ways to garden, and I found the concept of no-till gardening.

The main premise of no-till gardening is that tilling the soil just plants all of the weed seeds that fell onto the top of the soil–making weeding even more work later on. Also, plants and seeds are already equipped to grow into and break up the soil as they grow, so tilling shouldn’t be necessary. In addition, if you smother the weeds with some sort of organic matter–such as cardboard or newspaper–this causes them to die, leaving a nice weed-free area on which to plant your desired plants or seeds.

I tried this idea next. With the help of my kids, we covered a four-foot-wide strip about 30 feet long with a thick layer of newspapers and then covered that with a layer of wood mulch to hold down the newspaper. I started this early in the spring and it by mid-may, it seemed ready to plant in. I dug through the mulch and paper and dug a small hole to plant my seeds.



Tips from A Lazy Gardener container gardening, easy gardening, no-till gardening, lasagna gardening
The beginning of a no-till short-cut lasagna garden. Here we used newspaper and the first layer of compost.



Results of No-Till Gardening

I did have some weeds come up in the holes where I planted my seeds. They were easy to pull out and there were only a few. Where the paper and mulch were undisturbed, the weeds did not grow. I recommend getting your no-till garden area ready in the fall–even while it’s warm enough for weeds and grass compost some under the newspaper or cardboard. Even better is to combine this method with Lasagna Gardening which I learned about next.

One problem with this type of garden is that the weeds and grass do start crouching in on the garden bed and it will get smaller if you don’t put an edging on it. That’s why I really like raised bed gardens the best. Below you can see the results. We should have put another layer of mulch and/or compost and then mulch in the spring, but we had a child getting married and we just didn’t have the energy for it. Because we didn’t mulch again, we did have hundreds of grass seeds sprouting that had grown into the garden bed. We did put down compost around the perennials and mulch all over it again in the fall of the second year.



No-till No Dig Garden Tips from a Lazy Gardener
No-till Garden, Short-cut Lasagna Garden after 1 year in the spring.

Lasagna Gardening

The no-till concept led me to the idea of Lasagna Gardening. Basically, Lasagna gardening takes the no-till method to the next level. And while you could start this in the fall before you plan to grow your garden, for the best results, I recommend starting it a whole 8-12 months before you want to plant.

What is Lasagna Gardening? Lasagna Gardening is layering green and brown compost and topping it off with mulch. What you use in the layers is really up to you, but the concept is like creating a no-till garden while building a layer of composted dirt that will grow lush and productive plants with much less work.

To make a No-dig No-till Garden with Lasagna Gardening, you start once again with the weed-suppressing layer of newspaper and cardboard. I have found that cardboard is much easier to cover with and lasts a bit longer than the newspaper. If you don’t have stacks of old cardboard boxes lying around, you can go to your recycle center and grab stacks of them there–already flattened!

Next cover the boxes with brown compost–seedless straw, leaves, pine needles, peet moss or wood shavings. A mixture of all of these is a great idea. Next cover with a layer of green compost which could include grass clippings, weeds (without seed heads), kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, etc. Sprinkle with a small layer of fresh or composted manure. Go through another layer of the same things and top with topsoil, wood ash and/or mulch. Now, wait.



When to Plant

When your garden plot will be ready depends on a lot of things. If you start with fresh compost and kitchen scraps in late fall when it is already cold, there will be very little composting until spring and warm temperatures arrive. That’s why starting this in the spring a year before you plant your garden is ideal.



Lazy Gardener Lasagna Gardening Short-cuts

In a hurry? I always am in a hurry. I want to plant those plants now! If so, there are a few Lasagna Gardening short-cuts I’ve learned. If you have a good source of local compost manure, then you can use this instead of some of the layers. What I did for my herb garden this time is I put down cardboard, topped with compost, garden soil and then a thick layer of wood mulch. Now you can plant your seeds or plants sooner. I still like to push the mulch aside and add a little garden soil to the spot where I’m planting my plants–Just to give them a good starting point.



Maintenance of a Lasagna Garden

The traditional Lasagna Garden would be layered each year with another set of layers of brown compost, green compost, manure, etc. If you have it readily available, go for it. The lazy gardener way is to put a light layer over of composted manure around your perennial plants or over the whole garden bed if you are planting seeds and vegetables and top with a layer of mulch. My choice is seasoned wood mulch since it’s easy for me to get.



Here’s a great summary of what Lasagna Gardening is all about!



But That’s Still Too Much Work! — Raised Bed Gardening

If you find that lasagna gardening and no-till gardening are still too much work, then raised-bed gardening is probably the answer for you. Raised beds have an initial cost and effort of building or buying the raised bed and then filling it with high-quality dirt and compost. But after that, the effort is very minimal. Seeds are easy to plant and weeds fewer and easier to pull in the lush, loose soil. For great results, put a weed-suppressing layer on the bottom of the use raised beds and then layer create a good mix of high-quality potting soil, compost and peat moss into the beds.



Tips from a Lazy Gardener - Raised Bed Gardening



Raised bed gardening can be very accomodating to physical limitations. To spare you back and knees, you can build your raised bed up high and even put a ledge on it to sit on to the garden. I’ve even seen designs that would fit a wheelchair and have gardening with arm’s reach. At the very least, make your raised bed not more than four feet across as this will make working in it so much easier.

I have found lots of fun and simple raised bed designs online. You can check out my Raised Bed Gardening board on Pinterest to get ideas. You can buy kits or make your own raised bed out of boards or cinder blocks.



But I Don’t Have Space for a Garden! — Container Gardening

Tips from a Lazy Gardener - Container Gardening



The easiest gardening of all is container gardening. I have lived in places where a full-sized garden just isn’t feasible. But I just HAVE TO plant stuff!! Growing stuff makes me happy, so I always find a way to plant flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit–or all of the above. You can use most anything to plant in. If it’s something you plan to ingest, just make sure that the container will not leech bad “stuff” into the soil that your plants will soak up. For instance, old tires could make a fun flower planter, but don’t use it for your herbs.

One year I experimented with different types of pots. I used reusable WalMart grocery bags for tomatoes and peppers. They worked great for one season. I recommend emptying the potting soil out at the end of the growing season and save it to mix with new soil the next spring. The bags get broken down by the sun and winter weather. I had a lot of plastic totes, so I used those as well as $1.00 pails and 5-gallon buckets. Just be sure and drill holes in the bottoms and sides of the buckets and totes to let water out. Read more about my Small Space Gardening Ideas here.



Tips from a Lazy Gardener - Stop Weeding
Tips from a Lazy Gardener – Stop weeding, sit back, relax and watch your garden grow!



Stop Weeding

If you read my articles Weeds to Let Grow in Your Garden and More Weeds to Let Grow in Your Garden, you will remember that weeds are just plants that are growing where you don’t want them to grow. Many of my weeds I have come to value for their medicinal or edible properties. I have found that many of the so-called weeds are not hurting my intentionally planted flowers, herbs and vegetables and so I don’t need to worry about getting them all pulled out of my garden.



When to Weed Your Garden

If your weeds are growing big and crowding out your desired plants, competing for water and nutrients, then it’s time to pull them out. Or if you know that they will grow big, then it’s even better to pull them out before they grow large and take root. If they will grow large and shade your sun-loving plants, then you won’t want to let them keep growing in your garden either. Lastly, if they are going to go to seed or grow from underground runners leading to a full-on invasion of your garden area, then, you will need to pull them out.



Tips from a Lazy Gardener - When to Weed Your Garden



Procrastination is the Enemy of a Lazy Gardner

If you’re still finding it necessary to weed your garden, then of all my tips from a lazy gardener, my top tip is probably to get the weeds our before they grow big. It is much easier to pull out a seedling than to wait until the weed is overgrown. Procrastination in gardening–whether delaying mulching, weeding, watering or planting–will only make your gardening more difficult. I have learned that it does not pay to be both lazy AND a procrastinator.



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