When planning our gardens for the next year, it’s helpful to look back at what worked and what didn’t work. This can help us to plan better for the year ahead and can also give us the information we need to plan a low maintenance garden.
This post is not about whether or not to have a garden. Instead, it is about how to have the garden you want while minimizing the amount of work you have to put into it. For those who already know they want (or need) to have a garden to grow healthy produce for their families, this can help them focus on their gardening goals!
If you have gardened in the past and found yourself thinking that you’d enjoy it more if only it wasn’t so much work, this post is for you!
This post goes over my top tips for making your garden easier to take care of and, hopefully, even more enjoyable than it already was!
Planning a Low Maintenance Garden
What is Your “Why”?
Depending on your station in life, your reasons for wanting a low maintenance garden that’s easier to care for might vary.
- Do you have little kids and little time to spend gardening, but still want to have a garden?
- Are you pregnant and need a garden that takes less physical work?
- Are you taking care of a family members and don’t have much time to garden?
- Do you want to provide fresh produce for your family but want to be able to spend time doing other things?
No matter what your “why” is for your garden or for wanting it to be easier to take care of, there are plenty of ways to lighten the load so you can have more time and energy for other things.
Which areas of your garden need to me more low maintenance?
Do you want to weed less?
Do you not want to have to water your garden each day?
Do you want produce that’s easy to store/preserve during harvest time?
Once you know what your priorities are, you can research these (and check out my tips later in the post) for how to make these areas easier.
Just be aware that depending on which of these areas you choose to make easier, you may end up with more work is other areas. It can be a trade off, requiring more work up front so you have an easier time weeding or harvesting, or vice versa.
What are your gardening priorities?
Sit down and make a list of what you want to come out of your garden this year.
Include things such as:
- What you “have” to plant (according to you or your family)
- What you’d like to plant
- Things you like planting but are too much work to be “low maintenance”
Also, answer this question:
Would you rather have less food in exchange for less work, or do you want to produce the most food for your family with the least amount of work?
Your answer to this question can help shape how you approach planning what will go into your garden.
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Less Work = Less Produce
If you’re fine with getting less from your garden because you’re putting less work into it, the answer is simple: just scale back your garden! Here are a few ideas for how to do that if you’re like me and want to plant everything every single year.
Plant fewer things
One way to scale back is to simply plant fewer things.
This might mean sticking to one tomato variety instead of five. Or it could mean picking your family’s top 7-10 favorite things and planting them instead of having 30-40 different vegetables and their varieties to keep track of and maintain.
Plant less of each variety
The other way to save time and energy taking care of your garden is to plant less of each thing.
It’s way easier to take care of (and preserve the harvest from) 1 zucchini plant instead of 10.
And remember: You don’t have to plant every seed that comes in the package! If you never eat all the radishes from a full package of seeds, only plant part of it.
You can always sow a second round later if you decide you want more. This way, you’ll also have less ready at the same time.
Most produce for the least amount of work
List what has been the easiest for you to grow in the past
If you’ve been gardening for awhile, chances are you know what grows well in your area without much extra attention.
Write these down. If they are things your family likes, focus on growing more of them.
If they’re something no one wants to eat, then you’re wasting the energy they do take to grow and that you could use growing something that will actually get eaten.
When your goal is to grow the most amount of food for your family for the least amount of work, it helps tremendously to focus on foods that will actually end up being eaten instead of thrown into the trash can.
What makes a vegetable low maintenance?
Vegetables can be easy to grow in a variety ways. Some might be resistant to diseases or bugs. Others might protect themselves from weeds because of their large leaves. Or a plant (or specific variety) might take very little extra water, even on those really hot days.
On the other hand, some types of vegetables might be more high maintenance during the growing season but really easy to harvest and store. This is what I meant earlier when I said you might have to trade off work in some areas based on your priorities for your garden.
For example, I have a lot harder time growing butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkins in my garden than I do with zucchini and tomatoes.
However, these winter squashes are about the easiest thing ever to store for the winter. Once they’re ripe, just pick them and store them in a semi-cool place until you’re ready to use them.
My favorite low maintenance vegetables
Vegetables that are easy to grow:
- Green Beans
Vegetables that are easy to preserve/store:
- Winter Squashes
Keep in mind that these are types of vegetables I’ve had good luck growing in the Midwest. Depending on your climate and growing conditions, these might be the hard things for you to grow!
Prepare for weed and insect control
One way that you can save yourself time and work later in the growing season is to prepare in the spring for the weeds and insects that are bound to appear.
For weeds, one of my favorite ways to prevent them is to have some sort of ground cover. This can be a cover crop, such as oats, clover, alfalfa, etc., or it can be another type of cover such as weed cloth or straw.
We are hoping to try the Back to Eden method for taming weeds this year, so I can let you know how it goes at the end of the season!
Here are some resources for weed control without all the chemicals:
For insects, it’s hard to know exactly what will show up. But if you’ve been gardening for at least a year or two, you probably have had some repeat visitors. Try researching natural ways to repel them so you have that knowledge on hand for when they appear.
I haven’t done a ton with pest control (aside from some squash bugs), but here are some resources on non-toxic pest control in your garden:
That’s all I have for today, if you love gardening content, feel free to check out the related posts I have linked in the middle of this post!
I’m hoping to do more on gardening throughout the summer as I get into the actual gardening season. If you want to see pictures or videos of the process, feel free to follow more on Facebook or Instagram!