If you think your life is too hectic for a garden this year, after reading these shortcuts, you may change your mind. They really will cut the time in the garden by at least half if you try all of them. You'll find "working smart" can make all the difference.
Food prices are increasing everyday. This is only part of the reason I have a garden. Being alone in the garden is a good stress reliever. Nothing makes me feel closer to God and appreciate Mother Nature more than some peaceful time working with the soil, listening to the birds and just relaxing. Gardening has gotten me through many hard times. Once I even had a hummingbird land right on my hand. I considered that a special gift.
Gardens not only save money and are good for the soul, but you can get organic vegetables right from the garden and fresh to your table. You don't need to worry about your food being contaminated with chemicals, because you know just what they've come in contact with.
Tilling the Soil
We moved to a new home and there wasn't a vegetable garden plowed, so for several years I just used containers. As time went on, I wanted a bigger garden. Not wanting to do all the work of spading or purchasing a rotiller, I tried a different method and finding how little work it was, I was amazed.
I used method 1, but two other methods are also offered here.
Number 1 - Newspapers
If you don't already have a garden and you don't want to pay someone to use a rototiller or even worse spade one up yourself, start saving your newspapers. Save only the ones with black and white print. If you don't have extra newspaper, you can use brown grocery bags. The grocery bags work even better, but are hard to find in some places.
Only dig holes just where you'd like your plants to be. Buy bags of composted cow manure or if you have a mulch pile, use some of that. At the same time, buy several bags of garden soil unless you have compost and you can skip purchasing both the soil and manure. . Use your best judgement as to how many bags you will need or you can always go back and purchase more.
Choose a day that isn't windy. Dig the holes just a little deeper than you need them and add some of the cow manure to the bottom of the hole. Then plant your plants.
If planting seeds, you'll need to spade just the area where you're row will be. Pull out the tall weeds if planting in a weedy area.
Next lay the newspaper between the plants or seeded rows, so it completely covers the grass or short weeds. You want to lay the newspaper thick enough to completely cover any space where the grass or weeds are still growing. Gently wet the newspaper if needed to keep it in place. Now, take any leftover dirt and the dirt you purchased and completely cover the newspaper so that none is showing through.
If you use this method, all you will have to do is a little weeding. The newspaper will decompose and add nutrients to your garden for next year. Earthworms are good for your garden and they love to eat newspapers and as added bonus they will help make your soil more fertile and tillable.
After using this method last year, my soil is in such good shape that I don't even need to prepare it this year. I am going to repeat the newspaper process and will need to do very little to plant the garden and almost no weeding since I am mulching with the newspapers.
.Number 2 - Lasagna Gardening
This method takes some pre-planning and should be started the prior year, so everything is decomposed before you start. It is called lasagna gardening. The reason it is referred to as this is because you will pile layers of good organic materials on top of each other just like a batch of lasagna.
You will need newspapers, leaves, grass clippings and other good organic materials you might have. Even vegetable peeling from your garbage will work well. Make a layer of whatever it is you have on hand first. Newspapers are a good start, then grass clippings throughout the summer and then leaves in the fall. As you add these layers mix some good soil between each layer.
As each layer decomposes, it not only blocks out the weeds but also leaves good soil for you to plant a garden the next year. You won't believe the excellent quality of the soil you will get in return.
Number 3 - Buy a Rototiller
If you want a large garden, a rototiller might be your best choice. If your ground is sod, make sure that the tiller will be able to handle it. Leave the rows wide enough so that later you can just run the tiller through the rows instead of hoeing and weeding.
If you only want to plant veggies for fresh use, containers are easier than a garden. I've grown tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers in containers. Almost any plant can be grown in a container, except maybe corn.
Think creatively when choosing your containers. Make sure that they have drainage holes or your plants may get water logged. I've found 2 1/2 gallon plastic buckets purchased from the hardware store work fine and all you have to do is use nails and hammer to poke some drainage holes in the sides. A drill with screws will work even better if you have one. I've also used pots that I've purchased at garage sales. If you'd like an appealing look, you will find a large choice of pots at your local gardening or discount store or you can paint them if you are artistic.
Potatoes can even be grown in garbage bags. Just pour the dirt into the bag. Lay the bag down on it's side and plant the potatoes. They'll grow fine.
If you want more potatoes, just use a garbage can or storage container. Poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Pour some dirt on the bottom of the can, place the potatoes on top and cover with about 5" of soil. When the plants are about 3" above the dirt, cover again. Continue in this manner until you reach the top of the can. Wait for the plants to turn brown and harvest. If you use this method, start early in the spring. If you don't, the potatoes will be small. The entire can will be full of potatoes if you started early enough and watered well.
Tomato plants will do better in large containers. The bigger the container the larger the plant will grow, and the larger the plant the more tomatoes you will get.
If you want to grow plants with long vines, a tomato cage will help. Cucumbers love growing upwards.
Only Plant What You Will Use
If you are like me, I get carried away most years and end up giving half of my produce to my neighbors. Think first before purchasing and planting seeds and plants. Only buy what you will need and use. The less you plant the less work you will do and no vegetables with go to waste this way.
Think small if you are a beginner. My neighbor just started with a small circle of plants and has expanded as time went on. She has added paths through the garden and it looks beautiful.
Mulches are good to use if you don't like hoeing or pulling weeds. If you've used the newspaper method for tilling your garden, you won't need to mulch the first year.
Leaves, pine needles and grass clipping make good mulches. Don't use grass as a mulch around green beans, because the grass will stick to the beans and you will have a terrible time removing it. Just ask me - I tried it. One year I grew too much leaf lettuce and once it started bolting, I used it as a mulch and it worked great. Shredded paper works well too, if you don't want to cover it with soil.