I’ve been noticing/reading/hearing a lot of “I don’t have enough time” lately when it comes to gardening. Even people who love to garden are lamenting about how much time it takes them. No one has the time. Well, maybe they do, they just don’t know it yet. Time management is what I do. I’m a project manager in charge of projects as small as the private backyard to as large as an international airport. So for me time really does equal money. And layout is extremely important.Without a good layout you will lose a lot of efficiency.
Tom and I both work full time jobs. We carpool leaving at 5:45am every morning and getting home between 4:45pm and 5pm every night. When we get home we check/feed the livestock and then harvest. Tom is usually working on some random project after work and then I’ll get dinner ready.
Usually our actual garden time takes us about 15 min. a day and it’s generally just one of us that does it. For those that aren’t familiar with it, it’s quite sizable. We have three 4’w x 75′ l beds, two 4’w x 42′ l beds, one 5’w x 30’l bed, two 4’x4′ herb beds, 24 fruit trees, and various fruiting shrubs.
I say we harvest only. Yes, that’s all we do. We rarely weed, we don’t water, and we certainly don’t spray.
Weeds were really only a concern in the very beginning of the season when the plants were young. I found that if you wait just a little while, most will get crowded out by bigger weeds and they you’ll end up pulling a lot fewer. Of course it depends on what type of weed. Bindweed requires all sprouts to be pulled. But for most others, it works well. Once the plants get large they shade out most weeds so we don’t need to pull anymore. This works best when using wide rows (3-4′ wide) because the plant foliage covers more area.
Another way to avoid weeds is to use raised beds with weed cloth on the bottom. Of course fill the beds with clean topsoil and compost so as not to introduce seeds. Raised beds also eliminate the need to dig in the beginning of the season saving you even more time. We don’t have raised beds, but we also no longer dig. We double dug each bed only once when we first create it and then we just put a layer of compost over the bed each fall and leave it be. It’s important to not walk on the beds ever, though, when you do this to avoid compacting the soil.
As for watering, I can’t say enough good things about automatic irrigation systems! They are well worth the initial investment and energy to install. Even an irrigation system with a simple pneumatic timer (think kitchen timer) is better than hand watering everything. Plus the drip irrigation helps control weeds because the water goes just to the plant, not to everywhere else.
Pests. Yes, we have pests. But I don’t spray for them because we also have beneficial insects and honeybees. The pest load isn’t overburdening our plants so I’m just letting them be. We’ll squish a cucumber beetle if we come across it, but otherwise, that’s about it.
Now with the harvest comes preserving. I will freeze fruits until I have enough time to process them. During the harvest season I focus on veggies that don’t take freezing well such as cucumbers. During the week we just stack veggies in the fridge and whatever doesn’t get eaten by Saturday or Sunday morning I will preserve.
So to save as much time as possible for other things life may throw at you, sit down and come up with a plan. The initial investment and time put into laying out your garden correctly and putting in infrastructure will save you so much time in the future.
If you need help with this, we are more than happy to help. Just ask.