Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lazy Gardening

With the recent crop failures and drought here in the United States food will soon be getting more expensive. In addition to this you may have noticed the declining quality of produce at your local market. These are very good reasons to begin a garden.

Gardening can be a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be.  Of course I'm not saying you're going to get something for nothing, like anything else in life the more you put into it the more you get out of it, but there are many things you can do to make it easier.

Lazy Gardeners Look for High Yield Crops
As a lazy gardener I look for plants that require minimum attention with maximum yield. A few plants that seem to fit this category are potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and swiss chard. Swiss chard has been particularly successful. It doesn't seem to mind either the extreme heat, over 100° in the summer, or cold, below freezing in the winter. It literally grows like a weed. The second best is the sweet potatoes. I've been able to produce enough to overfill a five gallon bucket from one small tuber in three to four months.

Another way to make your garden less labor intensive is to set up drip and soaker hoses with automatic valve controls. I started with a twist timer that I would just turn as needed. It would flood the garden for an hour and shut off. This was nice because I would often turn on the water and then forget to turn it off. However getting a programmable timer is much better. Now I don't even have to think about it. Of course you'll still need to check your garden periodically to check for pests and weeds as well as making sure your watering program is set to what the plants need.

Work with Nature, Not Against It
I try not to use chemicals to control insects. After all I could buy produce from the store with petrol chemicals on them. Fortunately I don't have a big insect problem where I'm at. I do however have a bird and varmint problem. One thing you can do to protect from these is to build a cage to protect plants they most like. Another thing you can do is get a cat that can hunt. I had rodents all over the place until I got a good mouser. She got rid of the them all in about four months. For organic insect and weed control one solution would be to let chickens periodically roam through your garden. Keep in mind you don't want them to be there too long or they will start to eat your crops. They will eat the bugs first then look for leafy greens, these could be weeds or your lettuce seedlings. 

Plants also need nutrients put back into the soil. As with pest control you are way better off doing it the natural way. In fact this is probably the best principle to take away from this post: Work with nature and not against it. Working against nature is inefficient and usually ends badly.

Manure from the nearest barn yard herbivore is the best. I like to use goat since that's what I have. I usually don't even need to compost it. I just scoop it straight from the pasture and bring it to the trees or vegetables. I can work it into the soil or even leave it on top for mulch and moisture retention. Some manures like chicken are so rich in nitrogen they need to compost some before they can be used or else they will burn the plants.

One other excellent and inexpensive fertilizer, and I might add soil conditioner, is coffee grounds. You can probably get the old grounds from your local coffee shop for free and it adds valuable nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and calcium. Add to this any of your table scraps and you'll be replenishing the soil with more than just the nitrogen and other major nutrients found in chemical fertilizers. Using what's available and keeping it simple that's lazy gardening at its best.

Gardening Takes Time To Learn
Gardening takes time to learn and is very specific to your area. What works in my area where the weather is warm and dry and the soil is alkaline will not work in an area with cold, wet weather and acidic soil. This is one of the reasons you can't just pick up a gardening book and after reading it expect to be a successful gardener. You have to try different things and use what works for you. Keep in mind you will have many failures, but look at these as learning experiences rather than evidence that you can't do it.

Aside from the benefit of eating great tasting nutritious food, gardening can be very good for you physically, mentally and emotionally. Its good exercise, a nice break from the hustle bustle of daily life and it feels good to produce something from nothing but water, dirt and a little seed. Its actually what humans were designed to do - Gen 2:15.

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