This is a guest post from Nicky Schauder.
Let’s face it. You have hardly enough time to cook dinner let alone actually grow the food you want to cook. But maybe, just maybe, there was a way you could get something fresh from your yard with minimum effort. In fact, the least effort possible.
Enter eight practical tips for the “lazy gardener” who wants hassle-free, fresh, and organic food. I know these tips by heart, because I AM a lazy gardener! It also helps that I’m a permaculture designer.
Permaculture is all about lazy gardening. One of its principles is: “Minimum input for maximum gain.” Makes sense, right?
If you didn’t need to, would you actually park the car, haul your kids out of it, and line up at the bank to make a deposit? I’m guessing the answer is “No.” You would probably do the “drive-thru ATM.” Me, too.
Well, here are some ways to “drive-thru” your garden.
8 Easy Tips for Lazy Gardening
1. Don’t till.
Tilling the soil actually kills the soil life that is so crucial in maintaining a productive and healthy ecosystem. Repeat after me, “The soil is like my gut.”
You would never dream of exposing your gut to the elements if you didn’t need to. And yet, we do just that, every time we till the soil. There are billions of microbes in the underground soil that support the life above and send necessary minerals to your plants. While tilling the soil might initially bring a surge of oxygen to your garden, when done every year, tilling kills off essential fungal networks and beneficial life forms that we are only beginning to discover now. Eventually regular tilling “desert-ifies” the soil.
2. Lasagna garden instead.
Lasagna gardening is the method of layering different types of organic material to mimic the different horizons of the soil. Something like this:
The first thing I always put on top of the existing soil is my weed barrier: one of my many flattened Amazon boxes. Just lay the cardboard on top of the Bermuda grass or wherever it is you will soon be calling your “garden bed.”
The middle bit always contains some form of compost, and the top is something to cover the compost so that the flies don’t get to it. Here is another variation on that lasagna theme:
3. Plant perennials.
Most vegetables we like to eat are annuals, but some are perennials such as:
Berries are perennials, too, and all fruit trees!
Once you plant these, you won’t need to replant them every year.
4. Plant your pantry.
You might find the following food staples to have sprouted in your pantry:
- sweet potatoes
Do not throw them out. Put them in a pot or in the ground (season permitting).
Other pantry staples I like to “sprout” are:
- quinoa seeds
- chia seeds
- sunflower seeds
- tomato seeds
- seeds from pumpkins or squash
I toss them into my stir-fries, salads and casseroles. Delicious and nutritious! Not only is this lazy gardening but cheap gardening as well!
5. Use what you have to fertilize.
Instant fertilizers you can easily find are:
- crushed egg shells
- banana peels
- shredded paper (from your kids’ school work!)
- nitrogen-rich water from the fish tank and my all-time favorite
- coffee grounds!
Since our coffee machine broke, I stop at Starbucks and I ask the barista for the grounds that he would have otherwise had to throw into the dumpster. His life is easier, my soil is richer. Win-win!
6. Minimize (or better yet) eliminate lawns.
What do you currently use your lawn for? If the answer is: for the kids (and pets) to run around in, that’s great! But reconsider how much running around space might be put to productive use.
Gardening author and permaculture proponent Toby Hemenway calls lawn-mowing “schizophrenic.” Why? In a typical lawn, we nurture the plant (in this case, grass) and yet we hold its full-potential growth back intentionally. As soon as grass grows, we mow it down!
Now just imagine, all those hours of mowing… Gone!
7. Mulch with fallen leaves (and your neighbor’s too!)
Fallen leaves make excellent mulch for any garden. They biodegrade over the winter and infuse your soil with rich carbon and minerals. My neighbors never have to rake their leaves because my kids rake them into our yard. Win-Win!
8. Let the garden water itself (even in times of drought).
This is possible, through a number of ways:
1. Use rain barrels.
I live in a 1600 sq. ft. townhouse. Whenever it rains but one inch, 996.8 gallons of water is captured on my roof! We let some of it go down the spout and into our rain barrel.
Want to know how much rain is captured on your roof?* Use drip-irrigation.
2. Use drip-irrigation.
If you plan to use drip-irrigation:
- Put it down before you plant.
- Do not scrimp on the materials. The cheap ones burst.
- Consider, connecting it to your rain-barrel!
Depending on your plot of land, it is possible to dig an irrigation channel in the ground that leads into your garden bed. In permaculture, we call these “swales.” They are not as complicated as they sound.
I dug a mini-swale from my downspout to my front lawn in 4 days. But I never have to worry about my strawberries or lettuces having enough water now! Now that’s what I call pretty lazy!
They live on 1/27th of an acre in the suburbs of DC with their 4 children, fish, red wriggler worms and mason bees.
With help from school staff, friends and a grant from The Whole Kids Foundation, they installed a permaculture garden in their kids’ Title 1 Public School, where they also run an after-school garden program.
Every month, they teach lazy gardening through their “Grow Your Own Food” webinars.
Their next webinar is coming soon! Sign-up and “Grow Your Own Food!”