- Author: Margaret J O'Neill
Gardening is fun, and it is rewarding, but it also can be time consuming. For many who garden the “time consuming
Here are 10 quick tips to successfully have a garden on a busy schedule:
1) Keep an eye on it! Plant your plants somewhere you can see them! For me and my home herb garden it meant planting them in pots right next to where I park my car when I come home. It is the first thing I see before I go out, and when I come home. This encourages me to do a quick watering (if needed) and check on them before I go inside and get distracted by other things. You can also place your plants along your walkway, or by a front or side door you use often.
2) Keep it small, small can be fabulous! Sometimes I get big ideas and want to grow all of my own fruits and vegetables because I do have the space for that at my family home. That thinking often leads to failure because I am just too busy with life to keep up the pace and see it through. This year and last, I am keeping it small and keeping it all in one area While I'm not living up to my big dreams of growing all of my own produce (yet), by keeping it small and easier to manage I am more likely to succeed with the things I am growing.
4) Set yourself up for success by starting off with the right plants, in the right plant right place right time! Planting “warm season” plants for the summer and “cool season” plants in the winter will ensure that your plants are ready for the season they are being planted for. Check out our monthly online Master Gardenering classes (http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/) about what to plant each month in the garden to learn more! Short on time, have really hot summers in your area, or a short growing season like in the mountains? Find varieties of edibles that have words like “early harvest,” or “heat tolerant” (or “shade tolerant” if you have lots of shade in your area) in their name or description. Early harvest varieties will ripen in a shorter amount of time, meaning less time to care for them and less time for pests or heat to damage them. Heat tolerant varieties are suited to areas that are prone to hot spells and shade tolerant varieties do well in shaded yards. “Disease resistant” varieties (such as ‘VFN' tomatoes) can save frustration, time and disappointment. Herbs are another plant that can add spice and flavor to your life and kitchen and can also be low maintenance.
5) Check on your plants for 5 minutes each day, it is worth it! The best way to keep your plants healthy and happy is to find diseases, pests and weeds early. Spending five minutes can help you catch problems early before they take more time, money and resources to manage. Also, when time is tight, and your mind is full of tasks and responsibilities a short garden break can help refresh your mind and spirits and give you more energy and clarity to get back to your busy schedule! Science backs it up; time outside and with plants is good for your body and mind!!
6) Keep water handy (or set up an irrigation system)! Fruits and vegetables suffer in flavor, texture, and overall health when they are not properly watered. Unlike the case with ornamental non-food crops, allowing edibles to dry out too much induces stress, increasing their susceptibility to pests and diseases. Overwatering can lead to disease-forming pathogens by reducing available oxygen in the rootzone. A cycle of underwatering and overwatering can lead to poor production and flavor and many health issues. Planting your edibles in a location you tend to look at everyday increases your ability to keep your eye on them for drought stress and tackle irrigation issues in a timely way.
7) Hydrozone!Hydrozoning is the placement of plants with similar water needs together. The challenge begins when we plant flowers, shrubs and native plants around our edible gardens to bring in pollinators and beneficial insects. Many drought-resistant plants don't like much (or any) supplemental water once established. It's important to water edible plants on a separate schedule. Unless you're hand-watering, avoid adding a tomato plant to your drought-tolerant shrub-bed, as well.
8) Mulch! Mulch keeps weeds out and reduces water evaporation from soil. It should be applied 3-4 inches deep on top of the soil around your plants and works great for potted plants, as well. Light colored mulch also buffers soil temperatures. It also keeps slugs and snails away.
9) Start with a good foundation (your soil and pots)! If you are short on time, it's important to start off right! Edibles do best with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. You can improve soil drainage of heavy clay-based soils and water-holding capacity of lighter sand-based soils by mixing compost or other forms of organic matter (at least 40% by volume) to garden soil at least 6 inches deep.
10) Reach out to our MG helpline! Don't forget that our Master Gardeners are here to help answer all of your plant related questions! We love being plant detectives and solving mysteries. No question is too small or silly! Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
11) Ok, I'm going to throw one more tip in there!! HAVE FUN and don't be afraid of making mistakes! That's how we learn and after a few seasons of trying and growing (and reaching out to the Master Gardener Helpline, attending our free classes online and checking out the resources we share on our website, social media and at our presentations) you will be amazed at how much you have learned from even a small garden! You can do it!! Start small, and don't give up.! It's a journey that has life long rewards for your mind and body.