Time-saving gardening hacks revealed
So much to do and so little time. We hear you! You want to grow as much yummy produce as you can without as much of the backbreaking work that can come with gardening. Here are the top 10 must-try shortcuts to save you precious time in the garden.
#1. Start from Transplants—Right Into the Ground!
Small plants or seedlings (called transplants) that are bought from the local garden center offer an immediate, no-worries way to get growing in your veggie garden. They’ll mean a head start on the growing season, without any of the worry and time-consuming nurturing of seedlings you’ve nursed from seed.
And plant straight away at their final spacing – no anxious waiting or thinning of seedlings required! They’re big and sturdy, so are better able to withstand pests like slugs. And it means less time till harvest! Yes, they are more expensive than seeds, but often – given the number of plants you really need – young plants like these will end up costing not much more than a packet of seeds.
#2 Grow Easy Crops
Some crops are a lot easier to grow than others. You plant them, you perhaps water and weed them – and that’s it. No tying in. Next to no pests. And nothing more needed from you other than harvesting.
Vegetables that fit these criteria are, for example, winter squash and pumpkins – you just harvest them all at once towards the end of summer; climbing beans which just need picking; leafy staples like chard; potatoes and garlic – and many more besides. All super easy. If you’re not sure what other crops make for super-easy growing, you can consult our Garden Planner. Just select the Easy to Grow option, and the plant selector now shows the easiest plants to grow. The easy-care, low-maintenance nature of each of these is bound to save you time.
#3. Plant Perennials
Want to do away with the continuous cycle of sowing and planting altogether but still want something tasty to eat? Then grow perennial vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Plant once… harvest for years to come. Perennial kale will grow as tall as you, giving plenty of nutritious leaves as and when required, week in, week out, no problem at all. Unlike many annual crops, perennials tend to shake off the occasional pest attack, proving themselves a no-fuss alternative.
Other perennial veg include perennial leeks and favorites like asparagus, artichoke and rhubarb. Herbs like thyme, rosemary and oregano will keep on offering up their tasty leaves. And then there’s the legion of fruit trees and bushes.
#4. Speed Up Planting
Planting’s easy – and quick – if you do your prep. Start by thoroughly soaking the root ball before you plant – that way plants establish better and won’t need watering quite as soon. The easiest way to do that… just pop them into a tub of water and leaving them in there till they’re heavy with moisture. Lift them out… let them drain off, then they’re good to plant. This pre-soak method is particularly effective in hot, dry summers.
To plant, start by removing everything from its plug or pot then lay the plants out where you want them to go. Then go through and plant. This way you’re doing one task at a time before moving on to the next – it’s a more efficient way to do things. You want soil that is light and fluffy so planting’s easy – just use your hands to burrow down into it. In heavier soils you could use a dibber or trowel to make your holes as you plant, or use a bulb planter. Just push it into the ground, lift out the soil… and go in with your plant. Nice and easy!
#5. Start Automating
Our gardens are one of the few places we can escape the stresses and strains of the modern world – including all those computers and machines we seem to be slaves to. But let’s not get too carried away – machines can have a place in the garden too, especially when we’re looking to save our precious time.
Link irrigation systems up to a timer to automate the time-consuming job of watering. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses and you’ll be delivering water efficiently, precisely where and when it’s needed.
Larger beds and borders can be weeded – by robot! Yes, believe it or not, robot machines can weed between plants, no problem at all. Solar panels self-charge, and it’ll keep your garden spic and span. Nifty huh? Then there are automatic lawn mowers, which zip about the lawn, as needed, to keep things nice and trim.
#6. Low-Fuss Lawns
And on the subject of lawns, there lots of other tricks you can employ for a low-fuss lawn.
Leave some areas of lawn to grow longer. Instead of mowing every week, drop the frequency to, say, once every two or three weeks, or even once a month. You can always make it look ‘neater’ by mowing short-cropped edges and paths to frame these longer areas of grass.
Let the grass clippings fall where they’re cut. By returning what’s cut to the ground, there’s no lawn feeding ever needed. If you want things neater, you could use a mulching lawn mower which chops the grass up into tiny fragments that rot down far quicker, without a trace.
Remove fiddly edges to make easier to pass over with the lawnmower. Mow right up and into the shrubs, so there’s no trimming with a half moon or other edging tool. Finally, if you have a small area of lawn, consider getting rid of it all together. An area of raised beds probably takes not much longer to maintain than an area of lawn. It looks great – and you can eat it! You could do away with tiny lawns in other ways of course – perhaps an area of gravel with self-seeders popping up here and there, or an area of pavers surrounded by wide, luxuriant ornamental borders.
#7. Use Quality Potting Mix
Give yourself a time-saving head start by simply using decent potting mix that will keep plants healthy for longer. To this you can add a few amendments that will both boost growth and reduce time you spend feeding your plants later. A slow or time-release organic fertilizer will trickle out its nutrients over weeks or even months, so you won’t have to step in with additional feed till much further along the plant’s lifecycle.
You could also give potting mixes a boost by mixing in, say, worm castings or something like volcanic rock dust. Mix it all in at planting time and delay supplemental feeding a little longer. And, of course, a richer growing medium means bigger, healthier crops that reach harvest that little bit sooner.
#8. Easy Composting
Save yourself a lot of bother with composting. One option is to use a compost tumbler – the sort with a rotating handle or where the whole barrel rotates. This will really speed things up and keeps everything neat. You just turn it every now and then to mix everything up and can expect compost in as little as two months. That’s fast!
The other option is a plonk and forget method. Aim for a roughly 50:50 balance of browns like these old leaves to greens like these recently cleared crops. But apart from that everything just gets thrown onto the heap and left. No digging it all out and turning it, but that’s fine if you’re not in a hurry. Start another heap elsewhere while another one matures, and in time you’ll have a steady supply of compost.
#9. Ditch Grass Paths
Grass paths are time consuming because they are difficult to mow. Instead, opt for straw or woodchip paths. They need no mowing, just the occasional top up as they rot down. And if you think all that organic matter rotting down into your paths is a waste of resources, it really isn’t, because it will gradually feed the beds around it, while offering shelter to all manner of beneficial bugs that will help with pest control. You can even plant into it too!
#10. Stop Digging
Being here, surrounded by all these raised beds, brings us onto our next time-saving shortcut: stop digging! Simply leaving the soil be is one of the best things you can do to improve things down at the root zone.
All of the beds in the video were started off simply by covering the existing lawn with cardboard and then tipping on the compost or potting mix directly on top – and then planting into that. How simple and timesaving’s that!
Digging not only disrupts soil life – never good news for your plants – it brings up buried weed seeds, guaranteeing you plenty of hours weeding! So, ditch the spade and all the back-breaking hours of toil it entails, and swop it for mulches of compost and other organic matter that will nourish the soil, and your plants, the way nature intended.
Got a time saving tip? You know what to do… drop a comment below and let us all know about it!