Episode 007: Try These 5 Time-Saving Tips for a Productive Garden

podcast cover with image of woman and episode text: 007: Try These 5 Time-Saving Tips for a Productive Garden

episode highlights

  • Discover the benefits of using a garden planner to maximize your gardening efficiency
  • Unlock the magic of mulching to save time and effort in your organic garden
  • Learn why choosing low-maintenance plants can be a game-changer for productivity and which to include in your garden
  • Master the art of drip irrigation and companion planting to save time and effort

Top 5 Time-Saving Tips and Strategies For Efficient Gardening

Even a small or low-maintenance garden can be time-consuming if you don’t have a few systems in place. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to maximize your efficiency and get the most out of your garden, such as the ones I’m sharing in this week’s episode.

1. Use a garden planner

Keeping track of all the details of your garden can be overwhelming, but a garden planner can help you stay organized and save time. By mapping out your garden beds and planning your planting schedule, you can ensure that your garden is well-managed and productive.

Additionally, keeping a record of your garden tasks like watering and pruning can help you stay on top of maintenance tasks and avoid wasting time.

2. Utilize mulch

Mulching is a simple and effective way to save time in the garden. By retaining moisture in the soil, mulch can reduce the need for frequent watering. Additionally, it can help prevent weed growth, reducing the amount of time you’ll spend weeding.

3. Stick to low-maintenance plants

Choosing low-maintenance plants can save you time and effort in the garden. Look for plants that are pest and disease resistant, fast-growing, and require little attention.

Some examples of low-maintenance plants include culinary herbs, summer vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini, and annual flowers like sunflowers and cosmos.

4. Install drip irrigation

Drip irrigation systems can be a game-changer for busy gardeners.

By delivering water directly to the roots of your plants, drip irrigation can reduce water waste and the need for frequent watering. Compared to hand watering or using an overhead sprinkler, drip irrigation can be more efficient and save you time.

5. Practice companion planting

Companion planting helps save space and reduce weeding, as well as grouping plants together based on their sunlight, soil, and watering needs. By grouping plants with similar needs, you can more efficiently care for your garden and save time in the process.

By using these time-saving tips and strategies, you can maximize your efficiency and productivity in the garden. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, these techniques can help you save time and effort while still enjoying the benefits of organic gardening. So, grab your garden planner and get ready to enjoy a bountiful harvest!

Episode Transcript

Hello, hello, and welcome back to Organic Gardening for Beginners. I’m your host, Jessica from the blog Homegrown Food and Flowers, and this is the show that helps new and beginning gardeners just like you turn your backyard and outdoor space into a beautiful and productive area. 

Whether you are starting with a collection of pots, raised beds or an in-ground garden, I’m here to share tips and many, many years of experience to help you build your own awesome garden that will produce fresh food and beautiful flowers for you, your home and your family. 

So if you are ready to get your hands dirty and you’re ready to start growing, you are in the right place. In today’s episode, I am sharing five of my time-saving tips for a productive garden. Gardening is a very cool hobby in that it can be as high or as low maintenance as you want it to be, but with these tips, you can make the most of your time and effort in the garden. 

Alrighty, so first up on the list for ways to save time in the garden is to use a garden planner. A garden planner can help you keep track of so many of the details of your garden that can help you this season and in seasons to come. For example, with a garden planner, you can easily map out your garden beds, which might not sound like it saves you time, but it really does, because it helps you remember what you planted where. It helps you kind of keep track of your beds as you are grouping plants together, of what needs this type of attention or that type of attention, or how often you’re going to need to water. 

And, aside from mapping out your garden space, it’s also a great place to plan your planting schedule so that there’s a little bit less of willy-nilly seed starting. So, let’s face it, sometimes forgetting about those seedlings. I’ve been there. I’ve done that so that you can know exactly what you need to start when, and that way, when the weekend rolls around or you have a little pocket of time during the week, you can go straight to your planner, figure out what you should be starting that week and go grab those seeds and get it done. 

It’s also a garden planner is also a great way to keep track of important tasks, such as those planting dates that we just talked about, but also tasks like your watering, if you want to make a record of your irrigation system and your drip timer when it went off, to see you know, was it enough water? Was it not quite enough? Should I water more frequently next summer? 

Other important tasks, like pruning. If you are going to venture into perennials down the road, this is especially important because perennials need to be pruned well. Some need to be pruned at certain times of the year or divided, like the flower black-eyed Susan. Those ones are perennials, meaning they come back from year to year, and sometimes you’ll need to divide them or break them into smaller pieces so that your flower stays productive and healthy and doesn’t get overgrown and slowly stop producing as many flowers. So that’s another task that you can keep track of in your garden planner, that as the season goes on and you kind of get an idea of those habitual tasks that you need to do and when next year rolls around so that you have a good record of kind of what to do when. 

Second time-saving task, which once again, I’m sounding like a broken record, is to use mulch, and if you’ve listened to past episodes, the reasons why mulch is a time saver you will have already heard. 

So, first off, it helps retain moisture in the soil. Think of an empty garden bed that is just bare and exposed dirt, and you put your little seedlings in, or you put your seeds in and all that dirt is still exposed to the sun, and of course, the sun is going to warm up the soil and the moisture in the soil is going to evaporate more quickly. Now think about putting a two to three-inch blanket of mulch over that same garden bed, and you’ve now created a barrier between the heat of the day and the soil and the water in that soil. So if you are able to maintain your moisture levels a bit more evenly in the garden bed, then that’s less watering that you have to do. And this is obviously especially important if you are hand watering in the garden, where your bare garden beds are going to need your attention a lot more frequently. 

The next way that that mulch will help you save space is sorry, not save space, save time. I got distracted. My dog is scratching over in the corner, and I’m wondering if you can hear it on the podcast. In any case, the other way that mulch can really help save time is with weeding. Just like the mulch will hold moisture into the soil, it’ll also block the sunlight from reaching the soil surface and encouraging weed seeds to germinate. So with fewer weed seed sprouting, you’ll have less weeding to do, saving more time in the garden, and it’s just a pain in the butt task that really nobody wants to do, so it’s kind of a two for one there 

Next up, my third tip to save time in the garden is to stick to low-maintenance plants. Just like I mentioned in the intro, gardening can be high maintenance, or it can be low maintenance, depending on your goals, and today we’re focusing on that low maintenance. So choosing plants that are relatively pest and disease resistant or that just don’t need a whole lot of attention from you or are fast-growing are great ways to save time. 

So, for example, herbs are typically pretty pest and disease free. Herbs have a lot of pungent, what are they called…oils, there we go. Pungent oils in their leaves that a lot of bugs don’t care for, good or bad bugs, and so they don’t get, they don’t suffer as much pest damage as something that’s more tender or more tasty to the bug. So things like aphids or beetles, in my experience, don’t go for the basil or the cilantro or the sage or thyme or whatever herb I have in my garden. The same goes for disease. I have not experienced any disease problems with my herbs, and I don’t honestly know the science behind that if there’s a reason why herbs are more disease resistant. But it would certainly make sense, considering how many herbs are used in homeopathic medicine and natural remedies and things like that. So if they can, if herbs can help heal people, then why wouldn’t they heal themselves? 

Summer veggies are another good low-maintenance group of plants to go for. They are typically fast-growing. They are usually short-lived because these are heat-loving summer crops, not necessarily a slow-growing winter crop like brussel sprouts that take months and months to mature and are relatively vulnerable to insects, to pests. But veggies like cucumbers, like zucchini, kale, those ones are pretty low maintenance. As long as you provide water, they’re most likely going to grow. Of course I’ll add into parentheses there, if you live in the south, squash vine borers are dreadful, dreadful pests that make your low-maintenance zucchini plant all of a sudden become high maintenance and/or dead. Cucumbers can get powdery mildew. So I totally get it. Kale can get aphids, not guaranteeing at all that they won’t run into problems. Just saying that on the scale of difficulty for vegetables, those summer veggies are lower on the difficulty scale. 

Similarly, annual flowers are the way to go instead of perennial flowers. Over time, perennials become lower maintenance because they pretty much grow on their own. You don’t need to replant them. However, you do need to pay attention to the timing of when you plant perennials. They typically like to be planted in the fall. Some need pruning, like I had mentioned earlier in this episode. So they are perennials, are more work upfront and then they become low maintenance. 

But if you are looking for faster returns while still being low maintenance, then annual flowers are what I would recommend, and by those, I mean flowers that you plant the seed in the spring, they grow and bloom that summer, and then they die. They don’t come back next year unless you decide to plant them again. Sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, pansies, snapdragons; those all fall in that annual flower category, and they tend to be similar to those summer veggies. As long as they get regular water, they’ll grow for you, unless, of course, there’s some sort of deficiency in your soil or you’re having squirrels come and dig up your seedlings. With those exceptions, chances are your annual flowers will grow just fine. Alright. 

Next on the list, we’ve got number four, and that is to use drip irrigation. Drip irrigation systems will deliver water right to the roots of your plants, which reduces water waste and the need for frequent watering. When you water with a hose, a watering can, or an overhead sprinkler, the water just kind of sprays willy-nilly wherever. I’ve used willy-nilly twice in this episode, and I can’t remember the last time I used willy-nilly in real life. Something about podcasting brings it out, I guess. 

So, especially with overhead watering, the water can evaporate as it’s flying through the air, especially if you water in the heat of the day, which means less water is going to get to your plants, and you’ll need to then spend more time watering again. So with drip irrigation, it’s efficient. You put it on a timer, it goes for the set amount of time and frequency, and your plants get the water right away. So you have to do it less often and don’t need to spend any time out there hand watering. 

So I love hand watering occasionally. It’s a really great opportunity to connect with the garden, observe, see what kind of bugs you’re seeing, notice what’s ripening, what needs to be replanted, all that. But if you’re just looking at saving time, hand watering is not the way to go. Drip irrigation is much, much better. And if you can’t do drip irrigation because of you don’t have the space for it or the budget, whatever it is, then do overhead watering as opposed to hand watering. 

I know I just mentioned that overhead watering is not as efficient, but for a hands-off method of watering, that’ll definitely save you more time than going from plant to plant with the hose or the watering can to just set up your overhead sprinkler, turn it on, you know, walk away, go do whatever you got to do and then just don’t forget to come back and turn it off. It’s better that your plants get the water with a little bit, you know, splashing into the paths or outside of the garden bed than to wait to hand water and then you forget and then they’ve gone too long without water, and they get stunted or wilted if they’re seedling. So, you know, make a choice. There are payoffs to both methods.

Okay,  and then, last up on the list, this is referencing back to last week, is to use companion planting. This might not be an obvious one, like how does planting certain plants together help me save time? But the two ways that I notice in my garden that it helps me save time is that it saves space and it reduces the weeding that I need to do, and then I’ll tack on a third one of watering. And care is easy because my plants are kind of grouped together by what they need. 

So to dig into those. If I’m saving space in my garden, then things are efficient to get to. I know I can work on more than one plant at a time, and by that, I mean harvesting something or replanting something, even planting out. If I’m doing it all at once, that can help save me a little bit of time. And then, because the plants are spaced together so tightly, and they’ve grown, and their leaf canopy is shading the soil plus the mulch, then I honestly really have very, very little weeding to do. 

And then lastly, as I mentioned last week, when you are companion planting, it’s important to group your plants together as per the sunlight needs, that they have, the soil, that they prefer, their watering needs, so that way you can kind of handle each area as one. So if you’ve got a garden bed that’s companion planted with lettuce and cucumbers and nasturtiums and chives, all of those like a lot of water, so you can just kind of bulk assign the watering needs to that bed and not really think about oh, this plant needs less, so I’m going to make sure to keep the water away from it, or this plant needs more. So I’m going to tailor how I put out my sprinkler system so this gets the water it needs. You don’t have to futz with any of that. You can just put your timer on, grab your watering, can grab your overhead sprinkler, whatever it is, and all of those companion plants are going to be just fine getting the same amount of water. Hopefully that all makes sense. 

So those are my five time-saving tips. Use that mulch, use your companion planting, don’t forget about your drip irrigation, go for low-maintenance plants and get a garden planner. With all of those combined, you will be able to save time, save maintenance, save effort in the garden. And then, when you have those extra pockets of time where your kids are occupied or it’s early in the morning before anybody else is up, then you can sneak out into the garden and use that to just hang out, listen to the birds meander through your containers, whatever your garden setup is, and enjoy that time without having to worry so much about your to-do list. At least, that’s how I like to use my little stolen moments in the garden. 

Alrighty, next week we are talking about those 60-day maturity vegetables and flowers that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago or a couple of episodes ago. Excuse me that if you are planting your garden in June, july, in that timeframe like I am, since I’m moving, these ones are going to mature very, very quickly for you, meaning that you won’t have to miss the planting season, even if you aren’t getting started in the traditional spring timeframe. 

So I will have that ready for you next week, and if you are getting value out of this show and loving it, please don’t forget to subscribe or follow according to your podcast player. That definitely helps get the show to more gardeners who want to get started this year. See you next week!

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