The most rewarding part of my gardening task is my vegetable garden. It can get out of hand easily and escape from the “easy gardening” definition, but it’s a labor of love.
I try not to go overboard. Seeds are cheap, and the temptation to plant the whole pack is high. And hey, if tomato seedlings are less expensive in 6 packs rather than buying individual plants, why not buy the six pack!
So here’s my rules of easy gardening for your vegetable garden:
- Plant only what you need, plus a little bit of bragging when you give them away.
- Plant only what you can grow better than the farmer’s market down the street.
- Choose low maintenance and disease resistant varieties wherever possible.
- Don’t go overboard.
As I mentioned, rule 1 is the toughest for me. Just remember, everything that you plant is going to need some care, watering, weeding, picking, and processing. A couple of tomatoes can be tended after dinner, a long row of tomatoes will take all afternoon.
My father in law was famous for ignoring rule 2. He wanted to be self-sufficient, and for him, that involved growing enough potatoes for the year. Potatoes grow well in New England, but they require a lot of work. It starts out with a large space, and then seed potatoes have to be cut and planted, the potato patch needs weeding all summer, and then it needs to be dug up for harvest. It doesn’t end there: then he had hundreds of pounds of potatoes that needed to be cleaned, sorted, and stored.
Some vegetables taste better when freshly picked from your garden. Tomatoes are juicier, cukes are crunchier, herbs are fresher, but a potato isn’t one of them. A potato is a potato, and after subtracting out his costs for seed, fertilizer, spray, gas for the tractor, and beers for after the work, he could have bought store potatoes for less!
Rule 3 is often ignored but still important. Choose plants and varieties that fit your vegetable garden, take minimum care, grow well in your area. For an easy gardener, this might mean choosing bush beans that grow in a row rather than pole beans that need poles or teepees to grow on, and need to be hilled or trained often. Bush tomatoes are time savers too and fit in better with small gardens.
Look for disease resistant varieties. Most types of vegetables are susceptible to mold mildew, and disease. Up here in New England, it’s not unusual to see tomato leaves yellow up and fall off mid-season, or zucchini with mildew covered leaves. Some breeds are resistant to these maladies. Your choice is to spend a few minutes and maybe a few extra dollars picking out the right ones, or spend time and money spraying and praying, which is often unsuccessful. Get advice from a good garden shop or nursery. Sure, their plants will be a few cents more, but the clerk at Walmart probably doesn’t have a clue.
And finally, rule 4 is don’t go overboard to keep it as an easy vegetable garden. Our goal is to have some fun growing vegetables, get some food from it, keep it looking good, and enjoy yourself.
Like most rules, there are exceptions and workarounds t hat can make your job easier. We’ll look at some in later posts.