12 Easy Strategies for Making the Most of Your Garden

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile now. It’s part in response to a question I get asked all the time, “How much time do you spend on your garden?” Or similarly, “How do you have time for all this?” I know most people look at my situation and think, “She’s  single and has the summers off. She has all the time in the world.”  It’s true that I spend a substantial amount of my free time sowing seeds, harvesting vegetables, pulling weeds, planting starts, cooking vegetables, preserving my harvest, saving seeds, taking pictures and writing about it. And yes, I do have more time off than in many professions. But the truth is, my schedule gets filled up with the best of them. I have relationships that need attention and appointments that need attending. I have to be strategic. I’ve always been goal-oriented and am super productive with my time, but truth be told, it’s one of my current life goals to learn how to slow down and enjoy the life I’ve (literally) cultivated around me. As a working girl, I’ve figured out a way to make it work. I had to – this is a passion that gives me fuel for life.

So, I’m writing this post today to answer that question, “How do you have time for all this?” with some strategies I put into practice around my urban farm. I want to share a few nuggets of garden wisdom that I have learned along the way – wisdom I’ve learned by trying, succeeding, failing, and trying again, without much time to spare.

1) Abandon the goal of perfection. This was a hard one for me, but has been the most important lesson. Trust your garden and give it time to grow. If something “fails,” it’s a lesson your garden is teaching you. Some plants will live and others will die. You win some, you lose some. Keep calm and carry on.

2) Pre-make your lunch. On days when I’m going to tackle big garden projects, it helps to have something already prepared in the fridge for lunch so that when I take a break, I can focus on nourishing myself instead of making a big mess in the kitchen.

3) Add only one new thing a season – one new raised bed, one new type of plant, one new container. This allows you to ease it into your current maintenance system.

4) Buy starts – that doesn’t mean you’re a failure of a gardener! Of course, sowing seeds is more economical and in many cases, easy to grow (i.e. squash and beans). But especially when thinking about planting a fall and winter garden, planting starts can be helpful. It’s hot in August and it can be hard to keep new seed beds moist for germination. Try and find locally-grown sources, like Rents Due Ranch or Cascadian Edible Landscapes (they even have a plant start CSA – sign up ASAP!)

5) Know your limitations and don’t be afraid to depend on local farmers for those. Brassicas like broccoli and Brussels sprouts never do well in my garden. Plus, their huge leaves take up valuable space. Remember my thing about potatoes? I’m not saying give up, but it’s ok to grow some things, and leave others to the experts!

6) Think “Right plant, right place!” You can make your work a lot easier by planting things that grow well here. Tomatoes and peppers are possible north of the Cascades, but kale and leafy greens will leap out of the soil with little effort. There’s something to that.

7) Know the rules and try to follow them, but don’t be afraid to break them every once in awhile. Remember my watering confessional? Case in point.

8) Barter and share the load. A friend, who lives on the east side of the Cascades, mentioned her trouble growing kale. Yet in her hot, dry climate, peppers practically fall off the vine. So what should she do? Trade peppers for kale from me! Be creative. Think about what your neighbor could grow and what you could grow and then trade.

9) Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make an easy, fun beverage to reward (and entice) your helpers!

10) Pick one area a day to focus on instead of trying to tackle the whole yard. Instead of making a to-do list, look around at that designated part of your yard and accomplish what you can.

11) If you don’t have all day, pick an hour, make a list of what needs to be done, prioritize your list to determine what’s most important and tackle those first. I recently read somewhere that we’re most productive in the morning hours, so use that to your advantage if you can.

12) Take time to enjoy it because if you don’t, what’s the point?

So friends, now I pose the question to you: How do you make it work?

6 thoughts on “12 Easy Strategies for Making the Most of Your Garden

  1. Dennis

    Awesome tips, thank you. I live near my office. I take a break about 9 every morning for 15 to 20 minutes. I go by the house and do 15 minute little jobs in the garden. Water some raised beds, fertilize, pull weeds, pull some greens to hang in my chicken’s coop. Something every day. It’s amazing how such little bit of effort on a consistent basis will bring such great rewards. My garden looks beautiful and I didn’t have to spend my whole Saturday doing garden chores.

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  2. Janell

    Great advice! The garden should always make you smile, taking time to enjoy it is so important! Sit back, relish in your successes and celebrate with your fun garden beverage.

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  3. Kristin

    I have been watering my plants, which are mostly in containers (and so really need it) about twice a day, maybe more if it is hot (rare here in Seattle). I’m usually at home, but with three little kids it can be a challenge…I usually set them to some other project and just water as fast as I can!! I also try and hold back from harvesting and I let them do that part since it is the exciting part.

    My reason for the containers is I knew in the springtime that we would be moving, so despite having ample space to garden I knew I wouldn’t want to have to dig up plants in mid production…I’m glad I did this though it is sort of overwhelming to think about how I’ll move all my containers! I counted the other day and I have close to seventy, plus a table covered with smaller ones.

    I’m making a list of friends who might be able to use some of the crops or loan/rent me some of their lovely yard space too…the place we are moving is smaller and has a shadier backyard, though much more kid space and better commute for my husband.

    I’m so glad I found this blog Stacy I’m loving it!! I don’t know where you are but I’m about to move from Pinehurst to Ravenna this month…maybe we’ll cross paths sometime!

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  4. Lindsey @ NW Backyard Veggies

    Great Article, Stacy. Thank you for giving me a perspective on possibility. I have historically made my pea patch work by abandoning lawn care, much to the irritation of my neighbors!
    But seriously, I make it work by only actually working at my day job 3 days a week to spend time at home doing what I love. I make conscious choices to live simply and cheaply, so that I can enjoy the time I have with the people I love and the garden I cultivated.
    Oh, and I bought a Honda cultivator that makes turning beds the simplest thing in the known world.

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  5. Allison

    Love!! I just found your blog and am loving it. My husband grew up in the NW (so I enjoy reading about NW stuff, of course), but we live in Denver now. We’re expecting Baby4 in just a few more weeks and this post is just what I needed to read! Can’t do everything, but everything you can do – do well. Keep it up!

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