Start a Lazy Gal’s Garden
Starting a garden doesn’t have to take a lot of heavy work or time. Starting out slower and smarter is the best way to enjoy being outdoors and enjoy nature at its grandest.
In this post, I share with you how I garden easily and inexpensively.
Start A Lazy Gal’s Garden – Part 1 How I have a beautiful garden in small amounts of time.
This is going to be a series of posts.
I have been asked how I can keep such a lush garden on so little time and the tips and tricks I have used will take up much more than one post.
A great time to start a Lazy Gal’s Garden is Fall. (don’t worry, you can start in Spring when the growing itch usually gets started as well)
Why start this series in the Fall instead of Spring?
Because you can start building your soil. We will talk more on that later.
If you have been around here for a while you know I have a thing for my garden.
And though I could happily spend hour after endless hour toiling away among my glorious blossoms and plants I am not always privileged to do so.
Life comes calling and fills up my schedule and I rarely get to work in my garden for more than half an hour at a time per day.
So what is the secret to a lush garden in relatively little time?
1. Only plant as much garden as you can keep up with
As much as all of us would like to jump right in and have a large, lavishly blooming garden come Springtime, the reality is that it can easily become overwhelming.
A garden that will take more time than we have will only suck the joy out of having one.
But if you start small and find plants that actually thrive in your area you can have what you wish and still keep it within your time budget.
A small area planted well and blooming nicely all season can bring you a lot of joy.
Once you get started and find what will thrive for you, then you can expand it.
Some of the flowers will even reseed themselves and help you to enlarge your garden.
I will confess that many areas of my garden are just free-seeding plants that have volunteered to sprout where they liked.
2. Great Soil is your Friend
Long ago I was watching a garden show on PBS, and they were interviewing a lady who had a gorgeous garden in an area many found hostile to growing things.
She made the comment that you can grow anything in great soil.
Now that may be an overstatement but it is true to a degree.
Great soil can make growing things so much easier.
Feed the Soil Instead!
If you’re new to gardening, you might think that the key to a thriving garden is to fertilize, fertilize, fertilize. Just stop, Regenerate the Soil instead!
My soil did not begin great, I have amended it over time.
I actually started my garden in the small patch in front of our house, it had been a lawn but I wanted to convert it to a cottage garden full of flowers.
We had to have some trees taken down that summer so that more or less wiped out the little bit of lawn.
This is a very old picture and sorry it is so small. It was taken around the year 2000.
All the wood was removed and having so much more sunshine in my front garden was a growing paradise.
To get rid of the rest of the grass easily I started in the Fall. (here is why I started this post series now)
I found a local debris yard that composts tree limbs and other garden debris then sells it by the cubic yard.
I mixed that with chicken manure and dumped about 6 inches of it on the top of the soil and patches of grass that were left.
Next I added about another 4-6 inches or more of leaves from around the neighborhood and pine needles (see note below).
The neighbors were more than willing to give me their bags and bags of leaves rather than hauling them off or burning them.
To make gathering leaves easier I use a leaf blower that also reverses to vacuum and shred leaves. The leaf blower makes the job go so much faster and is worth its weight in gold.
Note: dried pine needles ARE NOT ACIDIC! It is one of those garden myths that persists. I know that is a new thought to many of you but it is true, they are no more acidic than dried leaves. So if you read somewhere that putting them under your hydrangeas will make them turn a different color, I am sorry, you will be disappointed. Pine needles make excellent mulch.
Even if you don’t mulch with leaves you can still compost them, they are great in the compost pile or bin!
No need to burn or set out on the curb. Make good use of what your garden gives you.
I would say the area I started in was about 8 feet by 24 feet but if all you can manage is a 4 x 4 bed then just do that. It is entirely up to you.
The reason I start in the Fall is the rains and snows of winter come and do the work for me… the winter months pass and underneath the blanket of organic matter, garden miracles are happening.
By Spring time not only did I have no grass but very few weeds either, I also had a huge crop of worms aerating the soil for me. I just raked back what was left of the leaves where I wished to plant something and easily troweled the fabulous crumbly soil and planted my flowers.
And that is how you begin your journey to a fabulously gorgeous garden. Get a helping hand if you can. My husband helped to unload the truck load of compost but the rest was done by me. The debris yard also had a delivery service, for a fee, but since I had my husband it was not worth paying for but if I had to do it alone it would’ve been well worth the fee to have them just dump the load here for me.
To make your own compost CLICK HERE
You can also use bagged potting soil from your local garden center, just make sure it is not full of chemical fertilizers. Organic is best, especially if you want to have plenty of worms, and I will tell you now, you do want worms!
If you already have halfway decent soil, then pile on the leaves and other great mulching materials and just let that sit for the winter but adding some rich compost or horse, cow or chicken manure, just makes it that much better.
If thick enough the layer of leaves will block most weeds making it easy to get started in the Spring. Don’t try to seed an area covered with the thick mulch, you will be disappointed, but…..
Do you already have an area that is ready to go (meaning good soil) and you want to have gorgeous blooms this Spring…go here for some seeds that are easy to toss on the soil now, Sow Your Seeds in Fall
If you have really impossible soil then consider raised beds. I have a Pinterest Board with many great ideas for raised beds.
But I also have certain raised bed methods that I love and you can see that HERE.
Next time we will discuss my tools and other resources.
Click on the highlighted text for the next segment in this series….Lazy Gal’s Garden Guide Part 2 where we talk good tools and how to figure out what plants thrive in your area.
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Great information in this post. Can’t wait for the rest of this series! I am starting a couple of beds this fall. Some of the work is done but I have a ways to go. Starting from scratch.
Hi. What planting zone are you in?
We are in Zone 8, we get heavy snows in winter starting usually around December and they last thru April. We live in the mountains of N. Calif. Spring doesn’t really get started here until late May.
Excellent tips for any gardener. Most of us are busy people and are looking for easier ways to love our gardens without having to spend too much time maintaining it. I’m sure many will benefit from your advice.
Thanks Patti. Much of how I garden at times goes against many of the accepted forms of gardening but it has been so successful for me and when people ask me how much time I spend in my garden they are disbelieving when I say usually not more than 30 minutes a day. So then I was asked how in the world I do that. So here is how. This is my second garden doing it this way, my first was at my home in the San Joaquin Valley starting in 1980 to 1997. Conditions were much different than where I live now but my methods have remained the same with just as much success.
Ruth Stouts No Work Garden ordered this book from my library. Coming soon. Can’t wait. Love your site. Thanks for sharing things that I love as well. Also Amazon has the Kids garden tool sets, so far.
Thanks for the tip on the garden tool sets. I am glad since I have failed to grab another and I really do want one. You will get a kick out of Ruth Stouts book, she writes with a fun sense of humor.
I enjoy your gardening advice very much.
I moved to northern Michigan, but still in the lower peninsula. Lake Michigan is one mile down the road. Well the soil on my property is beach sand! Not the greatest for growing anything yet the weeds flourish.!!
When we lived down state I had a beautiful garden of flowers and veggies. We had big maples there and would compost the leaves and add it to the beds. But in Nortern Michigan we have mostly oaks. Very acidic. The farmers put large amounts of lime in their fields and we lime our lawn and beds every spring.
I miss having leaves to compost and was wondering if we did compost the oak leaves could we counter act it with lime before applying it to the flower beds?
If you have any input I would welcome it.
Hi Mary Ann. Well Oak leaves are only acidic while they are green, the ones that are brown and have fallen from the trees are not so composting them is just fine and will not affect the PH levels of your soil. They are a bit tougher about breaking down so adding a bit of other things to help accelerate the process wouldn’t hurt. I use dry pine needles all the time for mulch as well as oak leaves and I have no trouble at all. Have your soil tested at a local extension to see where your PH lies and visit a local nursery, they would most likely have the best advice for you for your conditions. (not big box store garden center)
Adding compost can only improve your sandy soil and Oak leaves are great for composting. I hope this helps.
I have very much enjoyed your advice and how to do’s .I am a fa irly new gardner and have learned a lot from trail and error, but the errors are expensive if you aren’t careful.Thank you very much for your advice and look forward to reading many more of your tips.
Yes, trial and error can get pricey. I share as much as possible anything I think will help others to have garden success without breaking the bank. Plus some things like starting plants from cuttings are just plain fun!