Have you wanted more from your garden with less work? If yes, then you are a lazy gardener. But do not feel bad, most of us are that way. We want our gardens to be beautiful, productive, and provide us with joy, all without us laying our hands upon it. Because we are lazy gardeners. Not lazy as is cutting corners to finish a job early, but a lazy gardener who want to relax amid the flowers, swing amid the shade of the mighty oaks, and walk barefoot across our cool turfgrass lawn.
The professional lazy gardener is one who has planned ahead, planted low maintenance or sweeping perennial beds, planted long-lived plants, and has used sustainable and time-saving practices to get ahead. And just because you are or want to be lazy during the hottest parts of the year (June, July & August in the Central Great Plains), does not mean that you do not work with fervor and impatience in spring or fall. You can be both a lazy gardener and a workaholic.
Planning Ahead to Get Ahead
By planning ahead before the work gets done, means that you can spend more time relaxing after the work is done. There are many time-worn practices and tips for the lazy gardener which will allow for more relaxation, if followed carefully. Be warned though. Once you start planning ahead in the garden and completing the work, you will find relaxation addicting.
Starting a calendar or schedule for the garden is only beneficial if you follow it. Put it down on paper (or your phone) and stick to following it. If you get off track on the schedule, then you will be more likely to lose out on much lazy time.
Tips for Planning Ahead in the Garden
- Put regular maintenance chores, such as weeding, deadheading, watering, and harvesting on a daily or weekly schedule.
- Move yearly chores (if possible) to fall or spring (including dividing perennials, pruning shrubs & trees, cleanups, mulching).
- Store regularly used hand tools in a mailbox or small shed near where you use them.
- Build raised beds for easier access in the vegetable garden.
- Keep all areas mulched where possible, including paths between beds where grass will not grow.
- Avoid planting hedges that require trimming. Instead, try a mixed shrub border of different species.
- Keep edging simple with clean, easy to maintain lines. Steel, aluminum, or concrete works best for this.
- Provide plant supports for floppy flowers such as dahlias, peonies, delphiniums, and Liatris aspera.
Tips for Planning Ahead in the Lawn
- Move mowing time to early morning, once every 2 weeks.
- Mow at the highest recommend height for your type of grass.
- Keep lawn sizes and spaces simple to reduce mowing times.
- Sharpen mower blades monthly to keep grass healthy.
- Do not over fertilize your turf to keep grass from growing too quickly.
- Reduce the area of your lawn if possible to beds with perennials or groundcovers.
- Remove turf and plant to a mixture of white clover, blue grama, and sedges to lessen mowing to monthly.
- If you have an irrigation system, run it so you are watering deeply once a week, instead of a short time daily.
Planting Tips for the Lazy Gardener
The lazy gardener needs to have a good plant for planting if he/she wants to relax. There are many things to do to keep maintenance chores down at the height of summer, if you put in the right plants. Look for plants with disease resistance, low water needs, drought and heat tolerance, are long lived, and can tolerate some insect damage. Most regionally native plants will fit the bill.
- Select native plants over non-native plants for new perennial and shrub beds.
- Use members of the mint family, which are mostly pest-free (includes Stachys, Lamium, Lavender, Salvia, Agastache, Pycnanthemum, Monarda).
- Plant your herbs in containers or raised beds near the door to the kitchen.
- Improve your soil before planting with organic matter and compost, so you will not need to fertilize later.
- Pick long lived plants for the garden, ones which rarely need division (Baptisia, Bleeding Hearts, Prairie Dock, Rudbeckia maxima, Hosta).
- Plant large sweeping beds of perennials and grasses, planted close together to prevent weeds.
- Plant annuals in masses to limit weeds and provide maximum color.
- Put in a row of annual flowers and herbs around the vegetable garden – it will attract beneficials and pollinators to keep pests down.
- Do not plant “messy trees” such as sweetgum, sycamore, silver maple, or pines next to patios, walkways, or driveways.
Vegetable Garden Tips for the Lazy Gardener
Who does not like to be a little lazy in the vegetable garden? I know I do. It is not just because I have to walk uphill to it either. Even though we are growing all this food for fresh eating and winter storage, we tend to be lazier towards it, saving our love for the perennial border or the shade garden. Try some of these tips to help your lazy gardener out.
- Use a crop rotation plan when planting the garden to give each crop its best growing potential.
- When planting tomatoes, put Epsom salts and crushed egg shells in the planting hole to prevent blossom end rot.
- Cage tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants to keep fruit off the ground.
- Mulch everything! Grass clipping, sawdust, straw, and fine woodchips are best for vegetables.
- Sprinkle coffee grounds along the rows of carrots to make them sweeter.
- Trellis peas, gourds, and cucumbers for an easier harvest.
- Plant corn, beans, spinach, lettuce, and beets in succession to continue harvests.
- Plant perennial vegetables such as rhubarb, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, horseradish, and daylilies.
- To give new transplants or seedlings a good start, pull weeds when they are small.
- Weed weekly.
- Fence your garden to prevent damage from deer, woodchucks, raccoons, and rabbits.
- Plant pole beans instead of bush beans to save your back and space.
- Pick early in the morning, daily, to keep plants producing.
Tips on Wildlife and Birds for the Lazy Gardener
When it comes to wildlife gardening, one can hardly be more lazy than to let nature take its course. But many gardeners make it a chore to keep wildlife populations up around them, even those with big vegetable gardens. The best way to stay lazy with nature is to remember not to “clean it up”. Nature is messy, so let it be so.
- Place bluebird and wren houses around your property. These birds will munch down on lots of caterpillars.
- Leave a broken terra cotta pot upside down in among your hostas for a toad house.
- Leave a bundle of hair clippings, yarn and string ends, and fabric scraps in a place where birds can freely access it for nest building.
- Brush piles are used by many types of wildlife, so leave one for them. It can be in the corner out of sight.
- Small snakes in the garden eat snails, slugs, and insects. Leave the bottoms of shrubs and small brush or rock piles for them to hide in.
- Plant trees and shrubs which provide a lot of insects to birds and other animals (oaks, cherries, plums, viburnums, birches, and maples).
- Leave bundles of hollow stems on concrete blocks or hanging from trees for mason bees.
- Let fallen trees be, they are homes to a wide variety of wildlife.
- Trees with hollows will attract a lot of birds, including owls, woodpeckers, chickadees, and tufted titmice.
- For many birds, including cardinals, plants some large shrubs that grow 10 to 15 feet tall (Blackhaw viburnum, old-fashioned lilac, black chokeberry).
Finding That Place to Rest in the Garden
Once you have your garden in a tip top spot, where do you find is the best place to be? For me, on a summer afternoon, I like to be swinging slightly in the hammock, reading a book or watching the leaves of the cottonwoods above dancing in the breeze. I have also had a tradition of going for a walk in the woods on a lazy Sunday afternoon, dating back to when my children took naps. Now we walk together.
I suppose, if I had a pool, large water garden, or shaded patio, I would spend my time at those. But a bench by the duck pond, a chair in cottage garden, or a hammock in the shade are just as good. As my gardens develop over time, I find different spots to spend my time. I love photographing moths, butterflies, beetles, and bugs while walking through the garden. When I want to be a lazy gardener, that is what I do best.
Being a lazy gardener does not mean that you get nothing done. In truth, it is more likely the opposite. We can become lazy because we got all the work done beforehand. Once you have a plan and have followed it to the point where almost everything runs like clockwork, you will find more and more time to relax and enjoy the garden.