7 Vegetable Garden Shortcuts
Growing your own wholesome fruits and vegetables takes time – your time!
But what if you haven’t got much of it? Perhaps you work long hours, have a busy schedule, or a young family that keeps you on your toes. So what can you do when time is truly precious? Well in this video we’re going to share some vegetable garden shortcuts so you can get growing with minimal effort. It may seem obvious, but the first thing you can do is choose those vegetables that are easiest to grow.
Onions, for example, can be planted out as partly grown bulbs called ‘sets’ or as young plants, then simply kept watered and weeded until harvest time.
Summer squash and zucchini (courgettes) require little more than regular picking while bush (dwarf) beans are quick growing and, unlike climbing beans, don’t need any supports.
You can use our Garden Planner to actively filter plants to show those that are particularly easy to grow. Click the Filter button here, choose the type of plants you’d like to show, then simply choose the ‘Easy to grow’ option.
The selection bar is now filtered to display crops that are reliable and lower maintenance. Plug plants are young plants that have been grown
in their own ‘plug’ of potting soil until they’re at the right stage for potting on or planting out into beds. Buying plug plants saves a lot of time because
there’s no sowing to do and you don’t have to worry about fiddly seedlings. It’s also a great solution if you don’t have much space
to start lots of seedlings indoors or under cover.
While bought-in plug plants are a little costlier than seed they’ll be raring to go, will make planning your beds a lot easier, and you’ll be a step closer to harvest.
Some plug plants, especially of tender crops such as tomato, will need to be ‘hardened off’ before planting out. This can be done once there’s no danger of frost
by leaving them outside for increasingly longer periods of time over the course of 1-2 weeks, making sure to avoid windy days and exposed locations.
You can also cover newly-planted plug plants with row covers, fleece or clear plastic bottles cut in half. This will trap warmth around the young vegetables and help them acclimatize to their outdoor home. Grow vegetables that prefer similar conditions, or that are from the same crop family, together. This makes it easier to tailor specific growing requirements to your crops. For example if vegetables from the cabbage family, such as kale, broccoli and cauliflower, are grown together in the same bed it’s easier to net them in one go against common pests such as pigeons and caterpillars. Or group leafy salads together, which will make it easier to keep them well-watered and to set up shade cloth in hot weather if necessary. A great labor-saving solution for creating new vegetable beds is to use the no-dig approach.
Simply work a hoe over the soil surface to remove the worst of the weeds, then lay a thick layer of cardboard down to smother any that remain. Don’t forget to remove any tape or staples from the cardboard, and lay it so the sheets have a generous overlap. Now pile on a thick layer of well-rotted organic matter such as garden compost or potting soil. This needs to be at least 4in (10cm) thick. You can sow or plant immediately, and there’ll be very few weeds to slow you down. Another clever way to make instant beds is to use growing bags. Usually sold for growing fruiting vegetables like tomatoes or peppers, these self-contained sacks of potting soil can be used to grow all manner of shallow-rooted crops including spinach, salads, onions and bush beans. Loosen up the potting soil by massaging the bag to break up any clumps, then cut slits into the bottom for drainage. Lay the bag onto the ground, flatten it out, then cut open a planting area into the top of the bag. The bag will suppress weedswhile offering instant growing space.
At the end of the season, the soil can be used to fill the bottom of containers, or the plastic can be cut away to convert it into a permanent bed if you wish. Containers of all shapes and sizes can provide growing spaces where ground is in short supply or poor condition, but they do require more frequent watering and feeding. Save time by mulching the surface of the potting soil with gravel or shredded bark, which will help to retain valuable moisture. Soil-based potting soil is slower to dry out, and is ideal for bigger plants including fruit trees and bushes. Larger containers dry out more slowly and provide more nutrients than smaller ones, so will need watering and feeding less often. Group containers close together so you can water them in one go and to reduce the impact of drying or damaging winds if you’re heading off for a few weeks and haven’t got anyone to water your pots, simply sink them into the ground like this, then give the pot and the surrounding soil a thorough drenching. Buried containers won’t get as hot or dry out as quickly.
Don’t take up your time weeding or mowing paths between beds. Instead, lay down a thick mat of straw, bark chippings or other biodegradable matter. Or for a firmer surface underfoot, try laying down planks of wood. If you prefer grass paths, then give your beds a hard edging such as wooden planks to keep the grass contained
and to stop it from growing into the beds. These are just a few simple yet highly effective ways help you save time in the vegetable garden. Now, if you’ve got a time or labor-saving tip, don’t keep it to yourself – just pop us a comment below and tell us! And if you enjoyed this video and crave even more gardening ideas and advice,
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We’ve got some stellar topics lined up to help you take your gardening to the next level. So – I’ll catch you next time!