Full Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:02 pm
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada

Have Time Saving Ideas for Planning a Vegetable Garden?

The longer I'm reading here, the more I realize that I could create myself more work than what I can handle with all the ideas I now have for my new garden, so I need to go WHOA! and look into ways I can grow food for my family without worrying too much about whether it is the perfect method to do it or not. I'm at the point where I can still decide where I'm going with this.
Can you look back and tell me what things you would have done or not done if you had to start over? Try looking at it from a work load point of view. What has safed you time over the years? It could refer to a certain method or layout or plant selection or whatever.
My latest idea to cut down on work is to build one extra bed and throw all organic material on it all year long, then next spring, rake the large parts together and throw them on the next bed with all new organic material for a year, and so keep rotating crops with one bed always used for composting and the resulting compost and whatever washes out of it staying right there. If I need soil for starting plants, I can take it out of that bed. No need for compost bins and hauling stuff around. Not as qood and effescient maybe, but that's the kind of gardening I will be able to handle.
If there are other posts about this topic please refer to it. I looked but couldn't find a post that specifically asked for time saving gardening ideas. I'm posting this here, as I am mainly interested in growing food.

Senior Member
Posts: 187
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 1:23 pm
Location: alabama

Raised beds.

Compost bin.

Start tomato and pepper seeds inside early.

Stock up on (organic) fertilizers and pest control.

Happy growing!


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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3604
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 7:58 am
Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

Moving away from traditional row planting and instead using small block plantings has cause me to be more efficient in what is grown, and has decreased the work associated with it. I'll choose snap beans as an example. Early in my gardening, perhaps would have grown two or three rows of bush green beans about 30 feet long. Each row had about 18 inches between, lots of real estate for weeding. Lots of access to sunlight for the weeds to sprout. Now instead I have two or three succession plantings of green beans in 4 foot by 6 foot or 4 x 4 blocks. There are perhaps 50 plants in that 24 square foot area. They provide all of the beans we can eat, for about three weeks. The 4 x 6 area is very easy to prepare, and when the beans start growing, weeding is virtually a non issue. There is simply no room for sunlight to penetrade or for weeds to grow strong between the bean plants in such an intensive style of planting. About three weeks after the first bed is planted, a second bed is planted. Three weeks later, a third bed is planted, and the first bed is cleared for a mid summer crop of some other vegetable. The blocks are constantly in use, have very little maintenance requirements other than watering.

Succession planting mentioned above is another work saver IMO. Instead of having one massive planting, we have several small plantings that provide a continuous stream of produce to satisfy our needs. If one block doesn't do well for some reason, there is a good chance that the next block planting will do well.

For me, if you get rid of the weeding chore and you get rid of the burden of massive harvests that come all at once, then gardening becomes a much more relaxing activity.

You have already touched on one last issue that I'll mention as well. Have posted earlier about the compulsive approach to gardening, which is not for me. Many books and some posters would have you think that there is one perfect way to do certain gardening tasks, such as composting for example. Yet when you read the threads at this forum, you come to see that composting can be done anywhere from a very inactive cold composting style to an active management of a hot compost pile. IMO and in those of many expressing the same idea, those materials no matter how applied to the yard and garden, will eventually go into the soil and become a rich supply of humus. My guess is that there is very little difference in the result coming from the hot compost pile or from the cold pile, yet the hot compost manager has spent many, many hours more than the relaxed, let nature and the earth worms do it, kind of gardener.

For me, gardening becomes a much more relaxing activity and less of a time burden, when the gardener finds that balance of gardening techniques that fall within his/her comfort zone. Once again for me, that happens by picking and chosing from the wide array of practices and ideas, and only using those that mesh with me and my personality.

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Green Thumb
Posts: 392
Joined: Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:36 pm
Location: St. Louis, MO Metro area

I agree with Alex. I just started this sq foot gardening method this year and Already I've noticed a time saver. I can walk out to my garden at any time sit down for 5 minutes spread compost over a 1 ft x 1 ft area and plant something and be done.

I started many seeds indoor but for me it was more about having the gardening bug and not so much anything else. I've had many fail in doors already but I'm just learning. I'm very excited to continue starting plants indoor while some of my square free up I can move things into them already started. At times this will save me the time and real estate of having to wait for the seed to germinate outside.

Being that this is really only my second year with a real garden I feel that this forum has provided me a lot of the best ideas and from there I picked out the ones that I thought would fit me best. Now I'm learning when and how to plant things in my area. Things I think are best learned from experience.

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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

great advice already.

Raised beds, definitely. It makes everything so much more manageable. I have 4X8' raised beds. You can just come out and spend an hour or so turning and planting one bed.

MULCH - once you've planted plants or your seeds have sprouted to a decent height and been weeded out, lay down a good layer of mulch - grass clippings, wood chips, whatever you have. It will save you many hours of watering and weeding.

Crowd your beds. Works with the mulch to help screen out weeds. Weed early, and often, even if it's a few minutes at a time and NEVER let the weeds go to seed.

Water deeply, not too often.

Your compost idea might work, except for the part where if you want compost you dig it out of the bed that was your compost pile last year, which you plant this year. Once it's planted you won't want to be digging soil out of it. I've posted several times in the compost forum, my very little work compost methods.

Relax... we get all nerdy about this sometimes, but it's not rocket science. The regularity of the time you put in your garden, IMHO, makes a lot more difference than the quantity. Be sure to spend time just enjoying!

Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:04 am
Location: Ohio

Your compost pile convert to raised bed method has some merits.
I've experimented with similar techniques.
What I have found, if you don't get enough dirt(it doesn't take much) on top of the compost there is too little for the plant roots to grab on to. They seem to need an anchor material(dirt). Or very well mixed variety of OM that is well composted.
I've not been able to keep the right nutrient proportion even adding liquid and granulated fertilizers with a similar method. It would definately require adding more compost material through the season to hold the plants up.
I would just add 2-4 inches of soil to the top of the pile(this can be the dirt on roots from other garden debri). The seeds tend to grow better after germination.
This method also has required more water.
As for raking out the big uncomposted material(I wouldn't bother).
I have found new beds like you are describing work well for beans(a nitrogen fixer) the first year, anything will grow there in successive years.

I am doing a new bed right now(10x16). This was 10+ yds of OM(lots of large wood chips and smaller shredded wood chips and leaves) about 4' high last fall. Now it is under 2' high(and it will continue to compost down this year).
I am putting 1 foot wide strips of dirt across the bed. The dirt is about 4" deep. I have beans up planted them very early(march 7) in the first row. I have onions(not in dirt[just in the compost material] they don't need much dirt) that are up. I have potatoes and herbs planted in these 1' x 4" x 10' rows. I have two more rows to prepare and plant.
There are volunteer pumpkins(intentional) and volunteer tomatoes in the compost material, that I will be separating out to grow. So only about 1/3 of the raised bed will be growing produce this year. Next year it will be more intensive almost 1/2(the OM will break down and be more like dirt)

This is one of the ways I handle similar bed preparation. Your rotation sound interesting. Keep us posted how it goes for you.

Full Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:02 pm
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada

Thank you all! Very interesting replies. I'm glad that there is a concensus on the raised bed method. I knew I wanted to go with that, but wasn't sure it was a time saving method in the long run. Now if that snow would go away I could actually start....

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