Low-Maintenance Vegetable Gardening

small vegetable garden in wood frame bed

There are many reasons to start a vegetable garden. And there are probably just as many reasons not to start one. If you're of the latter persuasion, perhaps we can convince you to lean the other way with some gardening tips to help you create a low-maintenance veggie paradise right in your backyard.

Garden Within Your Means

Ever bitten off more than you can chew? TBH, we don't know what that's like since we're not the type to ever do such a thing. We prefer to do things in moderation, always preferring to plan things out based on our space, budget, and our dedication to the project--admits no one. Ever.

Before you start, do a full evaluation of what you've got and what you want to do, in order to save yourself from frustration and heartache later.

For example: Do you have a spot that has been neglected and just needs a little weeding/sprucing up to get it ready for the season? Or are you starting from scratch? Are you a noob full of big ideas or a seasoned gardener? Is gardening in your blood or could this just be a passing phase?

Whatever the case, taking full stock of your expectations and what you're willing to do to get things done will guide the decisions you make and keep you from failures of the epic variety.

Choose Your Veggies Wisely

gloved hands harvesting a head of lettuce

Many vegetables grow easily and prolifically from seed—music to the lazy gardener's ears. But just because it grows doesn't mean you should plant it.

We encourage you to plant only what you like to eat, because though it might be satisfying to watch those lovely green sprouts cover the soil, it does you no good to plant rows and rows of radishes if all you do with them is garnish your dinner.

Of course, if your goal is to create the most artistic radish roses and supply your neighbors with the surplus of those freshly harvested salad fixin's, then please, grow what you like.

May we suggest that if you have any time (of course you will because your garden is low-maintenance) maybe you could teach our neighbors to follow your lead and be little more, uh, neighborly.

In any case, after harvesting those radishes, do yourself a favor and consider more thoroughly what your household would actually enjoy eating. Get those in the ground and take satisfaction in nurturing the food that will eventually provide you sustenance. So when it's time to harvest, the fruits of your labor will be that much sweeter.

Start with Starts

We love growing plants from seed. There's something so satisfying in nurturing that life from the very beginning. Growing from seed is also less expensive, and who doesn't like to save a little money here and there? Yet sometimes, starting from seed isn't the best option.

This is especially true when you live in an area with a short growing season, like our continental neighbors residing in the northern climes. Plants like tomatoes and okra start fairly easily from seed, but you won't get proper ripening of fruit if the cold sets in before they're ready.

Be aware of the time required before harvest to ensure you are within the correct range. Planting strong starts from your local nursery gives you just that--a jump start on the season to get your garden producing before cold weather sets in and tells the garden it's time to go to sleep.

Plant Perennials

rhubarb growing in a garden

Perennials are the ultimate in the set-it-and-forget-it arsenal of gardening. Herbs like chives, oregano, and thyme are beautiful perennials that are valuable in the landscape not only as kitchen herbs, but also because they attract much needed pollinators.

Vegetables like asparagus, artichokes, and rhubarb are kitchen staples that may take a couple seasons to get established, but once they are, you'll be spending less time planting at the beginning of the season, which gives you more time to enjoy your subsequent harvests.

Make Daily Visits

Once the site is prepared and plants/seeds are set in rows, get into the habit of a daily tour. 15 minutes a day is all it takes. Use this time to observe, relax, and connect to your garden. Grab your morning coffee and take a stroll. Relish the satisfaction of the work already done, and wait for the plants to wake up and begin their lives.

This is also a good time to mention regular garden maintenance. After everything is weeded and planted, you can't just wait for the harvest. Watering must happen. Fertilizing is inevitable. And those daily visits are a good time to take a peek and make yourself aware of the goings in your garden.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!

pitchfork in vegetable garden with straw mulch

Weeding can sometimes be backbreaking work, so after those weeds are out, you'll want to keep them out. Enter your best friend—mulch. Not only does it suppress weeds, but it also keeps the soil moist, which means less time (and money) spent watering.

Bags of mulch are readily available from your local garden store, but there are other ways to mulch that don't require a car trip. And we're not about to jump into the car after spending the day weeding!

If there was a way to no-maintenance garden, we'd surely be writing a post on that, but as long as you keep your expectations realistic, low-maintenance gardening is doable for even the most reluctant gardeners.