The Lazy Gardener's Way to a Kick-Ass Garden

lazy gardeningSometimes, I take “inner child” to a whole new level, even for me. For the most part, I’m not a lazy person -- I work constantly, I clean, I do projects, I garden ... sort of. Here’s the thing: as far as gardening is concerned, I'm the laziest person you'll ever met. And the more I realize I can get away with (here comes the inner child thing), the more I try. I am a serious boundary pusher when it comes to un-gardening. And I’m not just lazy in the yard because I have a serious aversion to spending hours upon hours on my knees rooting out the same dandelion every two days. Nope, I’m just ... lazy.

But every year, I have a kick-ass garden. 

Want to know how I do it? (Be forewarned: what I say here will flout pretty much every “proper” gardening rule there is.)


I never start seeds indoors. NEVER. I did it one year. Trying to keep those tiny freaking sprouts alive was a full-time job. I still plant from seed (because I’m also cheap, in addition to lazy), but now I wait till it’s kinda sorta close to the end of frost season, sprinkle them on top of the soil, and dump a bag of topsoil (or potting mix, if it’s around) over them. If I’m planting peas or snap peas, I MIGHT take the time to rubber-band together a few pieces of bamboo, which I then stick in the ground over my seeds. No string, no ties, nothing. Sticks in the mud.

I crowd my plants. I do this with everything: seeds, bulbs, and store-bought plants. The end result is that my garden looks more lush, and if I layer my bulbs according to season (throwing daffodils, gladiolas, and crocus in the same hole, for instance), then I have constant blooms in that spot. Bonus: the more crowded my plants are, the less room there is for weeds -- which means less time spent weeding for me! And I have never once had a plant complain.

I grow organic only. This is not because I think organic is awesome -- it’s because I’m too damn lazy to spend time driving to Lowe’s and picking out weed killer and slug traps and snail deterrent and 12 kinds of plant food. And I sure don’t want to spend my days emptying said slug traps. Nope. My garden gets nothing. MAYBE, if I’ve been good about it during the year, I add some compost to the soil. Other than that, nothing. If a snail eats my tomato, that’s okay, because I’ve overplanted anyway.

My vegetables live in my flower garden. This originally started as a matter of space, but it’s carried over because I’m too undisciplined to maintain two gardens. And, since I refuse to plant annuals (el cheapo again), my tee-pees of sugar snaps and tomatoes actually add some pretty decent visual interest. Herbs go in there, too -- the year I had a front border of basil and a backdrop of bronze fennel is still one of my favorites to date.

I don’t till, and I rarely dig. Tilling is hard work. So is turning over your soil by hand. So I don’t do either of those things. I take a garden rake and just kind of rake in whatever I have -- if I have compost, it goes in. If I have leaves in the fall, those go straight into the soil -- I don’t wait for them to compost over in the bin, which I would have to turn and then transport back to the beds in the spring. And I only dig when I have a plant that demands it -- if I purchase a hydrangea bush, for example. Otherwise, when I divide things like lilies and iris, I just plop them on the ground where I want the plant to go, scoop a bit of dirt over the bare roots, and mulch the rest. In about a week, the plants have taken root.

I plant things I know will spread, and I plant perennials almost exclusively. Bulbs are the lazy gardener’s best friend. Five daffodils planted this year will yield at least ten next year. Other bulbs replicate the same way (though not always at the same rate) -- gladiolas, iris, and dahlias are all staples in my garden. Lilies will give you the most bang for your buck -- they spread like wildfire. In a few years you’ll be begging friends to take some off your hands. I plant other spreading flowers as well, and even trees: my one lilac seedling last year yielded three off-shoots that have now been re-planted in my yard. Rudbeckia, elephant ears, phlox, hosta -- all these plants will multiply each year. I don’t even bother with annuals -- the cost adds up way too fast and as they go by with the seasons, you have to continually replant those spots. Definitely not for me.

There is, however, ONE thing I will spend time on. I do it twice a year -- once at the end of fall, when the garden goes to bed for the winter, and once in the spring, before I start plantings. And that one thing is mulch. Mulch means I almost never have to weed (because I’ve also over planted) and I rarely have to water.

True to form, however, even my mulching system is lackadaisical. In the fall, when I have to rake the lawn, I just throw the leaves right into my beds. That’s all I do. They sit there and keep the soil warm and turn themselves into delicious compost by spring. In the spring, anywhere that isn’t planted gets a few layers of newspaper, which means I plop down a few sheets here and there, mostly. If I happen to have extra compost or topsoil laying around, I throw it on top of the paper (because I don’t want to look at bags of soil, mostly, and this way I don’t have to drag them to the shed). Then comes the mulch -- usually pine bark for me. A few bags dumped where it's most needed, and kinda pushed around a bit to even out the piles. (I actually do this with my feet most of the time -- screw the whole raking business!)

And that’s it. I sit back and wait for my carrots to ripen while watching the butterflies and hummingbirds buzzing around my bee balm.


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