Garden Management: Keeping Up With Your Summer Garden

Here are 35 garden management tips to help you handle pest control, weeding, and other peak-summer garden chores.

| June/July 2009

Outdoor work station

Good garden management entails due preparation for the summer garden harvest. An outdoor work station can cut down on messes in your kitchen and time spent cleaning picked vegetables. Install an old sink in a sturdy work table and attach a drain hose to drain wash water and dirt onto your compost pile. Keep a few knives handy for harvesting tough-stemmed crops.


Like many gardeners, I’m more of a planter than a picker. I’d rather poke bean seeds into the ground than gather my 10th basket of squash, which leads to trouble when time gets tight in mid summer. Sound familiar? You can use the garden management guidelines below to keep your summer garden working efficiently on days when time is short but your task list is long.

Harvest What’s Ready

Harvesting what’s ready should always be your top priority. But we’ve all slipped at least once: We get so busy planting, and then taking care of new plantings, that we miss harvesting the world’s finest lettuce at its peak. Make harvesting what’s ready your top priority.

To streamline the harvesting process, think in terms of strategic staging. Pick in the morning, and stash your goodies in a shady spot to keep them cool. When you have a lot to gather, make ice pancakes by freezing water in flat sandwich bags, then layer them among your harvested veggies in a portable insulated cooler. This trick can save a lot of trips back and forth to the refrigerator.

Speaking of efficiency, every veggie gardener needs a place within pitching distance of the compost pile — and within easy reach of water — for grooming and cleaning the day’s pickings. An ideal veggie-cleaning station stands about waist high, and is sturdy enough to serve as a cutting surface. You can build such a table from scrap lumber, find a cheap or free one through thrift stores or sharing databases, such as Freecycle or Craigslist, or erect a temporary table using boards and sawhorses.

The most deluxe garden work stations include a secondhand sink, or you can fill a big bucket, tub, or wheelbarrow with several inches of water before you start picking. Use this water to dunk or swish freshly harvested salad greens or other vegetables before giving them a second cleaning in a colander. You can leave the dirty water out all day, and use it to rinse hands, feet, pots and tools until evening. Dip out water as needed for thirsty plants, and dump the muddy slurry on your compost pile.

Thrift stores are great places to find other items that make harvesting go fast, such as old steak knives and a large cutting board. Keeping up with the whereabouts of a single knife creates work, but keeping several stashed around the garden (out of reach of young children) saves time and frustration. When you have a cutting board, knives, a work surface, water, and a disposal site staged in the garden, you will be less likely to bring mud-caked radishes or gritty greens through the kitchen door.

7/22/2013 2:29:19 PM

PS - Add shelves underneath the counter to store plastic bowls for harvesting your vegetables, as well as a set of chopping knives, peeler, etc.  I also keep some ties and stakes, scissor, a small shovel, labels and  wax marking pen for when I am planting,  etc in my cleaning station, so it is kept out of the rain and always handy when I need it.  I went to the Salvation Army, and got a great set of knives, and utensils to keep in my garden.   Make sure to leave a bucket under your sinks to catch the water from your hose/sink, and throw that water back on your gardens after you have used that water to clean vegetables (try to be eco-firendly!)

7/22/2013 2:20:29 PM

I built a vegetable cleaning station last spring (2012), and it was one of the best ideas in the garden I have ever come up with!  I went to the REStore shop for an old double sink (aluminum) and just used what lumber we had laying around (which happened to be cedar - a good choice as it is very water - resistant.) I submitted plans and photos to Mother Earth in 2012 - I think they were going to do an article on it - so maybe you can find it in the archives.  Search for "Vegetable Cleaning Station."  Do adjust the height of your counter top to your height (i.e. the counter height that suits you for chopping and peeling vegetables.  I don't have a compost pile next to it - I put everything in a large plastic trash can with a lid, and when it gets full, I haul it out to whichever compost pile I am working on (it helps to have 2 compost piles - one that is composted and ready to use, and one in progress...Itis a super time saver to clean your vegetables outside in the garden (while watering) and really eliminates the messes tracking to your kitchen, and then in the kitchen!  I LOVE my vegetable cleaning station!

7/19/2013 6:23:17 AM


     This is just what I need and your email could not have come at a better time. I keep saying I  going do something about dragging in dirt  etc etc etc, etc etc etc , by the way is 200 ft from the house. With this EXCELLANT information, I have no other choice but to do it.


gretchen rohde
7/27/2009 3:42:06 PM

My clever husband took this idea and ran with it using 100% recycled materials. An old steel frame became the base, cedar railings became the top, beer bottle caps the spacers, and the sink from our kitchen remodel found a new home. It drains into the garden to water the plants. No more sand in the kitchen sink. Photos available upon request.

walter p_3
6/20/2009 4:14:23 AM

Compost heaps are great but Worms Farm are Best and easy to keep anywhere

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