Easy, Organic Gardening Tips to Reduce Work

Invest a minimum of time and money and still bring in the harvest with these tips for garden layouts, ground preparation and planting crops

| March/April 1982

I've come to the smug conclusion that many home gardeners (I have in mind those folks who spend as many as 100 hours of labor to grow $100 worth of produce) are somewhat akin to masochists. And I'm convinced that most people would — if they were to keep complete records of the total time and expense their gardens require — be amazed at how much those homegrown vegetables actually cost!
I, on the other hand, can afford to be smug because, after many years of planning, I've gradually whittled my garden work routine down to a pleasurable size. I put in no more than eight hours of toil, and spend less than $25, over an entire season! Here's how I do it.

Preparing the Ground for the Garden

First, I got rid of my rototiller. For my purposes the tool cost too much money (you should be sure to include the price of such a machine, and its upkeep, in any gardening expense records), was excessively noisy, jerked my arms off, burned expensive gasoline, made my plant rows too wide (forcing me to work a larger-than-necessary plot) and, when used for weeding, sometimes actually damaged roots and slowed down the plants' growth. My tools now consist of an old stone rake and a hoe. That's it!

My second step was to cut my plot to a manageable 18-by-38-foot size, which — I've found — is plenty large enough to supply my family's needs if it's planned and planted properly.

Here in Virginia, I can begin gardening during the last week of April. (I could start earlier, but most of the seeds would just lie in the ground, waiting for more warmth, anyway!) At that point, I call a neighbor's son who has a rototiller, and in about an hour the lad can work my plot twice in opposite directions, turning under all the ashes and manure I've thrown on top of the soil during the winter. For his efforts, he receives $10 — after which I don't see him or the tiller for another year. Then, starting at one end of my garden (I alternate each year), I begin to form the first bed across the 18-foot dimension. By putting in rows in this direction, I'm able to stand along the garden's 38-foot edge and use the rake to reach out to the middle of the plot, leveling the earth and drawing the clods and stones toward me (I ignore anything less than the size of a marble). I rake about a 3-foot swath at a time from one side, and then repeat the process from the other completing one 3-by-18-foot area. This way, all the larger lumps end up along the plot's length, where they're left.

Planting Crops

I prepare a very rough seed-bed in this manner for each vegetable. Then I merely hold the rake upside down and drag the handle's rounded end through the dirt to lay out my first row. (The depth of the trench will, of course, depend on the amount of downward pressure exerted on the handle as I walk across the plot.) Next, with my size-nine shoe, I measure over one foot and draw another furrow — or two, depending on how many rows are desired for that particular crop.

It's not necessary to slow things down by marking prospective rows with string. Straight lines please gardeners, not plants! Besides, with 18-foot rows running only a foot or two apart, it's pretty easy to keep them parallel.

3/14/2007 9:06:16 AM

Gardening made simple. I loved his style !! I live near Abilene, TX. I am redoing an old garden space left by our cousin. The soil is good, just needed a little tilling, etc. I am hoping everything works out as well for me.

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