7 Vegetable Garden Shortcuts: Get Growing with Minimum Effort

Reader Contribution by Benedict Vanheems
article image


1. Choose Easy Crops

Try growing crops that are naturally low-maintenance, such as onions grown from bulbs (called ‘sets’) or as young plants, summer squash, and zucchini. Bush beans are a lower-maintenance choice than climbing beans because they don’t need support.

Our Garden Planner’s Filter button can be used to show only crops that are particularly easy to grow. Click the Filter button to the left of the plant selection bar, choose the type of plants you’d like to show, and then select the ‘Easy to Grow’ option.

2. Buy Plug Plants 

Plug plants are raised in a ‘plug’ of potting soil until they’re at transplanting stage. Skipping the sowing and early seedling stage saves a lot of time and space if you don’t have much room to start crops under cover or indoors.

Don’t forget to harden plug plants off properly before transplanting by placing them outdoors for increasingly longer times over a period of up to two weeks.

3. Group Vegetables Together

Grow vegetables that enjoy similar growing conditions (for instance, plants from the same crop family) together to make caring for them easier. For example, planting your cabbage family plants in the same bed makes it easier to net them against common pests. Or try grouping lettuces and other leafy salads together to speed up watering and make it easier to set up shade cloth in hot weather if necessary.

4. Make an Instant Bed

Hoe off weeds on the soil surface then add a thick layer of cardboard, laying it so the sheets have a generous overlap. Pile on a 4-inch thick (or thicker) layer of well-rotted garden compost or potting soil . You can sow or plant at once and will have very little weeding to do.

5. Use Growing Bags or Potting Soil Sacks

Usually sold for growing fruiting vegetables like tomatoes or peppers, these sacks of rich potting soil can be used as an instant bed for shallow-rooted crops such as salads, onions, and bush beans and will suppress weeds beneath them. Cut slits into the bottom of the sack for drainage then lay it on the ground and cut away the plastic from the top of the sack. At the end of the season re-use the soil in the bottom of containers or cut away the plastic to make it into a permanent bed.

6. Make Containers Lower-Maintenance

Mulch containers with gravel or shredded bark to reduce evaporation and save time spent watering.

Use large containers of soil-based potting soil as they will be slower to dry out than smaller ones, so will need watering and feeding less often.

Group your containers together for easy watering, and to help protect them from wind.

When you’re going on vacation, sink containers into the ground then water the container and surrounding soil thoroughly. They’ll cope much better while you’re away than crops in above-ground containers.

7. Low-Maintenance Paths

A thick mat of straw, bark chippings, or other biodegradable matter makes an instant path, or use strong planks of wood for a firmer surface.

If you have grass paths, edge the beds with wood to make it easier to mow and trim up to the edge and to stop the grass from growing into the beds.

Learn more about growing with minimal effort in this video.

More Gardening Resources

Our popular Vegetable Garden Planner can help you map out your garden design, space crops, know when to plant which crops in your exact location, and much more.

Need crop-specific growing information? Browse our Crops at a Glance Guide for advice on planting and caring for dozens of garden crops.

More Videos

Watch more videos on gardening techniques and other self-reliance, DIY topics on our Wiser Living Videos page.