How to Grow More in Your Garden With Less Work

Calling all lazy gardeners! Our resident permaculture garden designer shares her tips for easier, more productive gardening.

An obscured person in garden boots rests in a hammock with gardening tools resting on the edge

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Many of us wish that we had more time for our gardens. But with the right approach, we can work less and grow more in a garden. Here are a few tips to help you increase your yields from a garden without having to work as hard.

Understand Your Garden More Clearly

First things first, we can save a lot of time and effort in any garden if we take the time upfront to better understand the space. The more we observe and the more clearly we see our outside space, the better equipped we are to make the right decisions about how, where, and what we grow.

Taking the time to assess where we are, to think clearly about what is achievable in the space, and where we want to go can help us avoid expending effort without success in the future.

The main things that we should look at include:

We can also learn a lot by looking at existing vegetation and wildlife within the space. Additionally, we should look beyond its boundaries to better understand the broader context in which a garden lies.

Work Hard at the Start to Save Hard Work Down the Road

Once we have taken a good long look at our gardens and truly seen them, we will be better able to complete the design process.

Completing a design can definitely save time and effort later. While never fixed in stone, designs guide us as we create and maintain our gardens, help us see our goals more clearly, and help us avoid common pitfalls and mistakes since everything will be carefully thought through.

Design and simple preparation and planning really can make a big difference when it comes to the yields we achieve and how much effort we have to expend to achieve them.

Through the design process, we may often see solutions to challenges within our outside spaces more clearly. We should also see where it will be beneficial to set up certain systems beforehand to save time and hard work down the line.

For example, as we begin to look carefully at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of a garden space, we might determine the best strategies for water management and maintaining fertility over time.

We should be able to undertake earthworks or set up rainwater harvesting systems, composting systems, etc., in order to make our garden systems flow and our gardens easier to manage over time.

Having the right water management and fertility maintenance systems set up can make a big difference to long-term garden yields and how much work we have to put in.

Zone Your Space & Create Streamlined Systems to Save Time & Effort

As part of the garden designing process, we should think about zoning our space. Zoning really is a simple concept. The idea is that the more frequently we need to visit a particular space or element, the closer it should be to the home or center of operations.

Annual vegetable gardens, for example, would need to be visited frequently and so should be positioned closer to the home, ideally not too far outside the kitchen door.

When it comes to positioning elements, we can also save ourselves time and effort by thinking about inputs, outputs, and characteristics and making sure that elements we are likely to travel between frequently will be close to one another, with good access between them.

Embrace Perennial Food Production

When we want to use our gardens to grow our own food, the methods we choose to employ can also make a big difference to the amount of work that we have to do. Annual food cultivation can take up a lot of our time and effort and certainly requires more work from us over the years.

Perennial food production is well worth embracing if you want to minimize the workload on an ongoing basis.

A perennial scheme such as a forest garden can take a lot of work to implement in the first place. But again, it pays to do the work upfront as you can save a lot of ongoing work. Once established, a perennial food forest will typically take far less work to maintain than an annual garden, and the yields can just get bigger and bigger each year.

Work with Nature, Don't Fight It

No matter which growing method or methods we choose, another key thing to remember for a lower-maintenance garden is that nature knows best. Rather than fighting against nature and how your garden naturally wants to be, embrace native plants and let a little wildness in.

When we work with nature rather than trying to tame it, we let weeds grow here and there and are not worried about a little mess and wilder corners of the space. We welcome wildlife and enlist their help—remembering that we humans are not the only ones who garden.