Some time ago, I wrote a Lazivore Manifesto—a thinly-veiled self justification for the fact that while I like home grown produce, I really don't like doing too much work to get it. After years of over reach and under achievement, I am finally achieving some success with my gardening efforts. So I thought I'd run through a few techniques that can help fellow lazivores to grow more while doing less.
Here are some of my favorites.
Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
I've already talked about mulching as a no-cost way to grow more from your garden, but it's a gardening technique that simply can't be emphasized enough—especially when it comes to reducing your workload too. It reduces evaporation, meaning less watering. It suppresses weeds, meaning less weeding. And it protects soil biodiversity, meaning healthier plants and less trouble shooting. As an added bonus, as the mulch breaks down it adds organic matter to the soil, further feeding the soil beasties and improving moisture retention for future crops too. From leaf mulch to shredded newspaper, there are plenty of different mulching options available. I'm a big fan of pine straw, at least here in North Carolina—it's cheap, plentiful and doesn't involve chopping down trees. It's also great for us lazivores because it's super light and easy to haul around. (And no, it doesn't make your soil significantly more acidic.)
Grow What Grows Best
I'd love to grow bussels sprouts, but they don't seem to like the humidity here in NC—and I've never had much luck with strawberries either. Garlic, on the other hand, seems to grow for me without trying. So I grow a lot of garlic. Yes, I do grow a few crops that require a little more care and attention—tomatoes, for example—but I am constantly weighing up relative effort versus reward. Not to mention how cheaply and easily I can get that crop at the local farmers' market or grocery store. (Some things are best left to the professionals.)
Eat What Grows Anyway
Yesterday, I found these oyster mushrooms growing in my compost heap. They were the sprouting from the now composting remnants of a (so I thought) failed attempt at growing mushrooms in coffee grounds. This year, I've also eaten potatoes I never planted - courtesy of a previous owner I guess - and lettuce and parsley which has self seeded and gone wild. Learning to keep an eye out for the unexpected edibles is a great way to take the "grow what grows best" principle a step further toward "grow what grows without even trying". It's worth noting that it is sometimes worth giving volunteers a helping hand—I transplanted the lettuce I found self-seeding, for example, into a vacant section of my plot, and I was also sure to leave it to self seed in case I get the same gift next year too.
Ignore the Weeds of August
Some weeds will grow, no matter how much you mulch. So it's worth establishing a selective strategy for how to deal with them. Above all else, at least for the lazivore, it's worth remembering that a weed infestation in April is a much bigger problem than some overgrown weeds in August. Fully grown crops better equipped to compete with weeds than tiny seedlings, and it's also simply too darned hot to be spending much time in the garden. Let them get a little unruly. Pull back the ones that get out of hand. And then sit back, drink a beer and worry about something else instead.
It should be pretty obvious that perennial crops require less work than annuals. You don't need to sow seeds each year. You don't need to water them religiously because their root systems are already developed. And it's easy to mulch them heavily at the start of the season and pretty much forget about weeding for the rest of the year. (Did I mention that mulching is a great strategy for lazivore gardening?) From malabar spinach to asparagus to blueberries, there are plenty of perennial crops you can incorporate into a traditional veggie garden—or you can go whole hog and plant a perennial permaculture food forest too.