I love feeding my family wholesome, fresh foods. Of course, boxed macaroni is still one of my kids favorite treats. If I can just balance it with meals such as from-the-garden stir-fry, well, the occasional Girl Scout cookie isn’t the end of the world. But gardening was always so time intensive! I would start with great intentions, but inevitably the whole garden plot would end in ruins by the middle of July. And then, quite by accident, I learned gardening with a busy family can actually be simpler than I had ever dreamed!
It all started with decorative raised beds I spotted online. Spring time is a farmer’s busiest time of year, so I knew better than to ask Daddy to stop putting on fertilizer or planting corn to build me garden boxes. So I printed off the plans, drove to Lowes, and built my own raised beds. They were FANTASTIC! I actually harvested something more than zucchini for almost the first time ever.
The next year my mom gave me The Square Foot Gardener for Christmas and I was hooked. I build more beds, tried new plants, canned lots for later. And I realized I’d gone from gardening because I wanted the end product to gardening because I loved the process. Instead of fighting weeds I was growing food!
So here’s what I learned:
- Use raised beds! Planting in rows is what my husband does with a tractor. I am not doing that much work by hand!
- Buy seedlings from a greenhouse. As a beginner starting with seeds that can be sown into the raised beds after last frost or buying plants can be the difference between success and burnout.
- Plant what your family already eats. Okay, if you find something you just have to try, sure, have fun. But don’t plant a bunch of kale or broccoli in your garden if you’ve never cooked with them. I grew eggplant two summers in a row before I realized all my beautiful purple veggies molded in the fridge ’cause I had no idea what to do with them!
- Plant the amount your family will eat. Two vines of acorn squash is more than enough for my family. Even if they store well. Even if the plants are cheaper than squash from the store. Even if I like sausage stuffed acorn squash. We just don’t need a whole row.
- Place your garden beds near a water source. If you have to stretch a hose over the driveway and so must wind it each morning you will NOT water your garden daily. Rain barrels are on my list for this spring. I’ll keep you up to date on how those work out for me!
- Place your beds where you notice them. Out of sight means out of mind.
- Involve your kids. Maybe not every day, but their fresh perspective keeps you fresh as well.
- Error on the side of smaller. You can always get more sweet corn from a pickup on the side of the road. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Do small the first year and add more next year.
And there you have it– everything I’ve learned about gardening with a busy family! What’s your best tip?