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These kinds of posts are not always the most popular, but they’re one of my favorites to write, reflect, and plan! I wrote a similar post last year, 2022 Gardening Lessons Learned, and my 2023 Planting Plan.
2023 was a big year for us because I got pregnant and we had a baby! I got pregnant in March and was in the first trimester during the spring. Spring is the big gardening season. I usually have a long list of big tasks to accomplish in the spring, like rebuilding beds, mulching, etc. However, this year, I was HIT with first-trimester nausea and fatigue. The nausea lasted well into the second trimester, and the fatigue lasted the ENTIRE pregnancy! So needless to say, my garden suffered.
Now with a newborn, my life is different! I’m now a stay-at-home mom, and I no longer work 40 hours a week, but honestly, I feel like I had more freedom back when I worked full-time! I know that this gardening season, my focus needs to shift. My goal used to be to grow lots of food that I could store for later. However, that meant that in addition to lots of gardening work, I also had a lot of kitchen work when I harvested. Preserving food is labor-intensive! This year, I would like a lower-maintenance garden.
I plan to achieve a low-maintenance garden in a few ways.
1. The pathways
The pathways in between my garden beds are a problem. They are grass. They are also too narrow for a lawn mower, meaning I have to weed-eat them every week or two. This is a sweaty job in the summer months and takes at least an hour.
This was very poor planning on my part. See my post here for 10 Mistakes New Gardners Should Avoid.
Two years ago, I laid down a weed barrier and a thick layer of woodchips, and it lasted approximately one growing season. By July that summer, after only about 5 months, I was back to weed-eating. I also now have a layer of gross plastic-y weed barrier in my organic garden, which I’ve tried to pull up, but has mostly broken into small shreds.
So this year, I would like to lay down cedar log disks. I have never tried to cut a disc like that using a chain saw, so this might be a stupid idea, but you better believe I’m going to try!
2. Simplifying vegetables/fruit
I have gardened enough years now, that I plant fewer and fewer vegetables each year. I always learn one that I don’t like to eat, or that do not grow well in my area. This year, it’s melons. Both watermelons and cantaloupe take up a LOT of space in a garden. And while I love the fruit, what usually happens is I get no melons until August, and then I get a dozen of each all at once! This year, I will save my garden space and buy melons from the farmer's market.
This year I plan to grow veggies only to have fresh veg to eat during the summer. I might pickle a few jars of cucumbers and I might freeze a few bell peppers, but that’s the only preserving I’m doing! I plan to also grow sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and onions because they’re easy to grow, and store for a long time, and we eat a lot of these foods. In the fall I’ll grow a bed of carrots and a few beds of garlic for all the same reasons.
I keep a few kitchen herbs scattered around my flower beds around the house, but that’s all I’ve ever really grown. This year, I would like to expand my herbal knowledge and grow a medicinal herbal garden! I am very excited about this. With the pregnancy and birth of my son, I’ve become hyper-aware of the medicines we typically use and keep on hand. Many of them are not safe for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding, and the ones that are considered safe still oftentimes are not the best. There are herbal remedies out there! I’ve built up a little herbal medicine cabinet over the last few weeks (mostly from Earthly), but I would like to grow my own this year and learn to make my own remedies.
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Bonus of growing herbs, most of them are perennials, meaning lower maintenance.
This is a huge learning curve for me, so I do not have a concrete plan in place yet, but I hope to soon! I have two books that I’ve been relying on for herbal knowledge:
Both are very helpful, as there is a lot to learn here!
I have a lot of work ahead of me this spring, but I hope that the result will be a lower maintenance, but still very productive garden for the summer and for years to come! Stay tuned to see how it turns out!
If you want to learn more about gardening, read more in the homesteading section of my blog! I have posts on soil health, garden infrastructure like fences, beds, and rain catchment systems, and a gardening calendar!
Let me know a bit about your gardening journey in the comments!