The “I Don’t Have Time to Garden” Garden

Part of my series of pre-planned gardens:

If you’re feeling the need to be growing some of your own food, but aren’t sure you will have enough time to tend a fussy garden, here are some suggestions of what to grow. These don’t take a lot of tending, don’t have a lot of pest problems, and it doesn’t much matter if you harvest them regularly. Cooking and storing of most of these are really easy, too.

  • Potatoes. Plant, water well, and cover with about 9″ of straw. If you get regular rain, you might not need to even water these. Harvest potatoes starting a few weeks after they flower through frost. You’ll get “baby potatoes” at first and end up with ones you can store in a bucket of peat moss in the garage well into the winter. Sweet potatoes are another decent option, though they like more heat and better soil.
  • Butternut squash. Plant on the edge of a bed and let them run out into the yard. Harvest when small and green and eat them like zucchini. As they get bigger, you might need to peel/seed them, but you can still eat them like summer squash. Let some get big and fully ripe. Harvest when the stem is brown and let them cure in a warm place indoors for a couple weeks – then they’ll keep in a cool spot, like a basement, until spring. Butternuts resist squash borers better than most squash and keep the longest.
  • Pole beans. Eat them young as green beans. If they get too tough, let them dry and eat them like dry beans or save them to plant next year.
  • Swiss chard. Grows from early spring through fall, even after some frost. Not bothered by cabbage moths. Regrows like crazy – the more you pick, the more it grows. But, if you don’t harvest it for a few weeks, it won’t go to seed or become unusable, either. If you prefer kale, get a curly variety, which tends to resist cabbage moths better. Green glaze collards are also amazing – tender and less attractive to cabbage moths.
  • Chives. Will come up every year. Use for oniony flavor instead of onions or scallions (add toward the end of cooking). Flowers are edible. Once the blooms start getting papery, cut the whole clump off about 3″ tall to get rid of the woody stems quickly. It’ll regrow in a couple of weeks.
  • Onions. Get onion sets (tiny bulbs) or plants (the size of a pencil). Harvest at any stage, from green onions to fresh knob onions to dry bulb onions.
  • Tomatoes. One cherry tomato plant will keep you in sweet salad fruit for the entire summer. If you want a couple slicing tomatoes every week, get one or two “indeterminate” plants. If you want a pile of tomatoes more or less all at once for canning, get “determinate” plants. Since I don’t really eat fresh tomatoes, I usually prefer to buy half a bushel of tomatoes at the market on the day I’m canning rather than dealing with tomato plants all summer.
  • Garlic. In the fall, shove some garlic cloves in the ground and mulch. Harvest next summer all at once.
  • Spinach. When you plant the garlic, also plant some spinach seed. It’ll be the first greens you harvest next year.

Published by Emily

I'm an instructional designer and gardener based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free moments find me in my garden or the forest, hugging trees and all that jazz.

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