I came to work full-time at the Hudson Valley Seed Library as a full-time farmer, having owned and operated a vegetable CSA operation. It wasn't until I got into the rhythm of working a 9-to-5 schedule that I realized the challenge of working a full-time job, having a life (running my own farm on the side!), attempting to have a home garden, and enjoying it.
It has taken some time, but believe it or not, my favorite, most relaxing time is the dusk hours spent fiddling with my tiny flower, herb, and edible garden around my house. I head over after I get home from work, after I put some time into the farm, or tend to household chores. Here is how I have come to unwind in my garden in my very limited down-time:
1. Keep it close. The closer the garden is to the house, the more I feel like being in it. Having a distance from everything else just adds time to my day, whether it be watering, harvesting, weeding or picking flowers.
2. Plant easy to grow varieties. I like a challenge--actually love a challenge--but when things fail in my home garden, it stinks. It makes me stressed out, and makes me want to abandon my garden. So, in my work, I challenge myself, in my home garden, I take it easy. I recommend starting with one of our newest seed collections. I've actually put them together based on my experience in my home garden. Try the Vertical Garden Seed Set.
3. Over-Sow. As a grower I am always wanting to give everything the right amount of space, and maximize efficiency. In my home garden, I have learned that without a critter fence, a deer fence, fancy irrigation, and constant care, scattering more seeds and planting a few extra plants is just a good idea. Chipmunk digs up some poppies? No problem, there's more. I just plan for trouble and accept it.
4. Plant some edibles. Full disclosure: I grow food for a living. But that's my work, not my down time, and sometimes when I am leaving work, I forget to harvest some herbs or fresh greens. When they are right outside my door, I can just jot out the back door and get what I need. There is nothing better than that! I recommend having extra seed on hand of quick and easy edibles, that you can seed throughout the season. Try Italian Large Leaf Basil , Arugula, Cilantro, and Bouquet Dill.
5. Plant self-seeding annuals. I haven't touched my home garden all spring. I went out this week and saw lost of great plants coming up: Wild arugula, Shirley Poppies, Love in a Mist, Snapdragons, all-selfers from last year, all growing, and I didn't do a thing! In the summer, I also have tons of spider flowers, borage, and sunflowers everywhere from the previous year.
6. Plant easy perennials. Perennials aren't the easiest thing to grow from seed, however, some are more like fast growing annuals. I grow Anise Hyssop, Catnip, Lemon Balm, Chives, and Garlic Chives. They all come back readily, are quite straightforward to seed indoors or out, and, guess what, they also all self sow, expanding your garden for you with little additional work.
7. Plant nasturtiums. This is no joke. Have an empty planter, plant nasturtiums. An ugly corner? Plant nasturtiums. They are so easy, so pretty, and they are edible! My favorite are the ones that trail, like Glorious Gleam.
8. Mulch. Mulch is the carefree gardener's friend. It keeps weeds back, keeps moisture in, improves soil quality, and looks pretty. Mulch in early spring in a nice clean bed, and you will rarely have to week. I recommend shredded leaves, composted wood shavings,
9. Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses. You know the real reason I like drip irrigation in my home garden? Cause all I have to do it turn on the water, then remember to turn it off. Plus, its much easier to set up then a season's worth of dragging a hose around! Not having to hand water saves so much time, you'll water more. Plus, your plants will be so much happier, especially if you mulched them!
10. Come to our seedling sale! Growing from seed is great, but its also great to plant transplants too. We've done all the hard work for you on some of the more "advanced" seeds to start like tomatoes and peppers, zinnias, and snapdragons. Our annual seedling sale is on May 21 + 22, at the Catskill Native Nursery in Kerhonkson, NY.