Gardening requires time and energy, but it doesn't have to be a chore.  With purposeful design and the right methods, you can enjoy your time and have a great-looking, bountiful garden.  Here are 5 ways you can avoid falling behind by design.

  1. Let the plants do the work

    Weeds are nature's way of filling a void.  Get rid of the void.  Cover garden beds with crops, giving plants only enough room to keep from competing with each other.  When a bed is not in use, use a cover crop, like buckwheat or cowpeas, to treat your soil and deter weeds at the same time.
  1. Keep it small

    It's easy to want more: more produce, more plants, more space.  But remember: you have to weed what you till.  The weeds will come for you, and do you really want to be fighting nature all summer?  Consider filling a smaller space with combinations of plants that coexist well together (companion planting).  Also, think vertical: train vines up a structure while lettuce or other leafy vegetables cover the ground around them.  Maximizing a smaller space can lead to less weeding and more time spent properly caring for the plants you have. 
  1. Plant in the fall and/or spring

    Summer is the exciting season for most vegetable growers because everything is alive and thriving.  But summer, with its heat and weeds, can actually be the hardest growing season to manage.  Consider planting fall and spring crops.  During the fall and spring season, the heat is often much more tolerable, and crops such as kale, turnips, brussel sprouts, arugula, cabbage, onions and garlic thrive when all the weeds of summer slow their encroachment.  If you want to skip summer entirely, you can treat your garden bed with mulch, sow a cover crop like buckwheat or cowpeas that will help your soil, or put down garden fabric.  
  1. Raise your beds

    There are many benefits to a raised bed.  It gives you a well-defined planting area.  The soil in a raised bed will not be as compact as the soil in your backyard, making weeding easier.  You won't have to spend time maintaining the walkways between beds.  You will start off with a blank slate: no pre-established weeds to beat back.  A raised bed also looks good. 
  1. Do a little every day

    Gardening may be something you do for fun, and food, but it still requires a lot of time and energy.  It's easy to get behind, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed.  Limit yourself.  Doing a little bit every day and enjoying your time in your garden is better for both you and your garden than spending hours working on it one day then leaving it to the weeds for a week.  Buy a scuffle hoe.  If you use it a little every day, you'll find yourself whisking away weeds instead of spending hours pulling them.  Being in your garden for a little bit every day also gives you the satisfaction of watching your plants as they grow and flourish.

Use these suggestions to improve both your garden and your gardening experience.  Enjoy your time in the garden!