In my garden budget, the thing in shortest supply is time. The garden has to compete with my job and the daily commute, my son, the housework, family activities, and the odd bit of relaxation, which means that the garden has to do quite a bit of looking after itself. In a typical week, excluding a quick daily watering check on conservatory/greenhouse plants, I manage to average 2 – 3 hours during the weekend for all other tasks, including sowing, potting up, planting out, chemical-free weeding, and so on.
This weekend, for example, the time was spent:
- Pricking out 54 seedlings from seed trays (~45 mins)
- Putting plastic mulch around the new apple tree to suppress ground elder (~30 mins)
- Sowing most of the remaining seeds for this year (~15 mins)
- Weeding another of the beds with my handy new root stabbing tool (~90 mins)
Spring is the busiest time due to my ambitious sowing and planting schedule, and it’s a struggle to cover everything on the to-do list.
The only thing that makes it vaguely feasible is that I’m not set back to square 1 each year. I invest the majority of my time and space to planting perennials, which means that large sections of the garden come back on their own each year, and the proportion that’s more or less self maintaining should increase a lot this year as I fill up much of the remaining space with the hundreds of seed-grown plants I expect to eventually prick out and pot up. And as the garden fills up, I hope that the minimum time required should decrease, in favour of optional time (e.g. gradual replacement of “available” plants for “interesting” plants). Having densely planted beds should also decrease weeding time for much of the year, as the established plants compete with and shade out any new volunteers.
If I’d gone for large sections of annual bedding plants, or decided to turn our 300 – 400 m2 of garden into annual veg beds, the sheer amount of work required would have made the whole project a failure years ago. Perennial plantings have their disadvantages, such as the difficulty of weeding around established plants and the dearth of productive perennial vegetables, but I think they’re the only answer for the very time-limited gardener. There’s a high initial investment in getting the garden planted out, but averaged over time the workload is lower.