Organic and Raised Bed Gardening Tips for NJ Zone 6



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Gardening Tricks for Busy People a.k.a. The Lazy Gardener

So you want to grow a garden, but you don't want to spend all your time getting dirty, laboring in the hot sun, pulling weeds, and all the things that make gardening not-so-fun. I get it: you have a life. You go to your job every day. You raise and take care of kids. You spend too much time on Facebook. All those things that get in the way of making gardening the Zen activity they say it's supposed to be.

Here's a secret: I'm a lazy gardener myself! My husband and I both are. Just this past weekend, I looked at my grove of tomato plants, all drooping, creeping and curling around each other like a haunted forest, and I thought: Man, I guess I have to re-stake these. But I really don't want to! So I got some bamboo poles that we had been collecting. I went hunting for a ball of twine and a pair of kitchen shears. And then I put in just enough effort to get those maters from dragging on the ground.

My garden wouldn't win a contest for tidiest rows (what rows!?), most free of weeds, or anything like that. But you know what? I am the lazy (busy) gardener, so I don't let it bother me. I don't let my NON perfectionist attitude toward growing vegetables derail me from my goal. Which is: Growing vegetables! I am here to plant, nurture and harvest produce for my family. We want to eat healthy, save on our grocery bill, and enjoy a larger selection of veggie favorites. We are doing that. Therefore, my "lazy gardener's way" is the RIGHT way for our family!

Here are some lazy gardener shortcuts for people who "ain't got time for that". In offering you these tips, I am essentially setting you free from the perfectionist constraints that prevent you from growing a garden in the first place.

Put away the ruler and tape measure. You don't have to be exact in your spacing of plants according to the package instructions, or how deep you poke the holes to drop the seeds in. You only need to give it your best guesstimate. How will you do this? Common sense. If you've grown a garden before, or if you're familiar with garden vegetables, then you must know how much space is taken up by specific plants.

For example, onions. They don't need a lot of room – just enough to let those bulbs get nice and plump without bumping into each other. Broccoli. Make a circle with your arms as though you're hugging a broccoli plant. That's probably as much room as you'll need to give to your broccoli plants. So, maybe 12 to 18 inches. Tomatoes. If your garden beds are 8 feet long, then you can probably fit just two plants to a row. Planting peas? They go 2 inches in the ground. I go by the "finger rule." My pointer finger seems to be the optimum length for poking little pea seeds into the cold earth. Each spring, they triumphantly emerge from the ground in about a month and a half, so I know it works!

Be proactive about weeds from early on. Oh, wait. This is one of those "do extra work now to avoid a lot of labor later on" tips. Well, what can I say – I learn from my mistakes. If you don't enjoy weeding, then take care to "bake the weed seeds" out of your garden beds before planting on May 15. I know, this is more difficult if you put early spring crops in the ground like we do. Will the weeds really bake out in the feeble light of early March? Not really sure, but I know I don't enjoy yanking crab grass out from around my plants, especially those tender herbs and onions that don't stay in the ground very well. To bake weed seeds out, you must cover your entire garden bed with plastic and let it sit in the sun. There is another method that involves layering old newspapers and plastic over your entire garden and cooking it that way. I will have to look this up and get back to you with more details on the technique.

Don't stress about rows. Our yard is small, so we have just two garden beds. I want as much produce selection as possible, so inevitably each year I find myself inserting plants here and there and everywhere that they will fit. Granted, you become something of a contortionist when it's time to pick, but remember the cardinal rule of gardening: tall plants go in back, short in front. "Front" means south. If you grow corn, put it "behind" (north of) your beans, broccoli, etc. If you use the Chinese raised bed gardening method (that's what we are all about here), then you really can make the most of the included space in your garden. Raised beds mean that the roots grow downward, and the plants grow up rather than out, thereby occupying less area. Try out companion planting to see how much you can harvest from your garden this year!

Be strategic about the timing of your crops. For example, my peas vines might have looked sloppy hugging the Swiss chard plants... but remember, those peas are done once the real heat of July kicks in. So they're getting pulled just in time for the chard to shine. The cauliflower plant was looking spent over by my tomato that was taking over... but just when things started to look sloppy, I pulled the cauliflower which gave just enough room for a bush-variety green bean plant.

Select plants that require minimal care and space. For example, it can be difficult to grow eggplant. They seem to pick up viruses and disease rather easily. If you don't have time to prune ailing tomatoes and don't want to risk contamination anyway, then leave the eggplant-growing to your local farmer's market where you can surely find some delicious varieties. Cilantro never seems to take off in my garden. So, if I put some in and it doesn't grow, then I just replace it with something else.

I wanted green beans and cucumbers, but didn't have the space for a tangle of vines... so I chose compact, bush varieties of these veggie plants. If you love tomatoes but can't fit them in your space, then check the label for the word "determinate" which means they won't take over your entire garden bed.

Invest in a compost tumbler. So much better than having to turn over a huge, steaming pile of decaying leaves and grass, then haul it across the yard in a wheelbarrow. The compost tumblers that my husband builds and sells here on the site are really cool! We have 3 lined up at the edge of our garden and ready to go. One has "new" compost, the other, seasoned... and the third, well I'm not sure what he does with that one. ;) When my plants are looking a little pale and peaked, I just grab a little planting pot, pop open the top of my composter, and out comes some wonderful fertilizer – rich and black, a delicious treat for my nutrient-craving garden plants. Sprinkle all around the veggie plants, give it a good watering, and that's it... your produce will darken in color and thrive in a matter of one day. Ah, the circle of life!

Some of this sounds a little like work, right? Well... gardening takes time and effort, I never claimed it would be labor-free. But the fact is that many people are far too intimidated by what they read. Or, they become discouraged and fall off the gardening wagon so to speak. If you fall behind on your gardening effort you can always do a little damage-control by pruning off diseased leaves and stems, adding compost, watering and moving things around to give new plants the space they need to grow.

There is no "right way" to garden... just do your best, as your schedule allows. Make time for the essentials. Nurture your plants, and let nature take care of the rest. is owned by Mike Hyde and 4 Seasons Lawn Care. We build, deliver and install raised garden beds to Hunterdon and Warren Counties in NJ and Northampton County, PA.

Contact us for more information: 908 783 5733 or email today!



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Chemical-Free Pest Control for Your NJ Organic Garden

Grow Better Tomatoes by Amending the Soil

Growing Herbs in NJ Zone 6 Instant Download E-Guide

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes

Growing Tomatoes from Seed

Buying Good Garden Soil in Hunterdon, NJ

What Type of Soil is Right for My Raised Garden Beds?

What Vegetables to Plant on May 15

Ode to the Turnip

Best Seed Catalogs

When and How to Start Prepping Your Garden Beds in New Jersey

When to Plant Early Spring Vegetables in NJ

Garden Planning in February? Yes! Get Ready for Spring Planting in NJ

Getting Your Raised Garden Beds Ready for Spring Planting

Is Rototilling Necessary? To Till or Not to Till Your NJ Garden Beds

Garden Planting Dates for NJ Zone 6

How to Plant Peas When There is Snow on the Ground

What to Do When You Miss Your Planting Date

Baking the Weed Seeds Out of Your Garden Beds

Planting Onions in Early Spring in NJ Zone 6

Broccoli Planting Instructions for NJ Zone 6

Sacrificial Carrot: How to Make Your NJ Carrot Crop Go the Distance

How to Grow Strawberries Organically

How to Plant Cucumbers in NJ Zone 6

Growing Herbs Successfully in NJ Zone 6

Spring Gardening in NJ: What to Plant on May 15?

Mid Spring Gardening Upkeep



Organic Composting Q&A

Mulch Q&A for Vegetable Gardens

Choosing a Fertilizer for Your Vegetable Garden

6 Quick Tips for Gardening Without the Use of Chemical Fertilizers or Pesticides



How Long Do Garden Seeds Last? Seed Viability Chart

How to Grow Vegetables from Seed

Growing Lettuce from Seed vs. Direct Sowing Lettuce

Growing Tomatoes from Seed