I'm ashamed to admit that sometimes I play the role of the lazy gardener. When I first started gardening, I pictured myself spending evenings and weekends tending to my garden, creating pristine and perfect plots. But the longer I actually gardened, the more I realized that not only is a perfect garden nearly unattainable, but after a long day of work, pruning plants, pulling weeds, and digging holes is not at the top of my priority list.

So I've sloughed off a bit. But I've found that if I employ a few simple practices, I will still yield just as much produce. Here are my best lazy gardening tips:

Cultivate and Compost

There are so many benefits to composting. First of all, you can create a compost pile from things you already have, such as scraps from the kitchen, grass clippings, leaves, and sticks. By combining all these things into one little pile close to you garden, you prevent yourself from going to the store and spending money on expensive fertilizers, plus you also get rid of unwanted waste; seems like a no-brainer to me.

Once the compost is in place, it will not only nourish your plants, but will also prevent weeds---a combination that promises to help you spend less time weeding and watering and more time lounging in a lawn chair.

To simplify even further, don't even create a compost pile. Simply transfer unwanted scraps directly to your beds by digging trenches into the soil around your plants and filling them up. Sure, it won't be as pretty as broken down compost, but it will still do the trick.

Spread Seeds Instead

This was a completely new concept to me, but it definitely works. Though we have all been taught to till nice neat rows and plant in sections, this may not be the most effective way to garden. Besides being time consuming, plants actually benefit from mixing and falling loosely on the soil.

This "no-dig method" can be accomplished by preparing the soil as you would for traditional gardens, except instead of digging holes, simply spread seeds in sections of about two to three feet by two to three feet, and then cover all the seeds with soil, compost, and mulch if you choose. Ta-da! A garden without the actual gardening.

It should be stated that your plants will come in uneven in some areas, but if they come in too thick, transplanting them is always an option. I didn't have this problem, however, and found that by heavily seeding, weeds were unable to find places to germinate, making weeding my garden a much smaller chore. Aesthetically, though I can be a bit of a control freak, I ended up preferring the natural look that my garden took on, as opposed to the neat little rows.

Pick Perennials or Self-Seeding Annuals

Just by nature, picking plants that come back season after season will make gardening much easier. They also tend to be heartier plants the longer they root in place, meaning you can be lazier with maintenance and they will still be fruitful. Some common perennials are artichokes, rhubarb, asparagus, kale, and groundnut.

If these choices aren't among your favorites, another option is self-seeding annuals. There are a ton of common vegetables that will self-seed if you nurture them and keep the areas well watered. For instance, radishes, dill, tomatoes, chives, carrots, pole beans, peppers, and cucumber are all self-seeders.

The trick is to know what you're planting. A good thing to know, for example, is if the vegetable is genetically modified, as these plants often produce seeds that are sterile. In the same vein, hybrids may produce seeds that aren't true to the parent plant, since they contain materials from both plants used to create them. So you will still get a crop, it may just vary from year to year.

Water Less

Water is essential and important for any garden, but many times nature provides plenty. Gardening a few times a week will suffice for established gardens, so if it rains, you can skip a day or two. Actually, rain water is better than your tap water, which contains chemicals. Using a rain bucket to collects excess water is another great way to water naturally and, if used effectively, can cut down on water bills.

Though many lazy gardeners recommend a drip, which can be purchased at the store and will water your garden slowly, there are some cheaper methods. For example, you can fill up a glass bottle with water, and turn it upside down quickly, pushing into the soil. This will keep the soil moist for a few days if you don't have time to water.

Let it Go

It's funny, but as soon as you decide to let your plants grow naturally, you may need to fight the urge to tidy up your plots. The truth is that most plants benefit from self-seeding and growing with abandon. Trimming and replanting just stifles their natural process, so once you decide to take a more hands-off approach, stick to it. Instead, enjoy watching them grow, and fill up on the mountains of veggies they produce.

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