Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: Winter Sleep

I trimmed back my wild garden

Think you don’t have time for a garden? You and other busy parents have time for a wild, unruly garden. See how my garden grew from March through December in the progress photos at the bottom of this post.

I am no gardener. If I can do it, you can, too.

December Harvest

Last week, we finally made our now-ripened green tomatoes into a lovely putanesca sauce. Out of frame, we also had a stray pumpkin grow where we carved the pumpkin last year, so we had pumpkin soup from our garden for U.S. Thanksgiving this week. My husband has also been drinking the beer he brewed from our own hops. This morning I chewed on mint and fennel that is still growing. We did have a December harvest.

As we trimmed back the vines, we found a lone hop cone that had escaped harvest. Remember the hops? My brilliant plan was to plant something my husband really cared about so that he would do the gardening. It worked! He definitely cared about the garden, and he certainly did most of the work.

Lone Hop Cone

Total Cost for the Year

Total for November – $0
Total for October – $0
Total for September – $3.00 (stakes)
Total for August – $0 (nada!)
Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
Total cost for the year = $74.50

Total Time for the Year

This month we did have to spend some time trimming the garden back. I put it off and put it off (in the spirit of wild gardening, of course). Finally, after two snows, I did it this morning because I knew I needed to photograph it.

The hops are cut back to the base; raspberries and blackberries cut back to the main stems; grapes were trimmed just a little, since next year’s crop will grow on this year’s vines; tomato monsters tamed (with a few stray tomatoes left in their place to see if they will grow next year); and the kale left where it was. It was green still, so I couldn’t bring myself to cut it down. We also have mint still growing as well as some confused fennel and flower bulbs peeking out to see if it’s spring.

Total for December – 30 minutes
Total for November – seconds
Total for October - 10 minutes
Total for September – 20 minutes
Total for August – 30 minutes
Total for July – 10 minutes
Total for June – 90 minutes
Total for May – 2 hours 20 minutes
Total for April – 6 hours 20 minutes
Total for March – 45 minutes
Total time for the year = 12.5 hours

We wanted to spend no more than 30 minutes per month on the garden. We had to put in a full Saturday up front to get rid of an old dying bush and build a raised bed, then we spent a morning shopping and planting. With that out of the way, we averaged less than 30 minutes per month, including harvest but not including gazing in awe.

You Can Garden!

I have learned a few lessons in this experiment.

Nurture at least a little. The line between wild gardening and failure due to neglect is thin. We played on that line, but our garden still grew beautifully.

Stay accountable. Feeling attached to the long-term growth of the hops was the motivating factor for us (along with me knowing I needed to photograph progress each month). If the garden itself isn’t enough, see if your children will keep you focused on the garden or commit to photograph and share it like I did.

Take baby steps. Most of the parents Nature Mom and I know aspire to grow food in their own gardens, but they believe they don’t have time. I just want you to know that you can grow a garden with very little time. Take baby steps toward that big, gorgeous garden. Plant one plant; add another plant the next year. Your garden will grow in time, and you really can create that big, beautiful garden you dream of. I started this way, and this year we had almost two dozen fruits, herbs, greens, squashes, and other plants we harvested from 3-foot deep beds lining our house and sidewalk. We have a very small yard, but it has been easier every year to make it bloom.

Good luck. Spend the next few months dreaming of the plants you will grow.

Our Wall of Green

My garden through the year

Progress in the Cultivated Raised Bed

Full year of our raised bed

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