Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: Find the Spot

Future wild garden

It’s time to think about seeds and seedlings. Too busy to think about a garden plan? When you feel guilty that you don’t plant your dream garden or a fully sustainable one-acre farm year after year, scale down your plan. I declare this the year of wild gardens for busy parents.

Every year Naturemom and I get ambitious about planting gardens, hers in south central Ontario and mine in the U.S. mountain west. Every year we plant something, but no year—not one year since we starting writing about it—have we met our ambitious goals. When we talked about what kind of garden posts you might want to read this year, we decided that you might be like we are: too busy to keep up with your big plans.

Somewhere in that gap between the dream self-sufficient garden and going outside once a week for 5 minutes to stare at a patch of brown is the disappointment. Every year I plant something, but I worry and feel a little guilty that it isn’t as much as I had hoped. My garden is wild, going where it wants to go and growing what it wants to grow.

There is too much worry and guilt already, so I propose that we all revise our goals to fit our busy lifestyles. I’m closing that gap by bringing my expectations closer to my capacity.

Wild Gardens for Busy Parents

Once a month I am going to check in with you and suggest actions that will take no more than 30 minutes that will get you closer to that garden you aren’t quite ready to plant.

Here are some simple rules:

  • Start small
  • Share planning
  • Have a goal in mind

Start small. If you have tried and not quite reached your gardening goals in the past, I want you to have a guaranteed win this year. So, start with a commitment no bigger than you can keep. I really do want to be an urban farmer, but I have to be honest about the time I’m willing and able to spend. I stare out the window at my garden a lot (since I can see it from my work space), but I don’t actually go out and get dirty very often. Trying to be realistic about how I don’t tend my garden, I think 30 minutes a month is realistic—yes, probably pathetic, but realistic.
Goal: 30 minutes a month

Share your plan. I want you to share not just in the sense of telling others about your plans but in sharing responsibility for the plans and the planning. When I plan a garden alone then just tell my husband what to do on the weekends, he isn’t quite motivated. You can see the problem: he doesn’t share my vision for a lush paradise. Make sure that you share not just the to-do list but the decisions about what you will do. Share with husband, kids, or neighbor. Just find someone who also cares about your micro garden patch and stay accountable to them.
Goal: share your garden

Have a goal in mind. Don’t go shopping for seeds or digging in the dirt until you know your intentions. My 30-minute plan doesn’t have room for a dozen types of seedlings in multiple raised beds. I figure I can plant one new plant a year and keep it alive along with previous years’ plants. Since I’m keeping my goal very small, I want a plant that is an investment.
Goal: add one new plant

This is what I did.

I’m starting small. I have one bare spot where I recently started (but didn’t quite finish) ripping out an ugly bush next to my front door. This leaves the entrance to my house less than inviting. It was easy to decide where to focus.

I shared the planning. I told my husband I was finally tired of the bare patch, and he said he might have an idea. He has been brewing his own beer, and he is interested in growing his own hops as well. His brew store sent him an offer on hops the very week I mentioned the bare ground. In busy gardener style, we stared at the bare spot together and decided hops could climb up the wire ladder we made for our grapes. We’re taking advantage of our simple infrastructure.

We have a goal in mind. We specifically did not want plants that need a lot of tending, but I suspect my husband will be a doting farmer. He wants to brew these hops, so he’s invested in helping them survive—and thrive.

Total time so far, maybe 1 minute deciding on the spot, 2 minutes talking about it, and another 2 minutes ordering the hops plants at the beer store. Five minutes. That leaves about 25 minutes to finish clearing out the bush, dig in compost, and still keep it all under 30 minutes for the month.

Total cost so far: $18 for 3 hops plants to arrive next month.

Hops join the plants I’ve managed to keep alive from previous years: grapes, blackberries, fennel, a volunteer pumpkin, and a thriving bed of mint. That’s not so bad. That sounds almost like a garden.

Your March List: Find the Spot

You can do it! Spend 30 minutes on your garden in March.

  • Find your spot (2 minutes)
  • Plan planting (3 minutes)
  • Prepare the ground (15 minutes)
  • Start the plants (order the seeds or whatever it takes to put planting in motion) (10 minutes)

If you are already doing better than I am, planting a lush, diverse garden every year, I’m truly happy for you. I hope to get there soon, but I’m not there yet. This is where I will start, and maybe hearing about your garden will inspire me to up my game to 60 minutes a month or even commit to a tomato.

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