You want to garden but you don’t have time. Don’t sweat it. Focus just enough to cultivate one small patch, and you might be surprised how committed you become to helping your garden thrive.
May Garden Preparations
- Gather materials
- Mix soil
Gather materials. Our gathering began as we investigated mystery bags in our garage and found potting soil, we turned over the year’s compost, and we talked to neighbors to borrow a very tiny amount of paint for the trim on our raised bed planter. We didn’t end up having enough compost, dirt, and other material, so gathering involved going to the gardening store. Sad though it seems to buy dirt, we didn’t have other sources nearby. Our county sells top soil, but they didn’t have any available when we went to buy it. If you are fortunate enough to live near a farm, you might find all of the manure you need for free. We had neither easily available, and our goal is not to fret about the garden this year. So, the store.
Goal: use what you have on hand or can borrow then buy as a last resort
Mix soil. The soil mix you need depends on what you are going to grow. We added a lot of manure, peat moss, compost, and top soil.
Goal: give your garden the best possible start
Plant. If you started seeds last month, it might be time to plant out. We had snow just last week, and we may have snow again until the end of May, so we only plant hardy plants outdoors in early May. Whether you plant out or keep your seedlings in the house or garage a bit longer depends on your zone and your plants. If you look closely at our main photo or skip to the close up below, you will see our hops. They were in pots that we moved indoors during the coldest nights over the past month. Since the planter is sheltered, we think they won’t get more snow. So, we planted them today.
Goal: plant out when the zone and plant align
Water. If you plant out, press down the nice, loamy soil, and water.
Goal: wet well the first day then ignore for a couple of days—if you can
Top Soil Mix
Our chosen spot has grown nothing but the same overgrown bush for 20+ years. The dirt is not impressively rich. Building our raised bed up 16″ over an area 3′ x 6′ meant that we would need a total of 24 cubic feet of soil, so we knew we would need to add to our few inches of dry dirt.
There was so much space to fill in my new raised bed that I decided to try lasagna gardening, with alternating layers of material. After digging out my dry, sad dirt and many, many rocks, then setting aside the dirt in buckets, I put down a layer of pizza boxes for my first lasagna layer. I followed this with dry grass and other dry pieces that I hadn’t cleared out from the garden last fall. Dry was followed by green grass clippings, then dried leaves, and peat moss. This brought us up to only 6″ deep, leaving me with another 16 cubic feet to go.
We didn’t have any more dirt or compost left, so we headed to the store to buy bags of top soil, peat moss, and manure. The manure should be about 40% of the total volume, according to our helpful in-store expert. By the time I added bags of stray potting soil I found in my garage, I think we had about 30% manure. Total cost for all of the bags for 16 cubic feet was $34.
My Lasagna Layers:
Top Soil Mix
Dry Grass and garden litter
Total Cost So Far
- Wood for raised bed – recovered from siding
- Paint to match our house – borrowed from neighbor (since we all use the same paint)
- Compost – homemade
- Soil – $34 for manure, top soil, peat moss
Add this to previous $18 for 3 hops plants for a total of $52 so far.
Total Time So Far
We have not been spending just 30 minutes a month. I think we would have been a lot closer if we had chosen a smaller spot and not built a planter. The planter took most of a Saturday afternoon. My husband and son did a beautiful job building and painting our raised bed to blend in with our house and small yard. Apart from the building, we are spending about 30 minutes every two weeks.
Research and planning – 15 minutes
Ripping out old bushes – 15 minutes
Mapping out the area – 15 minutes
Sorting out materials – 30 minutes
Planting hops in pots – 20 minutes
Building raised bed – 5 hours
Painting raised bed – 30 minutes
Digging bed – 15 minutes
Lasagna layers – 10 minutes
Shopping – 1 hour
Mixing top soil – 15 minutes
Planting – 10 minutes
Total so far = 9 hours
Bonus, several of our neighbors have come by to see our raised bed. The siding matches our houses, and they asked how to make a planter like this for themselves. Maybe they were being polite, but we had nice conversations about our gardens, our dogs sniffed one another, and we had an all-around good time.
Your May List: Planting
How much time you spend this month depends on how well you prepared the ground last month. If you already dug in compost to create soil that is ready for the plants you started last month, you will have plenty of time to gaze at your garden in your allotted 30 minutes. Here is one possible way to spend 30 minutes on your garden in May.
- Gather materials (10 minutes)
- Mix soil (10 minutes)
- Add plant (5 minutes)
- Water (5 minutes)
If you didn’t plan or prepare yet, you still have time. Set aside a Saturday, and you’ll be ready to cultivate your tiny patch through the season. Easy.
In the time total, I didn’t count all of the time my husband spent fussing over his hops in their pots over the past month—poking the soil, watering, taking the plants in the house or garage at night, and so on. He has been babying his plants, and they are now 1-3″.
He bought Centennial (pictured), Cascade, and Nugget. The Nugget is the most bitter, so he carefully placed it in the center of the less bitter two in hopes that he will be able to tell them apart when it comes time to pick the hops and brew the beer.