the lazy gardener lets a good manure pile do most of the work
I admire raised-bed gardens, and square-foot gardens, and even traditional gardens with their long, straight rows. My grandfather had a gigantic garden, and when I'd visit in the summer we would go out to the garden and snack ourselves silly right there in the dirt.
My first garden was intended to be a raised bed garden in the "Victory Garden" style, raising food to supplement a meager income. I pretended that the fellow to whom I was married at the time would fall in love with the fresh vegetables and volunteer to help weed, water, and cultivate our beautiful little plot of plants. Well, I was young, and that's my excuse.
In years following my divorce, I planted some kind of vegetables whenever and wherever I could...but I could never muster up the energy or cash to actually build raised beds, or install a trickle-fed watering system. Instead, I stashed carrots beside the front walkways, and tomato plants out near the garage. (More about my adventures with tomatoes in another post)
Then I met Trish, who changed my life in a lot of really remarkable ways. Her spouse, Robert, is an AMAZING gardener. He actually spends time and money and energy on his garden and it really, really shows. His vegetable garden is so prolific that they feed not only themselves and some lucky friends, but they also made regular runs to bring fresh vegetables to the local food bank....and not just zucchini, either. I will always be in awe of Robert's gardens. And it's from his garden that I learned my most amazing lazy gardener surprise:
One hot summer afternoon, Trish and I were feeling kind of silly and we were SUPPOSED to be culling out the "too ripe for eating" vegetables from the garden. Yes, the garden actually supplied too much of some things, including zucchini and potatoes, and also a particular variety of tomato that seemed to go from beautiful to overripe in about 15 minutes. We had a whole wheelbarrow of past-prime veggies and were carting it out to the manure pile/compost heap when one of us (I'm not telling who) started up an impromptu baseball game using vegetables as bats and balls. This game is especially delightful with overripe tomatoes, and soon we were covered in tomato slime and squash guts.
The surprise came in the spring of the following year.
The manure pile sprouted fast-growing, stand-back-cuz-I'm-coming-through tomato, potato and zucchini vines.
Robert had his garden beds already established and spent no time to cultivate these unruly volunteer plants...but they kept growing anyhow. And they produced some fabulous vegetables WITH NO ENCOURAGEMENT AT ALL.
I was sold on the technique.
For years now I've staked a section of the manure pile at the barn where my horses live, and planted some potatoes, peas, beans, and pumpkins. I put a little fence around the spot, so people will know that it's a garden. And then I walk away--no weeding, no watering, and certainly no fertilizing. Some years the slugs get the peas or the bugs will get the beans. But the potatoes and pumpkins are usually unrivaled. All it cost me in time and money is a dollar for a pack of seeds, and 10 minutes to set up the little fence.
So, while I drool over the seed catalogs this winter, I dream of building a proper garden, with properly balanced compost and raised beds and a trickle-drip watering system.
However, I know darn well that the pumpkins and potatoes are gonna get planted in the manure pile, because I never work hard if I don't have to do it.