After yet another stay at the hospital and an eventual recovery, I’m happy to say that I am feeling strong enough to finish all those big garden projects that I left unfinished two months ago. Sure, it’s a lot hotter, rainier, muggier and buggier now than it was back in April, but it’s so gorgeous and jungly out there that I don’t mind a bit. I could always do my gardening in the cooling afternoon downpours, after all. That said, I’ve never had much time to garden anyways and decided that this would be a good time to make some big changes.

Creek

Waterfall

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from illness and recovery, it’s that my garden could always afford to become more low-maintenance than it already is. Because I never know when an illness, accident or other unfortunate circumstance might pull me from the garden and make minor tasks impossible, I’ve decided to downsize my side-yard vegetable garden and make it more manageable. Even in health, keeping up with all the weeds has been a nightmare. It could be because fatherhood and work have made gardening less of a priority, or maybe it’s because I know that whenever I take my son outside to garden, I’ll spend more time picking up and vacuuming after him than actual gardening. But no… the reason my veggie garden has been so hard to maintain is simple: More exposed dirt equals more weeds.

Sideyard

Tomatoes

I’m creating a low-maintenance version of my edible garden because the very minute I rip out last season’s plantings, weed seeds get pulled up to the surface of the soil and sprout before I even have a chance to say “Hey! Where did my tomato seedlings go?” Meanwhile, the densely-landscaped portion of my garden has remained mostly weed-free. My solution is to divvy up that side yard into two zones; one zone will become a permanent planting of groundcovers perennials and small shrubs, and the other will be a seasonal planting that’s devoted to annuals and vegetables that I change out every season. This layout will not only cut my weeding time in half, but turn my side yard of dirt and weeds into something that looks as beautiful as a real garden. What a novel idea!

Garlic chives

Herbs

Here’s how it will work: In the permanent portion, I’ll plant/ transplant ornamental edibles such as kumquat, calamondin orange, pineapple sage, Mexican tarragon, ginger and turmeric, and plant them within a bed of border grass. This will shade the soil, prevent weeds from sprouting again and keep the garden looking pretty, even between seasons. Meanwhile the seasonal portion will be close to the sidewalk and small enough to keep affordably mulched and maintained with little effort. If I decide to let a part of that area go fallow for a season, I can lay down mulch over a sheet of landscape fabric to prevent weeds. I might even decide to grow potted vegetables on top of the mulch - which reminds me. Even though I’m replacing half of my vegetable garden with landscaping, I can always grow extra vegetables in pots. Remember all those lovely tomatoes I planted a few months ago? After staving off armyworms and ripping out plants infested with soil-borne viruses, they essentially drowned to death in torrential downpours while I was away for the weekend – right before my big tomatoes ripened. In my new low-maintenance garden, I can plant those tomatoes in pots and water them with micro irrigation during dry spells. Sometimes the easy way is the best way.