No time to garden? That was always my sad refrain — until I developed a plan for what I call the one-woman garden. When you are the sole person responsible for chores indoors and out, a garden might not seem possible. It does not have to be that way. Here are my five tips:
1. Think small. You are not pioneer woman living off the land. Too large a garden leads to more maintenance than you can handle. You won't have time for canning. Don't even think of raising city chickens. The one-woman garden is all about making do with very little time and muscle.
2. Square-foot gardening is the easiest, least time-consuming method. You do not even have to build or buy the wooden frames or create the raised beds that true square-foot gardening suggests. I simply square off sections with small stakes and string. I lay down newspapers or landscape fabric on the paths between the sections, and cover this with mulch.
3. Keep your garden tools, gloves, and a set of dirty jeans and sneakers in the same place. You don't have time to waste looking for things. You need this time for watering and weeding.
4. Weeds are so not your friends. Their young might be cute, but you will regret allowing them to grow into teenagers. Weed on a daily basis. If you don't, you will despair and give up. In your flower garden, fill in bare spots with annuals or even pots of annuals. This will help keep down the weeds. As for pests, and they will show up, I use organic pest control: my unreformed barn cat. He knows his job and does it well.
5. And now, (drum roll), the one-woman garden real-life schedule for integrating gardening into evening chores:
Begin by scrubbing vegetables that you picked that morning and washing salad greens (probably from the market because garden lettuce tastes good only in the spring and fall). Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Change into work clothes and grab tools from their assigned place. Decant wine for dinner. Set aside.
Enter garden bravely: you have much to do. Pick herbs for dinner. Return to kitchen. Chop vegetables for a ragout and set aside. Dredge chicken breast in Parmesan cheese or bread crumbs and the fresh herbs. Place chicken in foil-lined baking dish (to save time on cleanup). Set smart phone to timer mode, 20 minutes. Carry it with you so you will not overbake chicken. Throw laundry into machine. Feed whining cat or dog. Return to garden. Begin weeding.
When timer goes off, return to kitchen. Turn chicken over. Set timer for an additional 15 minutes. Return to garden. Water garden. When timer goes off, return to kitchen. Give chicken five more minutes in oven while you make ragout in skillet.
Toss salad greens with dressing. Sprinkle with remaining fresh herbs. Transfer clothes from washer to dryer and return tools to assigned place. Place dinner and wine on tray, turn on TV or music, shove cat or dog aside, and collapse.
Bon appétit. You have reaped the bounty of the one-woman garden. Do not forget to empty dryer and fold clothes.