Vacation from gardening
April 3, 2014 6:14 PM   Subscribe

The gardener in the family is going to be travelling from July through December, leaving me home alone with assorted pets and a large, wild vegetable garden. What's the best, lazy way to NOT garden this summer?

I don't want to have to deal with more than keeping the grass cut, picking cherry tomatoes and herbs. I also don't want to have friends or neighbours dropping by to garden for me since I really value having privacy and some solo time. We have a lot of weeds, but otherwise it's a standard Toronto garden, lots of cats and raccoons in the area too.

What's the best way to cover or rest most of the garden this year assuming minimal maintenance? Is there something we can do make the soil better or to minimize weeds for next year?
posted by five_cents to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Mulch! Mulch lots, mulch often - wait - no, mulch once, like a crazy person, and forget it. You can buy straw at the garden center. Treat it like you're a hamster making a bed.

A bale goes a long, long way. You can get fancier mulches (bark and such) and you can lay newspaper beneath mulches to keep the weeds down, but yes, Mulch, your new best pal.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:19 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

And you might be able to get expired newspaper aplenty from your local friendly newspaper printer.
posted by aniola at 6:38 PM on April 3, 2014

What I would do is only pull the biggest weeds. Make footpaths in the remaining garden by laying these down as footing. Ignore everything else.
posted by telstar at 6:42 PM on April 3, 2014

Response by poster: Is there a particular mulch that will keep the cats out? Will they avoid straw beds?
posted by five_cents at 6:54 PM on April 3, 2014

Get someone else to do it, for money, for kicks, or for the free vegetables.
posted by zadcat at 7:00 PM on April 3, 2014

Best answer: Cats will love straw beds. In our community garden, people keep the feral cats out of their plots by poking a bunch of plastic (compostable! starch-based!) forks into the soil, tines up. The effect is uncomfortable on cat bums, and pleasantly surreal as well. You can also try long bamboo skewers, if forks are too short.

Both of the following apply only in areas you're leaving fallow for the year.

To enrich the soil: If there's a horse stable anywhere nearby, you can pick up fresh manure free/very cheap, or possibly get it delivered. Spread it lavishly and mulch over with newspaper & straw as A Terrible Llama suggests. (No glossy or 4-color paper.) The whole time you're ignoring everything, it's busy rotting and getting ready to be tilled under in Spring 2015.

To minimize weeds: Solarize. No doubt it's best if you follow these directions but one June, when we just could not deal with a specific weed patch, we threw 4-ml. clear painting dropcloths over everything, weighed 'em down with bricks and bamboo poles, and averted our gaze for the season. Seriously ugly, but it worked--no weeds at all the next year, and far fewer for a couple years after.
posted by dogrose at 7:25 PM on April 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

You do need to stay on top of the harvesting, to prevent a pretty serious bug/pest problem. Do you have neighbors who would like some of the produce? Maybe you could get them to harvest 1-2x/week (and of course they get to eat what they pick).

Aiding the pest population is also unkind to nearby gardeners.
posted by amtho at 9:17 PM on April 3, 2014

I'd plant a fast growing summer cover crop like buckwheat. Mow it before it goes to seed. This will be great for the soil. It's good to rest your garden every few years anyways.
posted by meta87 at 9:37 AM on April 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Assuming spring ever arrives up here I think a combination of forks, mulch and possibly solarizing would be best.

I will harvest what is planted but we're going to minimize the planting this year. We're still about five-six weeks from planting so there is time to plan.

I'm not interested in asking a friend to do the gardening, we've done that before and I do find it a bit intrusive to have someone else always dropping by to work while I'm home relaxing.
posted by five_cents at 5:56 PM on April 4, 2014

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