Anna Mason a summer intern with Veggies for All in Unity spreads mulch around garlic plants Wednesday. Mason is a sustainable agriculture major at Unity College. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Gardening is a fun and therapeutic pastime, but it can also be a big time commitment. With experience, though, you can learn how to put less physical effort into your garden while still helping it thrive.

In gardening, though, being lazy is often synonymous with being smart and utilizing efficient best practices.

“Many best practices in horticulture are actually less labor-intensive,” said Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Weeding and watering are perhaps the most consistently labor-intensive parts of gardening. Garland said to cover vegetable gardens with a tarp in the early season in order to decrease the weed pressure.

Also, don’t feel pressure to plant early in the season. It may wind up being more work, especially if a late frost decimates your tender plants.

“Spring and early summer is often a very busy time for folks,” Garland said. “Don’t feel rushed to get everything in by late May, but don’t let those weeds get a foothold. Many crops can be planted in July.”

After you plant, Garland said the best way to save time on weeding and watering is to “mulch, mulch, mulch.” Mulching will prevent the need for weeding throughout the season and also help soil retain moisture better.

“For water and weed management, mulch is a huge time saver,” she said.

Choosing the right plants will also make for a less labor-intensive gardening season. For example, Coffin recommended using disease resistant varieties to reduce the need for fungicides.

Proper watering technique will also help you save time.

“Watering deeply, but less frequently, is less time consuming in the long run and will help your plants build more resilient root systems able to mine water deeper in the soil profile,” Garland said.

Garland recommended watering two to three times a week for annual plants like vegetables and newly planted perennial plants.

“Established perennials, including trees, shrubs and lawns generally do not require watering in normal years,” Garland said. “When rainfall amounts are below normal or perennial plants are stressed due to disease or insect pressure, then it’s a good idea to water.”

You can also set up an irrigation system, which are available for purchase at most garden supply stores or can be DIY-ed in many creative ways, like with milk jugs.

“When I use an irrigation system, I try to hook it up to a timer so I won’t forget about watering,” said Donna Coffin, extension professor at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “You can set it to run early in the morning so the leaves dry quickly.”

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