Gardening Tips for the Busy Gardener - The Neglected Garden Provides

Gardening Tips the harvest
A daily harvest from the neglected garden

Finding time for gardening is difficult, but you can have a garden even when you're busy. My youngest son started pre-k three days a week this past August, and for the first time in many years, I now have some time without kids. I had so many projects in the garden awaiting all of this time I would have. Of course, the time has vanished, one hour after another, and my garden is more neglected than ever. 

South Sea Salad tree - Garden tips for the busy gardener
Our South Sea Salad tree is thriving in the garden despite the neglect.

The neglected garden provides loads of food for us and for our pets despite the lack of care, but it is thanks to the permaculture principles and natural gardening ways that it demands less time than other gardens. 

Gardening Tips for the Busy Gardener:

  • Use compost
  • Have a compost pile instead of a bin
  • Stay on top of pruning by composting in place.
  • Don't use pesticides and chemicals
  • Create a pollinator-friendly garden.
  • Plant in the ground or in big containers
  • Use natural weed-preventing strategies
  • Use shade to your benefit
  • Pick and prune strategically
  • Create propagation Stations 
  • Use permaculture and food forest strategies

Gardening when you're busy is difficult, but if you use the busy-garden strategies above, which are actually just sound gardening concepts, then you'll be much better off if you get busy, and the garden gets neglected. 

Easy Gardening Tips:

Use Compost

Compost is my main fertilizer. In fact, I haven't fertilized anything since the early spring, but every few months I'll bring a bucket around full of compost, and compost makes the garden flourish. When the soil is healthy, full of microorganisms and nutrients, the plants will hold up much better in times of neglect or drought. 

Compost Pile vs. Compost Bin

A compost bin needs to be rotated or turned. A compost pile does the work itself, worms and critters dig through it, or in our instance the chickens do the work. We have a compost pile in the chicken coop, where everything gets dumped. The chickens pick through and take what they want, mixing it all up, and sometimes they even add some fertilizer.

Composting tips with chickens
Composting tip: make your composting pile in the chicken coop.

When the leaves drop, we pile them up and the chickens go through them, pecking at them, and again mixing it with greens. It's the best kind of compost, and whenever we need some, we just go and get a bucket from the chicken coop.

Compost in Place

Composting in place is something banana growers are used to doing. Bananas need to be fed often, and banana leaves work wonders. When I'm in the garden, most of what I prune goes to the foot of the banana trees or other plants, while some end up as chicken feed. 

Don't Use Pesticides and Chemicals in the Garden

If you don't use pesticides and chemicals of any type in your garden, your garden will create its own natural defenses. Beneficial bugs such as ladybugs and butterflies will take over, and many of the pests we abhor will be in limited numbers because of the beneficial bugs. Yes, you will see insect damage, but look at your garden as being healthy and chemical-free, and you will soon forget about the few insect-ridden leaves.


Create A Pollinator-Friendly Garden

Creating a pollinator-friendly garden goes hand-in-hand with not using pesticides and chemicals in the garden. When I do go in the garden to pick food for dinner or fruits from the trees, butterflies and bees buzz around me, hummingbirds flutter about as if I wasn't even there, and not only is it helping the environment, but it helps fruit production as well.

Gardening tips using ground covers for weed prevention
Gardening Tips: using ground covers for weed prevention

Plant in the Ground or in Big Pots

Planting in the ground is the best thing you can do for your plants if you don't have much time. Potted plants need frequent watering, as the pots dry out fast. I have some plants in the ground, but because our home is temporary and our plants are awaiting their permanent growing spot, most of my plants are in pots. At our growing food forest at the land, I barely ever have to water, because the plants and fruit trees manage all by themselves, their roots stretching down below until they find water. 

I try to source the biggest pots I can find, and then I create environments in the pots beneficial for the plants and trees, and I create an environment that helps the plants withstand the hot Florida sun. 

Last week I replanted two everbearing mulberry trees, using leaves and sticks from the garden mixed with compost and composting woodchips as a base. I planted sweet potato slips at the base of one mulberry, and at the other pot I am propagating things such as cranberry hibiscus, and I've planted collard greens and lettuce as well to create a groundcover of sorts. 

When you have a groundcover around your fruit trees, whether they're in the ground or in big pots, you help prevent the sun from drying out the topsoil, and you keep the soil in place when it rains hard. I mainly use Cuban oregano, sweet potato slips, mushroom herb, and sissoo spinach but any plant that's not deep-rooted will do, and herbs, lettuces, and collard greens are a great way to grow more food in a small space. 

Use Natural Weed-Preventing Strategies

Not only is weeding time-consuming, but it is also back-breaking work, and I don't recommend weeding to anyone over 40. This summer, I actually ended up with a backache for two weeks after a weeding incident. So no, I prefer not to weed. Of course, weeds are a part of gardening, but if you want to garden with little time available, weeding should be done strategically.

For natural weed control, I swear by woodchips, leaves, and ground covers. Woodchips are great at choking out weeds, but they also provide great soil. Right now, the leaves are falling all over my garden, and they prevent a lot of weeds from popping up. 

Gardening tips using leaves to prevent weeds
Gardening Tips: using leaves to prevent weeds

My favorite natural-weed control is the use of ground covers. Yes, sweet potato vines will take over the ground, so will Cuban oregano, and if you're lucky mushroom herb, sissoo spinach, and longevity spinach will multiply. If you're in a cooler growing zone, you might want to look into other options, but there are ground covers for every growing zone, and these will help prevent weeds.   

Use Shade as a Gardening Resource

It might take a little while, and you might need to give it a few tries, but once you find the right location for the right plant, you won't need to do much about it. I have certain plants that don't do well in the hot, Florida summer, these I place where they will get shade during the midday and afternoon hours where the sun can be scorching. 

Banana plants, papayas, Mexican sunflowers, pigeon peas and moringa are a few of the fast-growing plants I use for shade during the summer. Not only for our southern-facing windows, but I also put plants on the north and west side of these fast-growing plants to give them summer shade. Growing Sweet potato vines and grapes over a pergola or trellis arbor can also help shield plants such as strawberries in the hot summer sun, while these vines die down in the cooler months, where strawberries thrive here in Florida. 

Cuttings make more plants
Cuttings turning into new plants.

Pick and Prune Strategically

In our garden, nothing goes to waste. If I'm pruning a fruit tree, I have a container with sand and growing powder ready for propagation. In one of my southern windows, I have created a propagation station, consisting of an under-the-bed type, low plastic bin. Every week or so, I'll fill up a new container (quart yogurt containers work great) with sterile soil. Don't put any holes in it. Whenever I bring in leafy greens for cooking such as Okinawa spinach, sissoo spinach and Hoan Ngoc, I cut the stem of the plant, just above two leaves. Inside, I'll pick off most of the leaves for cooking, leaving a few leaves at the top. Then I'll propagate the stem making more plants. You can find easy instructions for plant propagation here. 

Outside, there are certain plants such as Cranberry Hibiscus, Chaya, Longevity Spinach, and Mexican Sunflowers, which do not even need any growing powder. For Cranberry Hibiscus, I cut off a big branch right above two leaves. I strip the leaves and use them for cooking, the rest of the stick gets put in whatever pot has a free spot, and in a few weeks, it will have rooted, and I will now have more food for my family or the chickens.

You can also check out the plastic bin propagation method here. This is how I propagate many plants outside without having to worry much about the cuttings. 

These are some of the gardening tips that I swear by. They ensure that even when I'm busy, the garden can maintain itself, and as you can see the neglected garden still provides when you take a few preventative steps to keep it healthy. 

It's not that I haven't been spending time in the garden. I usually get a couple of hours each week, but my time in the garden is project-based. Last week, someone dropped off 4 loads of woodchips at the community compost pile, and what a blessing it was. It took a lot of work moving woodchips, but it was so worth it. 

The start of school for our youngest child also meant the beginning of a new chapter for me. For the past many years, I have been writing several novels awaiting this time, and now I'm getting ready to start seeking an agent and a publisher. That's one of the main reasons why my garden has been neglected. 

Of course, I'm also an organizer, and the past many months have been busy with organizing fundraising campaigns, social media campaigns, organizing events, etc. If you're interested in seeing some of the things I do besides gardening, you can check out my author website You can also see what other things this busy gardener is up to here. 

Do you have any gardening tips to share? 

Gardening Tips for the Busy Gardener - The Neglected Garden Provides

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