Keen to grow your own, but short on time? There are many things you can do to reduce your workload while still enjoying plenty of homegrown produce.
The top mistake that novice veg growers make is to grow too much. So start small – restrict yourself to a small salad patch, containers of veg on the patio or a small raised bed, then gradually expand your growing ambitions as time allows. Discover space-saving crops to grow.
If you’re new to veg growing, start with some crops that are easy to care for. Read more about our recommended veg crops for beginners.
Regular attention is the secret of growing top-quality crops, but you can keep on top of things by doing ‘key’ jobs little and often.
Make the best use of your time on the veg plot by following our advice below.
Clear perennial weeds
Before planting anything, clear your plot of weeds, especially perennial weeds such as bindweed which will smother your crops if left to grow. Find how to clear perennial weeds without chemicals.
Use a mulch
Cover well-prepared ground with a plastic mulch or weed-suppressing membrane – this will keep weeds down and moisture in – and cut holes to plant through. This is useful for sweetcorn, outdoor tomatoes, courgettes, pumpkins and squashes and strawberries. It’s also useful on empty areas of your plot – it will prevent them becoming weed infested.
Grow in raised beds
Raised beds are ideal for low-maintenance vegetable growing – you don’t need to dig, you can add fresh, weed-free soil, and it won’t get walked on or compacted. Find out how to make a vegetable raised bed.
Rather than sow seeds undercover, which then need pricking out and potting on, sow seeds outdoors, straight into the ground. This is ideal for root crops, which don’t like disturbance and also good for peas, beans, chard and speedy, leafy crops like spinach and lettuce.
Buy young plants
Save yourself the trouble of growing plants from seed and buy young plants at the garden centre in spring. You should find everything from tomatoes to runner beans. If you wait until late spring, you should get away with not hardening them off.
Choose low-maintenance crops
Some crops need more looking after than others. If you’re short on time, opt for those can that cope with a bit of neglect – read our advice on easy-care veg crops to grow.
Keep tools handy
Essential gardening tools, like a hoe, hand fork and trowel, string line (for straight rows) and vinyl gardening gloves, are best kept in reach of a veg patch. Invest in a small garden store to lock them away. Watch Alan Titchmarsh give advice on the essential allotment tools.
Put a water source nearby
If possible, set up a water butt to recycle water that runs off a shed or greenhouse roof, close to your plot. This will save you endless trips to a tap. Alternatively, install an outdoor tap nearby. Find out how to install guttering on a greenhouse.
A good soak every few days is better than a light sprinkle every day. If you’re short on time, priorities anything that is newly planted or fruiting. Find out more in our guide to summer watering.
Weed little and often
If you wait until weeds are big enough to dig out by hand, they will be competing with crops and hosting pests. But hoe between rows, weekly, while weed seedlings are tiny and it will be less of a chore. Watch our video guide to hoeing effectively.
Choose resistant varieties
Varieties that are resistant to pests or disease need less cosseting and have a higher rate of success. Try blight-resistant tomato varieties, potato ‘Sarpo Mira’, or carrot ‘Flyaway’, which is resistant to carrot fly.
Try the no-dig method
The no-dig method is exactly that – not digging the soil, but adding an inch of two of organic matter on top in autumn. It can save time and doesn’t disturb the soil so is ecologically beneficial.
Grow companion plants
Companion plants will attract pollinators and may keep pests at bay – discover some companion planting combinations.