People always want to know how much time I actually put into my large garden. I think because they are trying to decide if they can realistically carve out enough time in their week to raise their own. That being said, each persons definition of “maintain a garden” is SOOO far in every direction that it’s hard to say an exact amount of time required. One person might only want to keep a plant alive and have it produce food for them to eat, while another person might have an anxiety attack if they can’t keep their garden free of weeds and looking beautiful all the time. No one is right or wrong, their personalities are just different.
I happen to fall right about in the middle. I have high hopes and big dreams of a perfectly kept garden space, so large that I can feed my family from it year round. But realistically, between helping Farmer in the fields, and four mini farmers needing to be fed and cleaned, my garden falls short of that by about a mile. There are always weeds needing to be pulled, and veggies waiting to be harvested, but I do grow a boat load of garden fresh, healthy, organic food for my growing family. My garden may not always look perfect, but I do take care of my plants, and it benefits us over $2400 each year. And that, my friends, is okay with me!
So first, let me give you an idea of how big my garden is. I would just take a picture of it so you could see, but it is EXTREMELY long and skinny. So long, that I can’t take a picture of the entire thing. When we moved into this house, the yard was already established and the best place I could find to grow a garden, without removing grass or gravel, was on a narrow strip of our property inbetween an irrigation ditch and our neighbors property. Each grow box, made out of railroad ties, is approximately 6-12 feet long. There are 3 foot pathways in between almost all of the boxes. And on the very east end of my garden is a 75 foot long raspberry patch. From the tip of the western most grow box to the last raspberry plant, my garden is roughly 300 feet long. That’s a football field guys. When I said long, you didn’t picture that long did you? But here is the funny part …. at no point in that entire football field is my garden WIDER then 10 feet. Do you understand now why I can’t get a decent picture for you guys? So instead of the actual thing, here is a picture of my rough garden plan drawing for this year because I CAN fit that on a single sheet of paper.
If you are trying to compare the size with yours, my garden is about 3000 square feet. I estimate that about 300 square feet of that is gravel pathways, so we are looking at 2700 square feet of dirt needing to be churned, planted, watered, composted, and weeded 9 months out of the year.
Now, let me show you what a “normal” week looks like in the middle of the summer in my garden …. if there actually is such a thing as normal.
Monday is usually my most productive day. I am feeling energized after a day off and ready to get some things accomplished! Usually I spend a good amount of time watering since I don’t water anything on Sunday. There is always weeding to be done, so I will spend half an hour or so weeding whatever needs it the most (usually the onions …. come on wimpy plants!). Then I move on to my projects. I am a project STARTER …. I struggle with the FINISHING part. On Monday, it’s not uncommon for me to start 2 or 3 NEW garden projects that I discovered on pinterest over the weekend. So …. most Mondays I spend 2 hours in the garden.
Tuesday we generally have a lot of things going on …. sports for the kids, grocery runs, visiting family. I don’t know why, but it always seems to fall on Tuesday, weird. Usually I find some time in the afternoon during the kids rest time to check on the water and get a little bit weeded. Tuesdays- 1/2 hour in the garden.
Wednesday we are often home all day, in and out of the house. If it’s hot, I turn on the sprinkler and the kids play in the water while I scurry around doing dishes, then outside to water, then inside to do laundry, then outside to weed, then inside to make meals, then outside to harvest veggies for dinner …. you get the picture, inside, outside, inside, outside, all day long! I no longer wonder why my floor is covered in dirt ALL THE TIME. Wednesdays I spend about 1.5 hours in the garden.
Thursdays are my hump day. I usually feel like being inside after spending all day Wednesday running around. I fill my time with inside chores and homeschooling the kids. Not a lot of garden work gets done on Thursdays, unless it’s desperate for water. Thursday- 1/2 hour
Friday we usually have something going on with family or friends. We have people over for a BBQ, or we head to Farmer’s mom’s house for a few hours. Since it is the weekend, I am usually feeling like I want the garden to look better over Sunday. Fridays I usually spend about 1 hour harvesting, weeding, and cleaning up tools.
Saturdays are the big one. It’s the one day of the week that Farmer has the possibility of being home before 6. So during the day, the kids and I work hard to get as much done as possible, and then in the evening we do garden work as a family. A lot more gets done when we have Farmer’s help! I try to get EVERYTHING watered on Saturday because we don’t work out in the yard on Sundays. We spend plenty of time weeding and cleaning up. And anything that needs to be harvested is taken care of today so that we can relax and chill out the next day. Most Saturdays we spend about 3 hours in the garden.
Sundays we take off completely to go to church and be with family. Farmer doesn’t go to work, and we don’t do any yard or garden work outside. I love Sundays because I get one day every single week to hang out with Farmer and the kids, and recharge for the next 6 days. Sunday – 0 hours in the garden.
Total for the week = 8.5 hours
8.5 divided into seven days = 1.2 hours every day
Here is the deal though, my circumstance is different than yours, and yours is different than your neighbors, and his is different then the lady down the street. For example: I have four kids “helping me”, I LOVE to work in the garden, I am a stay at home mom, I am 25 years old …. All of these things affect the way I garden, the amount that I can accomplish in an hour, and what I am willing to do, or not do, to keep my garden alive. Each person has a different set of things that make it harder for them to garden, and easier. Maybe you have a health condition that prevents you from exerting yourself physically. Maybe you have twin 2 year olds that follow you around and undo everything you do. Or maybe you are a marathon runner and weight lifter that can work twice as fast as anyone around. Maybe you have three teenagers that can get the work done in half the time. (Can I borrow them for a summer if you do??)
What I am trying to say is that it is very difficult to compare yourself to the next gardener and think that you should be accomplishing the same thing in the same amount of time. But we all do it don’t we? We all want to know, so that we can be reassured that we are ALRIGHT.
Would it help you feel better if I told you …. YOU ARE ALRIGHT! Your great! If you are gardening at all, even if it’s just an herb in the window, give yourself a high five from me cuz I think that’s pretty great.
Now I have to tell you that I really hate it when people leave things that way …. You came here to find out exactly how much time it takes to maintain a large garden, and I won’t leave you with “it depends”.
So here are my official numbers:
After taking into consideration the fact that having four very young kids “helping me” is a SERIOUS time disadvantage, I believe you can maintain a 3000 square foot garden, in the middle of summer (not planting time and not harvesting time because those demand more work) on 1 hour a day -or- 7 hours a week.
And there you have it! MAKE the time for it, because it is totally worth it! Wanna know how worth it? Click here to see what we plant to save over $2,4oo every year.
How much time do you spend in your garden? And how big is it? We all want to know so leave a comment!