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Twenty Minute Planting – Are You Serious?

A friend of mine, a good friend in fact, said “Twenty-Minute Jim, you’re a big fat liar! There’s NO WAY you plant that garden of yours in only 20 minutes a day.” I wasn’t offended. I didn’t even puff out my cheeks or stamp my feet in protest. I knew for a fact that this year, we’d spent quite a bit more than 20 minutes a day so far in the garden. But I don’t think our experience so far this year essentially disproves our hypothesis (i.e. that a lovely organic, urban kitchen garden can be created by two folks working 20 minutes a day.) Here’s why:

My most important defense is that, I believe, there to be several different stages to gardening: establishing a bed, planting, maintenance, harvesting, dreaming and scheming for next season… perhaps a few others. Much of the time we spent this year was in establishing garden beds in our neighbor’s yard where previously no garden beds had been. This activity is usually a tremendous amount of work but we minimized it by starting last fall. We heavily mulched these areas with straw (and in a couple cases with tarps) in order to minimize the weeds and grasses. This spring, we pulled back the mulch and ran the lawn-mower over these areas to lop off the weeds and grasses a bit more definitely. In one area, we were then ready to plant. In the area that became the squash field, we scooped out a couple shovel fulls of the existing dirt in every place we were going to plant and replaced the dirt with fresh compost. Then we mulched again heavily with straw. Next year, however, these beds will be established as planting sites. When we plant in those beds, we’ll perhaps add another layer of mulch but that should be much less work.

The planting stage it could be argued will take more than twenty minutes a day but not much. If you’ve come up with a pretty good plan for the garden, you can easily buy all the seedling and seeds on one day. I know folks who rush home to plant the seedlings as if it’s some moral imperative to get them in the ground that day, but as long as you keep them happy, you can prolong that for at least a week. We bought tomatoes and peppers and eggplants sets last weekend and we got around to planting the last of them today. Again, since the beds were already established and our plan was already made, the only real work we had to do was to scoot the mulch away just far enough to dig the holes, plant, water and tuck the plants in with mulch. We did most of the work yesterday and today but we could have easily done a bit every day.

So I have to admit that my friend is correct: we HAVE spent more than twenty minutes a day so far this year. I will also add that the *kind* of work we’ve done during this stage is a bit more physical than will be required as the year progresses. But today we finished the “planting” and “establishing” stages of our newly expanded garden and now we look forward to “maintenance” and “harvest,” the stages which are much more fun!

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