Starting a Garden or Orchard: Workload

How much time and effort will be required to maintain your garden or orchard? This question has countless answers.

In general, the workload in most gardens starts slowly ramping up sometime in early spring, peaks in the summer, and drops off sharply about the time of the first fall frost. A cold frame or greenhouse will require attention all winter long, but the maintenance requirements are typically lighter and steadier than with a full-fledged garden.

Start Small

The size of your garden is the major factor in determining workload. A small garden may require only a few minutes a day to maintain. A large garden may demand several hours of attention daily. And don’t forget that everything will take longer in the beginning when you’re still learning.

Do you have enough people in the family with enough time and interest to get it all done? Undertaking a huge garden plot and then letting the weeds take over because you couldn’t keep up is both financially and emotionally costly. It’s best to start small. You can always expand next year.

Build a Routine

The best way to keep up with a garden or orchard is to visit it every single day. Make a walk through the garden part of your daily routine. As you meander among the plants:

  • Pull those stray weeds that you see.
  • Pour a cup of water at the base of a thirsty plant.
  • Harvest that cucumber—it’ll be twice as big tomorrow!

If a walk through the garden is a regular part of your day, you’ll never have to scratch your head and wonder, “Do I need to do any gardening today?” Plus you’ll be much less likely to be surprised by sudden insect invasions or gallons of overripe produce.

Some tasks such as tilling or building a trellis will be a little too time-consuming to fit into a garden walk. Carry a notepad with you when you visit your garden or orchard. If you see that one of those larger projects needs to be taken care of, make a note of it and schedule a time to do it.

Divide the Work

Family involvement is great to have in a garden or orchard, both because of the bond a common interest provides and because it makes the work much easier to keep up with, especially on a larger scale. However, there does need to be some type of organization to avoid the “I thought you were going to take care of it” scenario. How you divide the work will depend on your family’s needs and interests.

Take Time to Learn

Be prepared to experiment a little at first, and adjust as necessary. Gardening is an art that can only be mastered by experience. Give yourself some time to learn. You’ll get the hang of it.

Next week: Location

Helpful Resource

The Family Garden Journal

The Family Garden Journal
This Homestead on the Range book includes a “Garden Maintenance” page for keeping track of those gardening chores. Learn more.

Complete Series

Starting a Garden or Orchard

Starting a Garden or Orchard