My Lazy-Girl Gardening Hack Saves Me So Much Time and Effort

One of the joys of moving from an apartment in New York City into a real-deal house in Madison, Wisconsin, was getting a yard to call my own. Finally, a space to be outside that was relaxing and private! I found there were aspects of yard work and gardening that I genuinely enjoyed once I got into them. Raking leaves is kind of meditative and gives me a perfect opportunity to listen to an audiobook; planting my annual vegetable garden in my raised garden bed feels like a ceremonial start to the growing season. But in the end, I have to admit: I am a pretty lazy gardener.

I don’t like to coddle anything, so if a plant doesn’t survive a harsh winter or the trampling of my dogs, I call it a sign that it simply wasn’t meant to be. I’ll pull out weeds if they’re invasive or harmful, but I’m leaving the dandelions be. And sorry, but I just … really, really hate watering. That’s why I’ve come to rely on a planting shortcut that puts the onus on Mother Nature: I time my planting (and some other gardening tasks) around upcoming weather.

What’s this look like in practice? Well, for my most recent round of veggie garden planting, I waited until the day before we were supposed to have steady rain to plop my tomato, pepper, and squash plants in the ground. Knowing that my plants were about to get soaked starting the next morning, I didn’t worry about watering them that day.

The same went for the petunias and other annuals I used in my container gardens placed at the front door. Once I settled those into their new homes, I called the project done. The next day, all my new plants were soaked through and I got to skip what tends to be the most tedious chore for me.

My husband and I use the same tactic for filling in patches of bare lawn with new grass seed. Grass tends to get a pretty brutal beating from paws in our backyard, so we’re pretty hesitant to invest a lot of time or money in repairs that might not hold up. A bag of grass seed is cheap, and sprinkling some into roughed-up top soil a few hours before a shower gets the process started with minimal effort.

To answer your question: Yes, I do still water my plants with a hose or a watering can when I must. But whenever possible, I like to let the clouds do my first round of watering.

Virginia bluebells in a garden.

Embracing native plants, like my Virginia bluebells, is another way I’ve cut down on extra yard work. Credit: Megan Baker Detoff Credit: Megan Baker Detoff

For anyone who loves watering, this shortcut is not for you! You already like doing the thing! But maybe there’s another way that rainfall can help you in your yard. The other lazy gardening task I always time with rain is weeding. Instead of doing this before rain, I do all of my weeding the day after a rain shower, when the soil is soft and roots are more easily tugged to the surface. Some weeds are absolute beasts to remove no matter what — looking at you, buckthorn — but the softened soil does make a noticeable difference.

Recent rainfall can also make it easier to dig holes for adding new trees or shrubs to your yard, although take note before you start: Soil that’s so moist it’s turned to mud will only be compacted as you dig and plant, meaning a harder life for your greenery. It’s best to do this task when the soil is damp and pliable, and not sopping wet.

Does all this make me a lazy gardener? Proudly. While I’m awed by my neighbors, who boast some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen, spending every weekend working in my yard is just not for me. But doing just enough so that it’s a pleasant place to spend time playing with my dogs, drinking a cup of coffee, or harvesting home-grown tomatoes? I’ll take that deal!