16 Jan 2019


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The Lazy Gardener – January

Winter thoughts

As gardeners, we can try to make sure that we are not overwhelmed by gardening work. A “low-maintenance” garden needs to be well planned. And it takes patience. You have to find the right balance between controlled and wild nature. That begins with dividing up the plots, and ends with the choice of plants. The other important question is how much time you have available. The rule of thumb is: The larger the kitchen garden, the more work there is. That’s because vegetables and herbs are more labor-intensive than lawns and perennial beds.

The next thing we must be aware of is what kind of garden we want. Are fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit important, or can we do without them? Should we mostly focus on flowering plants and their beautiful blooms? Are fruit trees and berry bushes the most important to us? A little of everything? Or a lot of everything? Many gardeners make the mistake of wanting too much at the start and trying to be self-sufficient from the very beginning! Therefore, they plant every square yard and that means that grapes, blueberries, raspberries, zucchini, lettuces, cucumbers, beans, and many more, have to be harvested day in and day out, trees have to be pruned, bushes cleared, proliferating ground cover ripped out, all of which have to be weeded and watered for all you’re worth. These general thoughts finally feed into specific garden planning.

Garden planning

Now, in the winter months, we have sufficient time to create a cultivation plan for the coming gardening season. The area to be planted is best drawn on a piece of paper for this purpose, divided up into beds with the planned crops. We should take particular care in giving enough room between and within the rows for heavy feeders like brassicas.

Even if we lay out mixed crops, we should still keep to a minimum three-year crop rotation for the main crops. The rotation of crops allows us to prevent the soil from becoming exhausted by monoculture and stops the transfer of diseases. The amount of space required depends on how self-sufficient you want to be in terms of growing your own vegetables. We also have to consider early on whether we are prepared to conserve surplus produce or if we can perhaps share it with friends and acquaintances.

A new gardening year begins
After the new year, the first round to combat snails in the garden also begins right away. Snail’s eggs are collected in depressions in the soil, under planks, paved paths, and coverings of mulch. You can also do a few other things in the new year, for example, you can prune the woody plants, if this job was not already completed in late fall, so that trees and shrubs can get started straight away in the spring and enchant the garden with their opulent flowers. The witch hazels will soon be blooming with their brilliant yellow and red flowers. At the same time, the first preparations for the new gardening season are also in progress. The nest boxes are hung up and watched. Evergreen plants are freed from the snow that is present in abundance where we are, and the terracotta containers are cleaned gently with a brush and a neutral soap solution or diluted vinegar.

The early beds have to be ventilated and the foliage in the rockery removed. We will soon be using the greenhouse for the first sowing of vegetables. The selection of the right plants plays a fundamental role. Resilient, long-living plants require less attention than exotic species. Hardy perennials that are accustomed to our climate cope better with the weather and are therefore easier to care for. With trees and shrubs, we prefer varieties that grow best without regular pruning. There a few other tricks to keep in mind that will help you minimize work in the garden: Ground cover or mulch keeps the soil moist and is a tried and tested remedy to prevent the proliferation of weeds and to promote the development of microorganisms in the soil.

We only fertilize and water sparingly, not out of laziness of course, but because it isn’t necessary most of the time at our latitudes. If you spare the lawn a full cut every week, it also doesn’t dry out so quickly.
A garden where you feel good, of course, is not created by simply lying in a hammock. Every garden requires a minimum amount of care. But a passionate gardener does not necessarily see physical exertion as irritating. Quite the contrary!

Moving about in the fresh air, hoeing, digging, planting and harvesting can have a meditative effect on the soul. We even maintain that there is nothing quite as relaxing and curative as a day in the garden. Provided we don’t let ourselves become stressed out by it!

Preparing for the new gardening season

  • If the soil is dry, we have to add nutrients in the form of some good compost and well-rotted stable manure. We spread the mulch onto the beds and let the creatures in the soil work it in.
  • Every garden year brings us new experiences and new knowledge that we can reassess and put into practice. Was the harvest good? Why did this one grow well and the other one poorly?
  • What has proved itself and what needs to be changed?
  • January is a good time to plan and browse through the seed and garden catalogs, magazines, and books.


Pickled beets

Ingredients: 2 kg of red beets, some salt, 1 tablespoon of caraway, 6 dl of white vinegar, 2 bay leaves, 2 cloves, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 4 peppercorns.

Boil the beets in salted water with caraway until soft. Boil the vinegar with the spices and leave to cool. Using a melon baller, scoop balls out of the boiled and peeled beets and place these in pickling jars. Pour in enough of the cooled vinegar over the beet balls until they are completely covered. Seal the jars well and store in a cool place. Tip: The remains of the beets can be used for soup.

Orange liqueur

Ingredients: ½ liter freshly squeezed orange juice, 30 g of yellow orange peel (organic/unsprayed) peeled wafer thin (with no white pith), 125 g of rock sugar, 1 vanilla pod halved lengthways, 7 dl of fruit brandy (40% ABV) and 2 dl of white vermouth.

Mix the orange juice and peel with the sugar, vanilla pod, fruit brandy, and white vermouth. Fill a jar of approx. 1 ½ liter capacity and place well-sealed in a sunny spot. Shake well once or twice every day and strain through a paper filter after 14 days. Store in a cool place in well-sealed bottles. Serve chilled.

I wish you a great start to the new gardening year
Your Remo Vetter

A brief biography of Remo Vetter “The Lazy Gardener”

Born in Basel in 1956, Remo ran an international company selling natural products for over 35 years. He’s now in demand as a garden designer, consultant and author and has created many successful garden projects in Switzerland, England and Ireland.

  • Self-employed since 2018.
  • Lectures in Switzerland and abroad exploring sustainability, our interconnected natural world, and finding meaning in life.
  • Numerous appearances in radio, TV and print media in Switzerland and abroad.
  • Monthly columns in various magazines.

His book “The Lazy Gardener und seine Gartengeheimnisse” Achieving Better Results in Your Organic Garden with Little Effort is available from atVerlag ISBN 978-3-03800-941-2