Carol Deppe's fantastic book, The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times , is currently one of my favorite books about gardening. If you're determined to grow a good portion of your own food, it's definitely worth a look.
What I love is that Deppe is very no-nonsense about many things. For instance, one of my favorite sections of the book is called "Selective Sloppiness." Deppe says that much of what we do in our gardens is just unnecessary busy-work. She begins the chapter with this statement:
"Only some things are worth doing well. Most things that are worth doing are only worth doing sloppily. Many things aren't worth doing at all. Anything not worth doing at all is certainly not worth doing well."
She goes on to give examples of what she means. Making the surface of your garden bed perfectly smooth, free of any little indentations or low areas, is a complete waste of time. An uneven soil surface has areas in which water will collect and slowly irrigate your plants. A smooth surface is great if you want to encourage water run-off.
Pulling weeds is necessary (unfortunately...) but carting those weeds off to another location is not. Leave them in your paths, or, heck, just throw them right back into the bed where they'll break down and enrich the soil. As a bonus, insect pests will often feed on the weeds and not your lettuce.
Are you obsessed with planting seeds at EXACTLY the recommended planting depth? Deppe explains that soil temperature has more to do with successful germination than planting depth does. She is inexact in her soil depth, and ends up planting seeds at different depths. No matter what, she always ends up with a successful sowing.
"Eschew unnecessary symmetry," she advises. Most of us rely on straight lines that, for one reason or another, never end up looking straight. Embrace curves and end up with a prettier garden (with less work!)
One final thought from Deppe: weeding the vegetable garden late in the season is generally unnecessary. The plants are too big to suffer from competition from weeds, and most late-season weeds won't have enough time to set seed before frost anyway.
Deppe is definitely my kind of gardener! What do you think?