Gardeners are dreamers by nature, I think. This capacity to dream big can often lead to some over-extension. As the garden season approaches let’s set realistic garden goals so that we can eat like royalty for months to come.
Find 1 or 2 Main Garden Goals
What’s the reason for keeping a garden? It can be any number or combination of things.
Want to can your own homegrown salsa? Focus on growing tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs.
Desire to just keep fill an herbal apothecary? Grow herbs like mint, lemon balm, calendula and more.
Frugal and fresh salads? Grow greens, radishes, and herbs to keep the salad bowl overflowing.
There’s no reason why a garden can’t be a number of things – but trying to focus on just a few things increases chances of success. It’s also incredibly empowering to know that meals or pantry stores came from your own hard work and land.
Keep the Size Manageable
Size is relative but keep the garden so it’s not overwhelming. Obviously, available land determines a lot of this. And this will also vary based on experience and skill-level.
A garden can be anything from a pot on a windowsill to several acres. Keep it manageable for your time, space, and skill level.
If this year is your first garden, small is better. Use the small size to get your experience built up and to understand everything that is required of your space.
As skill level, experience, and soil improves add to the garden in future years. Truly, gardening is like anything else the more you do it the better you get. This experience means that succession planting and weeding will make more sense after a year or several under your belt.
Set a Doable Time Goal
No matter how much we may love to get our hands in the dirt. Time is often limited for all of us. Kids, jobs, caregiving, volunteer work, and more all mean we have to choose wisely. Set a doable daily time in the garden goal.
This might be an hour, this might be 10 minutes. Neither is right or wrong. Just choose based on your time availability. And stick to it (that’s always the trick, I know).
Use that time wisely. Break it down by day of the week, if necessary. Monday is for succession planting, Tuesday & Wednesday is for weeding, etc. A little goes a long way, don’t believe otherwise.
Mostly Stick to Tried & True
Those seed catalogs are full of such temptations. Oh goodness – every color, size, shape, flavor imaginable. Stick to the ones that are good for your growing zone by and large.
If you live in a cooler area this might mean sticking to varieties that ripen in less than 90 days. For warmer areas, you might need to stick to heat-loving plants or plant the cooler varieties in the fall.
Experiment & Play Wisely
Having a garden means we should play and enjoy. For sure, grow a few of those seed catalog temptations but keep it small. Let the seed and plant prove its worthiness in production in your garden before giving it too much space.
This is also a great way to introduce new fruits and vegetables to your kitchen and family. Consider growing ground cherries and seeing if they’re a hit. No sense in growing too much of something until you know that the flavor is actually enjoyed in your home.
A weed-free garden is an amazing ideal. It’s also extremely hard to achieve when a garden gets large and time gets pinched.
Aim instead for controlling weeds. Use deep mulch and the hoe to make it a bit easier. A well-placed hoe can do amazing things in keeping the weeds manageable.
Make Building the Soil a Priority
Focus on building healthy soil more than anything else. This will only serve you and the garden well in the future.
Use compost and other organic amendments as necessary. Get the soil tested and seek advice from folks to give the soil what it needs so that the garden is a success.
Use a Garden Journal
No matter the garden goals – a garden journal is the best way to track progress and more. Use a garden journal to record planting dates, harvest amounts, watering, temperature – truly everything.
These don’t need to be grand journal entries worthy of being saved by the Smithsonian someday. These are simply records to help you understand what worked, what didn’t, and how to make it all better in coming years.
It’s so much easier to have a written record to refer too rather than relying on memory. No one regrets having these records. Start now and keep it going.
Set those realistic garden goals now before seed starting begins and be rewarded later by skipping the overwhelm and harvesting lots of good eats.