As we get into the depth of winter, a very exciting season begins for gardeners: garden planning season! It’s an activity I stretch out way longer than it needs to be because planning and dreaming of the upcoming garden season brings me so much joy. There are many phases and activities that can be encompassed in the umbrella of garden planning. The step I always begin with is goal setting.
Why You Should Set Goals for Your Garden
Goal setting for the garden generally has the same benefits as any other goal-setting. It gives you something to work towards, motivates you, and encourages you to notice and celebrate progress. The difference between garden goals and, say, fitness or career goals, is they are primarily for fun, not for results. Though gardening has numerous purposes, its primary function is to bring you joy. Your goal-setting should never impede that joy.
Setting goals for your garden helps you narrow in on what you’d like to learn, what challenges you’d like to pursue, and what intentions you can focus on with your garden. They allow you to dream not just of what you will grow, but how you will grow it and what you’ll learn along the way.
What Kinds of Goals I Set
You can jot down any goals that come to mind in your garden journal as you begin your garden planning. If you feel stuck or want some prompts to help you get started, here are some specific goals I like to set each year. If one doesn’t apply to you, feel free to skip it! This is about learning, challenging yourself, and having fun. I’ve also included my goals for this year to spark some ideas!
One new skill you want to learn
The more you learn about gardening, the more, you’ll discover, there is to learn! There are a variety of gardening skills that aren’t essential to get started your first year or two, but that you may want to acquire as you continue your gardening journey. I like to write down one in my goals list each year that I will focus on intentionally learning.
My goal: This year my focus is to learn seed starting! Since I began gardening as an adult, I’ve always bought starts or direct sowed my seeds because of lack of space. This year I want the flexibility, money-saving, and variety that comes with starting your own seeds. It’s a little intimidating, but I’ll be learning a lot from Blossom and Branch on seed blocking and general how-tos from Epic Gardening.
An experiment you want to try
This can be any new method you’ve seen, a random idea you’ve had, or other pursuits that you just aren’t sure will work out. Trying an experiment in the garden allows you to be creative, learn a lot and have the freedom to fail. Last year I tried out growing live mulch. It didn’t go flawlessly, but I learned a lot and had fun with it. Maybe you want to grow something unique or something that you aren’t sure grows well in your climate. Perhaps you are interested in trying an in-ground compost system or want to see if mulching with straw works better than leaves. The possibilities are endless when it comes to your garden experiments, just take good notes and give yourself lots of grace!
My Goal: My experiment goal for this year is to seed native plants in milk jugs. It’s a way to grow native seeds that need cold stratification to germinate. I will plant them in a bit of moist soil in the milk jugs and leave them outside until spring. This method gives the seeds a more controlled environment while keeping them damp and exposing them to the snow. I have an article from Penn State Extension about how to do it and lots of milk jugs saved up from work. I’ll report back on this experiment come late spring!
A new thing (or several things!) you want to grow
I hesitate to even call this a goal, but it is something I like to include on the list! It’s fun to add a new challenge every year in terms of what you’re growing. Once I start thinking about the new things I want to grow, the list tends to become quite long. Whether it’s an entirely new vegetable, a perennial fruit, or even just a different variety of your tried and true crops, add at least one new thing to keep your gardening fun and challenging.
My Goal: I’m growing quite a few new crops this year, so I won’t list them all in this post. Stay tuned for a blog post all about the new things I’ll be growing in 2022!
A failure you want to try again
This may not apply to you, but I would say most people have a crop that didn’t do too well in a given year. Attempting a second year is a great way to learn and grow as a gardener. Try to figure out what went wrong (weather, soil, watering schedule, light, etc.) and give it another go. Even if it grows poorly a second year, you will have gained a lot of knowledge and pride in yourself.
My Goal: My first time growing onions last year was a huge flop! The soil was the biggest problem, but there were quite a few things I did wrong. I’m glad I tried anyway and I’m determined to get a better crop this year!
An intention for the growing season
A lot of productivity or mindfulness teachers will tell you to start your day with “intentions.” This means taking a minute to ask yourself what you want to get out of the day. They can be more tangible, like a to-do list item, or intangible, like how you want to feel, the headspace you want to be in, etc. I like to do this for the gardening season too! Take a few minutes to reflect on what you most want to get out of this gardening season and write it down on your list of goals. It could be spending 15 minutes a day just wandering the garden with no agenda, growing enough flowers to give away a bouquet every week, or including your kids more in the garden operations. This can be very personal to your life and the purpose of your garden.
My Goal: My intention for this year is to depend less on grocery stores next winter. This entails getting as much food out of my square footage as possible, extending my growing season, and focusing more energy on preserving my garden harvests. I want to have more regenerative, local, and organic produce in my life during the cold months. I’m excited to have this intention to guide my efforts and goals for the coming season.
Whether you’re new to gardening or have been growing your own for years, setting goals is a fun and productive way to start a new gardening season. Happy growing!