The first step to creating your best garden ever is knowing what you want and setting goals to get there. Too often we make goals for things like finances and education, but we don’t realize that we can use goal-setting to improve many aspects of our lives.
Have you ever actually stopped to think about your vegetable gardening goals?
Let’s take a quick look at some of the common motivations for gardening first, because that’s the basis of your goals.
Digging in the dirt is a wonderful way to get outside, get some fresh air and gentle exercise, and connect with all of creation.
This can be the #1 motivation for many people, in fact, and it’s a great one. There’s nothing wrong with looking for that sense of personal satisfaction and better overall health. If that is your only goal with a garden, then be sure to set goals that reflect that. You will want to schedule time to make sure you are out there daily, and let people know that this is your quiet time, your reflection time.
But if you dig a little deeper, you might find that you want more than that. And since none of us have unlimited time and most of us don’t have unlimited garden space, defining your goals before you put spade to soil will make it much easier to achieve what you want.
A bit of exercise and outdoor time is great, but what if you want to save money on your grocery bill? If you’re thinking about vegetable gardening, that’s probably where you’re at. There are two ways that you can do that.
The first, and the best option if you’re starting out, is a kitchen garden (also called a potager). If you don’t know what that is, head on over and read the post describing it. A potager, essentially, focuses on fresh food that you will use and enjoy during the growing season. Before doing this, though, you need to know that this is your goal, figure out what you want to grow, and examine how to make it work with the space and time constraints you have.
Planting winter squash in your little potager, for example, would be a bad idea.
Your goal could be to plant enough food to preserve for the winter. That’s a big goal, by the way, unless you have a very small family, a lot of land and a long growing season. It can be done, but it’s a big goal, so don’t try to do it when you first start gardening. If you have a large family, a small amount of land and a short growing season, you’re going to have more difficulty reaching this. This is often the second step after you’ve become used to growing a potager.
If that’s your goal, you need to do even more planning, starting with determining just how many plants you’ll need to meet your goals. We’ll be covering more about this in future posts. Keep in mind that you will need to write out a physical plan (or use planning software) because it’s easy to lose track of what is where in a large garden, calculate the type and quantities of seeds that you need, plan for seed starting and much more.
Can you see how important it is to know your goals for the garden before you even start buying seeds?
Take Stock of Your Personal Resources
Usually, there is a pretty close relationship between the amount of resources you can devote to your garden and the amount that it produces. That makes sense, right?
Here are four important questions to ask yourself – and be honest!
- How much time do you realistically have to work in your garden?
- How much space do you have available to plant?
- If you plan to preserve part or all of your harvest, where will you store it? And how will you preserve it?
- What is your budget?
Don’t overlook that last question because it’s important. It is very easy to get caught up in the seed and “starts” (seedlings ready to plant) catalogues and suddenly find yourself spending several hundred dollars.
Before you start planning, it’s very important that you have honest answers to all four of those questions. There’s no sense setting a goal of growing a year’s food when you realistically have an hour or two a week to work in the garden. If you have your eye on a huge crop of winter squash for the root cellar, but you have barely a postage stamp of growing space, you might need to rethink. Preparing and preserving bushels upon bushels of any produce are very time consuming.
Once you define the resources available – your time, money, growing space and storage room – you can use that information to set achievable gardening goals.
It is always easier to overcome challenges when you can clearly define them, so if any of your resource questions come up with unsatisfactory answers, it’s time to put your thinking cap on. Start looking for creative solutions.
Small budget? Perhaps you can swap seeds with neighbouring gardeners or online.
Short on growing space? Look at vertical gardening options, ask a friend if you can borrow unused land, or get a plot in a community garden.
Not enough time? The answer to that one is simply that you need to schedule, prioritize and plan out your gardening time.
Define the End Results You Want
Now that you have a clear picture of what you originally want, and what you actually have to work with, you can set realistic gardening goals.
Look at the fruits, vegetables and herbs that you most use in your cooking. Which of these can grow in your region, within the space constraints that you have? Highlight your Must Have items. Later, you can do some research on these to make sure that you have the necessary resources to grow them.
At this point you have most of the knowledge at your fingertips to help you focus your resources on what matters most to you. You should also have a clear idea of what can be scaled back, if necessary.
Don’t just jump into your gardening adventure without setting gardening goals. You need to have a clear picture of what you’d like to get out of your vegetable garden so that you have a better idea of what you need. This prevents you from wasting time – and money – on plans that have no reasonable expectation of success.
Are you ready for a great gardening season this year? Step one – set your gardening goals.