GROW: 10 New Year Garden Goals
For many years, I created vague new year’s resolutions about doing more exercise, saving money, eating better, traveling more, etc. Sound familiar? But as we know vague resolutions aren’t very effective at getting things accomplished. About two decades ago, I switched to making new year’s goals using the SMART method. This method has been around for a long time and that’s because it works.
My SMART Goals Method
I create my SMART goals based on these categories: Wellness, Professional, Recreational, Financial and Learning. I brainstorm a variety of goals for each category and then cross out half of them! (My over-achiever mindset may be the death of me!) I also look for ways that my goals can fit into more than one category. Growing food and medicinal herbs is an area that easily fits into each category. I then identify specific gardening goals for each category. Below are one set of gardening goals for 2019:
Wellness - Do more yoga stretches while gardening. Take regular breaks to prevent back strain.
Professional - Finalize garden course and move to online template.
Recreational - Visit the The Oregon Garden in June.
Financial - Weigh and price out amounts of produce grown.
Learning - Continue studies of plants, permaculture and herbalism.
For each goal, I write detailed and specific strategies, ideas, resources and tools and then, create timeframes for both strategies and goals. I list strategies and tasks in my monthly and weekly to-do lists and check them off as I complete. If it sounds structured and methodical, it is! I am afflicted with Shiny New Object Syndrome and can easily find myself doing something that does not contribute to my overall goals… like digging holes in the internet for interesting but not-even-remotely-relevant information or binge watching Game of Thrones, hoping that at some point I would be able to keep track of who is who, who is aligned with whom, and why they are so violent and misogynistic.
See how easy distraction happens?
This year, rather than resolutions, I offer ten ideas for creating garden goals.
What? You don’t have any garden goals?
Well, thank goodness I wrote this post.
We all need gardening goals!
1) Tear out the lawn.
What a waste of soil, water and your time! Americans spend billions of dollars and countless hours maintaining what is essentially a green dead zone. How many tools do you have for the lawn? How much time do you spend on the lawn? How much money do you spend on the lawn?
The concept of the lawn was created for and by European royalty. They had servants to take care of it. Our lawns are becoming a problem for a variety of reasons.
As of 2005, lawns covered an estimated 63,000 square miles of America. That's about the size of Texas. It's the most grown crop in the United States--and it's not one that anyone can eat; it's primary purpose is to make us look and feel good about ourselves.
Americans have taken their landscape aesthetic around the world. American communities in Saudi Arabia have lawns in the middle of the desert. American embassies and consulates around the world have lawns. And when the Cultural Revolution swept through China, any lawns that had been established under American and British influence were pulled out. Lawns are American. But they're also an anomaly. And they may no longer fit the realities of the world we live in. (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/the-american-obsession-with-lawns/)
Do you share your space with a lawn lover? Then mimic nature’s method of succession: start at the edge (border) of your place and plant a strip of native plants (see #2). Then repeat each each year, slowly expanding into the lawn space. They’ll never notice. If you are lucky enough to own a patch of real estate, celebrate it by growing food, flowers, herbs and native plants.
2) Plant some native plants.
Once established, native plants are mostly care-free and support wildlife such as insects, butterflies, moths, birds and bats. A landscaped yard adds value to your property and your life. Not sure what is native in your area? Audubon has a native plant database based on zip code. Check it out here.
3) Start an herb garden.
Fresh basil for pesto, oregano for your pasta sauce, chives for your breakfast eggs, lemon balm for tea, thyme for making an herbal cleaner (recipe here) ...herbs are useful, diverse, beautiful, and are some of the easiest plants to grow. Grow in containers on a sunny patio, along a sunny fence or edge, or build an herb bed. Just keep them close to your kitchen, what permaculturists call Zone 1, so that you can step out barefooted or in your slippers to clip a few herbs for each meal or a cuppa tea. And the bees, wasps, butterflies and moths will thank you: pollinators love herbs!
4) Grow a salad bed.
A 4x4 bed can hold a cherry tomato plant, a cucumber plant, a variety of lettuces and herbs and will keep your family in salads for months. Or how about salsa bed: two tomato plants, a tomatillo plant, pepper plant, cilantro, onions. Are you eating enough greens: how about an Asian greens bed?
5) Start a compost corner.
Recycle your yard debris, produce trimmings, coffee grounds, eggshells, tea bags and even your moldy leftovers that you found in the back of your fridge.
The U.S. EPA says about 24 percent of our waste is organic material that can be composted. In fact, Americans throw away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily – translating to almost 13 percent of the nation's municipal solid waste (MSW) stream.
Don’t know where to begin? My article How To Build A Compost Pile the Lazy Way tells you everything you need to know to get started and maintain.
6) Plant a row of berry bushes.
Berries are delicious, nutritious, loaded with antioxidants and they are easy to store. Pick, freeze on a tray, bag them up and throw in the freezer. Strawberries take up little space and could be planted in the front of a landscaped bed. Blackberries and raspberries can create a hedge or go up against a fence. Blueberries grow as shrubs and take several years to mature and produce heavily. Berries need full sun, regular irrigation, a little bit of fertilizer in the summer and pruning in the fall. I eat berries throughout the year and even have a small chest freezer just for my strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and elderberries.
7) Create a cozy outside sitting space.
By this I mean a space to simply sit, listen, observe, rest your eyes, read a poem or share a story with a friend or child. Ideally, you will have a bit of shade, an aromatic plant or two, some simple flowers and a comfortable chair or bench. Our brains and hearts need time in nature.
8) Need inspiration? Visit a public garden or small farm. Hike a trail.
Most public gardens feature ornamental plants rather than food plants but you can gain a lot of insight into garden design by simply observing how plant height, size, color, flowers and foliage are used to make a beautiful display. You can find the nearest American Public Garden here.
Mother Nature also has the design process down. Wildflower season (March-Oct in northern climates) is beautiful way to meet our flowering native plants.
9) Create a garden binder/planner/journal.
If you are planning a garden use a binder as a collection space for ideas, plant lists, seed catalogs, etc. Cut out photos of plants, make lists of plants, and sketch your ideal garden space.
If you are already growing plants, create a 2019 journal where you record the plants you grew (including scientific names), a map of the garden and where you placed your plants, the issues or problems you had, the lessons you learned, and advice for next year’s garden.
10) Learn more about growing food and herbs.
Every bit of knowledge helps and the great thing about starting a garden is that it's a process. You don't need to be an expert today or tomorrow, but picking up bits and pieces will eventually gel into garden wisdom and expertise. Start with seed catalogs, read a book on permaculture, find a mentor or take a course. Have you checked out my list of favorite books on gardening?
“For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”
- Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience
AUTHOR: Sue Kusch incorporates her experiential wisdom, practical expertise and science-based research garnered from her three decades of growing vegetables, fruit and herbs into her educational writing about plants and how people use them. In addition to writing for this website, Sue’s writing has also appeared on Herbmentor.com, Herbalremedies.com, Herb Quarterly Magazine, Gorge Grown Food Network and Green Living Journal PDX. She completed the Master Gardener training in 2011 and two permaculture courses in 2001 and 2014. Sue studies the medicinal and nutritional benefits of herbs and has studied at Herbmentor.com and East-West School of Planetary Herbology. Sue currently serves as President and newsletter editor for her local chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. An avid reader, lover of historical and folkloric information, and a promising storyteller, Sue writes about the intersection of plants and people at www.plantsnpeople.com.