Every garden benefits from a gardener who has a plan, or a goal for the garden. Examples of garden goals include these:
- lowering the grocery bill
- getting the family (or yourself) to eat more veggies
- gaining access to new and wonderful flavors
- being able to enjoy foods that are not commercially available
- feeling connected to the past through growing heirloom crops
- learning about a different culture through its food traditions
- boosting resilience or sustainability of your family or neighborhood
- adding another physical activity to the day, for improved fitness
- cutting trips to the grocery store, as part of an effort to reduce car usage
Use your goals — it is ok to have more than one — as a guide when choosing crops for this year’s garden. Whether your aim is to cut the grocery bill or to learn about foods from another part of the world, keeping the goals at the top of your mind as the seeds are selected will increase the odds of success and your enjoyment of the garden.
Were my 2019 garden goals met?
My goals for the summer garden in 2019 were tempered by the knowledge that, once again, Joe and I would be traveling for several weeks in summer. The long weeks of travel meant that I needed to limit the summer crops to those that would survive the weeks of neglect in hot weather.
I adjusted my goals for the summer garden to focus on basils, partly to learn which would survive basil downy mildew the longest and partly to learn some of the many flavors that basil brings. Happily, we also brought in plenty of tomatoes and peppers, lots of roselle (a tea plant), pole beans, and other crops. In my mind, the summer garden was a success.
For the fall, I wanted to learn more about chicory-family crops, and the garden is still full of these plants. My experimentation with chicories is ongoing. The good news is that the plants have all done well, and I’ve learned how to use some new kinds of chicories in our meals. Also, I REALLY like the flavors and textures of these greens, which is the best news of all. I am counting the fall garden as a success.
Always, there are bits that don’t do as well as I would like, even when most of the garden is totally on target. These little failures don’t stop me from calling the season as a whole a grand success. The Red Rubin basil, for example, was not nearly as robust as the Thai basil, but there was enough for me to compare flavors and general hardiness of the plants.
Also, the spinach seeds did not have a high germination rate. I ended up with only a few of these plants. No way will there be enough for any big helpings of cooked spinach. Luckily, I don’t really like cooked spinach, but leaves from these plants add variety to our winter salads. In my glass-half-full world, that counts as success.
Some of my past garden goals
My goals are different every year, and every season. When we were younger and our budget was tighter, a major goal was saving money on groceries. In other years, I’ve used the garden to try completely new foods, and to experience a wider range of flavors for foods I thought I knew well. I’m sure I am not the only gardener to be blown away on discovering the variation in flavors brought by the many kinds of tomatoes!
Of course, every year a goal is to keep learning more about gardening, and another is to take plenty of time to enjoy being outside. These are easy goals to meet.
For this year, though, my garden goals need to take into account our larger goal of moving farther south, sometime in summer.
Garden goals for 2020
This spring, my exploration of the chicories will continue. I still have an abundance of seeds for these crops, and if all grow as well as last spring’s radicchio I will be able to bring these into the kitchen for several more months. Of course, the spring garden will not be ONLY chicories, but these are what are on my mind.
For the summer, because of our intention to move, the food-crops will be limited. The goal is to find and grow more ornamental edibles, since the garden is in the front yard. This means more edible flowers, herbs with tidy growth habits (like Thai basil), and smaller versions of some food crops (like peppers).
For the fall, we hope to be in a new yard, learning how to garden in our new place. That is why I wrote/designed the Garden Planner and Notebook. I am going to use the planner and notebook to help me learn faster. The book has spaces for taking notes about soil preparation, about the weather, about the local climate (zone 9a!), chilling hours requirements for fruit trees, the seeds I plant and when they are planted, success (or not) of the crops, and more. I am looking forward to the adventure!
In the meantime, though, I still have the adventure of gardening here, northwest of Atlanta, for a little while longer.
What are goals for your garden this year?