Why It's Crucial to Establish Goals for Your Garden

When you know what you want, it's easier to plan for success.

measuring a garden path

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Garden goals can often be vague and imprecise. But in my opinion, not having a clear aim in mind when designing, planning, creating, and maintaining a garden can lead to a range of problems down the road.

I would always advise any gardener, old or new, to spend some time thinking carefully and deeply about what really matters to them, and what exactly they want to achieve. While we may be eager to get our hands in the soil and actually begin the practical work, and see our gardens grow and bloom, a little thought up front can save us a lot of hassle down the road. 

This may seem obvious, but as a garden designer and consultant, I see how frequently this is overlooked. Creating garden goals is a simple but crucial step in creating the garden that is right for you and ensuring that you continue to grow as a gardener, and a person, along with your plants.

We Need to Know Where We're Going to Determine Our Direction 

The first reason that it is so crucial to establish your garden goals is that all too often, without clear and well-defined goals in mind, we end up setting out in entirely the wrong direction.

I have come across several examples of gardeners who have set out to grow their own food, creating a layout with multiple vegetable beds over a relatively large area, only to realize a short while later that they have taken the wrong path and need to undo their work in order to establish a less traditional mode of food production that works better for them and their particular site.

When We Have Garden Goals, We Can Measure Our Successes

Creating our own perfect garden takes time. Waiting and setbacks can be dispiriting and the truth of the matter is that many gardeners do give up, or at least feel fed up and frustrated after their first failures.

It is always best to use slow and small solutions, taking our time and making incremental steps toward our overall goals.

When we have a clear idea of those goals, we can determine better how we are progressing toward them, even when everything does not go according to plan. We can see our successes more clearly and not get hung up on smaller things that go wrong along the way.

Clear Garden Goals Give Us Something to Aim For

Another thing that clear garden goals can give us is a sense of the light at the end of the tunnel—something to focus our gaze and keep us centered on what really matters.

It is important to have something to aim for in order to keep focus on the longer term. In a garden, it is easy to become distracted, and some gardeners throw everything at their gardens in the hope that something will stick. 

Buying too many plants or other things for a garden is not only a recipe for disappointment, when things don't end up working as you had hoped, but also makes your efforts less sustainable. Of course, by buying only what you need, you can reduce your harmful impact and live in a more eco-conscious and ethical way.

Garden Goals Help Us See the Big Picture

As gardeners, it's easy to be blinded by minutiae. As the old saying goes, you may not be able to see the wood for the trees. Garden goals can help us to look up, and think more holistically about our space, ourselves, and what we really want to achieve. 

Establishing clear goals helps us to visualize our own needs and priorities more clearly. It helps us to see what our gardens can truly provide for us and our families.

It also helps us to look beyond our own needs and see how our gardens and our gardening efforts can also help others—and be of immense benefit in the wider world.

making a landscape plan

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How to Establish Your Garden Goals

To establish your own garden goals, I would recommend thinking about the following. First, think about your site:

  • What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges of your space?
  • How might you overcome those weaknesses and challenges and take full advantage of those strengths and opportunities?

Consider what resources are already at your disposal and what your garden already offers, and work from there. 

Be sure to note that opportunities might not only allow you to enhance the garden for humans, but also for wildlife. There might also be opportunity to sequester more carbon, improve air quality, and otherwise enhance things environmentally and socially far beyond the boundaries of your garden. 

Next, consider who will use the garden:

  • What are their ages, needs, desires, likes, and dislikes?
  • What do you, and others using the space, want to gain from it? How do you want to use it?

Think about how strengths and opportunities can be harnessed to meet your own needs and wishes, and those of others who will use the garden.

Remember, humans are not the only ones to inhabit a garden, so considering the needs and preferences of wildlife in the space is also a wonderful idea.

Once you have answered these basic questions, you will have a framework from which you can begin to hone in on specific goals you have identified.