From Sarah's garden to yours
A good gardener is always learning. Sometimes the knowledge comes from books, magazines and trusted websites, other times it comes from experience and the school of hard knocks.
With the new year ahead and the garden in front of us, now is a good time to have a good look at how we are doing as gardeners and assess the situation. It is the perfect time to make goals and plans and set some new year’s resolutions for the garden.
The first thing to look at is how the first half of the growing season went, while it is still fresh in our minds. Ask yourself:
- Is there anything you would have done differently?
- Are you getting the results you are after?
- Are there structural changes that need to be made to the garden to improve its success?
- Do you need to take better notes or more photos?
- Do you need help – expert advice or assistance with the digging and weeding?
The benefit of hindsight is always a great teacher but come next spring, we often forget the things we promised ourselves we’d do differently.
Think about the rest of the gardening year ahead and ask yourself:
- What do you want from the garden?
- Is the gardening heading in that direction?
- Is there a deep desire for a big project for the garden like painting the fence, building a shed or creating a water feature?
- Are you working with an inherited garden and really want something different?
- How are you using the garden? Is it somewhere the kids play, do you enjoy tending the roses or is it just a nice place to look at out of the window?
Be really thorough and critical with your thought process; write a list of all the things you love about the garden, so you don’t lose sight of the joy it brings you. Then write another list of the things you don’t like. Beside each point add the things you could do to enhance or change things so the garden is the best it could possibly be.
With a snapshot of how you feel about the garden, then decide on what can be done now, later in the year and over the winter and what is a long-term project that would require significant effort, finances or time. Some things may not even make the list but that is ok – it is great to dream big and then bring it down to a manageable size.
Take your time considering these questions and answers. Don’t rush yourself, it is your garden and the last thing you need to do is stress yourself out with self-imposed deadlines and projects. Often, time to ponder can give way to clarity and you will clearly see what is important to you.
Once you have decided what is the most important ideas for change in the garden, come up with a plan to turn your answers into actionable goals. At this point, you don’t need to actually do anything but create the intention to make the garden a better place for you and your family. It can help to start with the final vision and unpack what needs to be done to get there or anticipate the project going forward.
Overestimating costs slightly at the start is better than going shopping for supplies and having the project grind to a halt halfway through due to lack of funds. It is also a good idea to give yourself more time than you think you will need to allow for the inconvenience of bad weather or simply the busyness of life that sometimes gets in the way.
Remember a garden project shouldn’t have time stress added to it unless you have a deadline like a spring wedding in the garden. Although a rough timeline helps to keep the project moving along, remember that gardens are for pleasure and enjoyment, not anxiety and pressure.
Utilising the business acronym of SMART goals can be very useful. Here is an example:
Specific – I want to build a pergola.
Measured – it will be big enough for outdoor dining and I’ve set a budget of $X
Achievable – I should be able to do most of it myself but will need help putting it together.
Realistic – I believe I can do it, and what I don’t know how to do, I’ll learn on the way, and it will be perfect in the eastern corner of the garden, and we will use it all the time because the deck is too cramped for a table.
Timed – if I casually approach this project with a few hours each weekend, then we should be sitting eating dinner under the new pergola next Christmas.
To move everything forward so the garden gets what it needs to make you happy, add several small goals into the plan – ones that can be done in an hour or a weekend to create a sense of achievement and give you a break from the big projects, like popping to the garden centre to buy plants you have always wanted to grow. Make sure you do your homework to make sure they will thrive in your garden, and you know how to care for them so they can flourish.
The most important thing to include in your goals is extra time. As mentioned earlier, a garden is a place of pleasure, to relax and find joy. Time is essential for a garden in more ways than one, firstly, to achieve your goals and do projects, but also to maintain your garden. It is all very well to create your dream rose garden, but the plants will need care and attention throughout the year. If you factor in this time then it becomes a joy to potter about looking after your plants rather than a chore that needs to be rushed.
Finally, allow plenty of time in your garden goal setting process to enjoy leisure time in the garden. Time to just sit back and enjoy imagining the vision, appreciating how far you have come and basking in the satisfaction of a job well done.