A little planning goes a long way to making your gardening more enjoyable and productive. Obviously, we all want our garden to be enjoyable, but thinking about productivity can cause stress. After all, last year’s garden may still be hanging there limp and dead, reminding us of what didn’t get done, what got eaten by insects or rodents, and what grew into bizarre inedible projectiles. The memory of my garden each year is often a mix of happy tastes and disappointing results. Enter: my yearly January pep talk to myself about what really matters.
January is a good time for such a pep talk for the gardener in Southwest Idaho (or any high desert garden of similar clime), and the thinking that follows, because there is no rush, but there are things that can be done that really help. The goal, for me, is not a hype and pump pre-game rant, but a gentle and hopeful beckoning into the coming sunshine. It is time to put things in perspective. I start with a quick review of the basics. (click on any photo to enlarge)
1. Why do I want a garden? This might seem like something you feel you don’t need to ask, but I find it changes a bit every year for me. Being able to answer this to your own satisfaction will affect, probably in quite useful ways, how you approach your gardening. It might be some combination of the following factors:
- I want to grow things
- I like getting outside and working in the yard
- I want my yard to look nice
- I want to be able to eat fresh produce (whenever I can, when it is practical…)
- I want to know exactly what I am eating
- I want to save money on groceries (assuming this can be proven)
- I want to teach my children about growing things
- I want to be able to store garden produce for the winter
- I want to grow things to feed the wildlife
- I want to grow things that aren’t sold in grocery stores
2. Are my reasons for wanting a garden realistic based on past experience and current obligations? Not that you can’t problem solve or be inventive, but reviewing past challenges can help you avoid trouble.
- How much time, at least approximately, can I give to my garden? Daily? Weekly?
- Does it conflict with other important goals, whether my own or other family members?
- Do I have the funds for the equipment or supplies that are most important?
- Do I have the bodily strength and/or capacity to do the things I dream of?
- What occurred last year that is not likely to be a problem this year?
3. What changes do I want to implement based on recent gardening experiences and education?
- Should I alter the size of my gardening space?
- Do the gardening spaces need any reorganization?
- Do I need to adjust water access or utilization?
- Do I need to grow different things?
- Do I need to grow things in different quantities?
- Do I need to time plantings or harvesting differently?
4. What do I need to do to actually to move forward with my plans?
- What areas of knowledge do I want to increase my understanding in?
- Do I need to check the status of my supplies and equipment?
- Do I need to order any supplies or equipment?
- What areas do I need to clean, to help me do the above things and help make better use of my time in the future?
- What equipment do I need to clean or repair?
- Are there things I need to make for myself?
- Would it be helpful to begin a pre-gardening exercise routine, to help avoid injury later?
- Should I make at least a tentative calendar for gardening?
5. Is there anything I can do outside now?
- Should I keep a closer eye on the weather, to help me take advantage of possible outside days?
- Should I hire help for clean-up?
- Should I take a walk around the yard with a notebook in hand?
- Should I take photos to help with planning while sitting in the warm house?
6. Is there anything I should do inside right now?
- Do I need to prepare growing spaces for starting seeds or growing seedlings?
- Do I need to organize seeds?
- Do I need to care for overwintered plants, bulbs, or roots?
- Do I need to try on and evaluate gardening clothing?
- Maybe now is a good time to try making some of the fun garden art seen on pinterest? Here is a link to my Gardening in Southwest Idaho pinterest board.
These may seem like a lot of things to think about, but the truth is, you will probably think about them sooner or later anyway, so why not do it in a planning sort of way that allows you to get the most enjoyment and satisfactory results from your garden. A little planning about basics will make room for necessary and enjoyable gardening spontaneity as the season progresses.