How to Set Goals for Garden Success

Garden Planning · Gardening Tips & How-to's · In the Garden

Setting garden goals is very important to the success of your garden. My first year I simply planned crops but had no specific end results in mind. It was a learning year, but now I’ve realized setting specific goals ensures you plant enough of what you need and not too much of what you don’t.

How to Set Goals for Garden Success | Journey with Jill

Here are two basic guidelines to setting your garden goals:

Set Goals with the End Result in Mind

Don’t simply say, “Plant four tomato plants.” What does that really mean? Instead, get specific about your end goal. For example, here is one of mine:

“Plant enough tomatoes for a full year’s supply of canned tomato products.”

From that goal, I can determine how many plants I need, based on either prior experience or what I’ve researched online.

Other ideas could be:

  • Plant enough cucumbers to make relish and pickles
  • Plant enough squash to eat fresh all summer
  • Grow the three herbs I use the most in my kitchen.”

By knowing the end result you hope to achieve, you have a target at which to aim, instead of blindly planting crops.

Divide Crops into the Majors, Minors, and Rookies

I divide my goals into three categories: major crops, minor crops, and rookies (I was a baseball fanatic in my youth).

  • Major crops are my “must-haves” and the ones that will take up the most space and effort in your garden.
  • Minor crops are the ones you’ll fill in around the major ones.
  • Rookies are new crops you want to try for the first time.

For example, my major crops are tomatoes, green beans, corn, and black-eyed peas — the ones we eat fresh and preserve for the off-season.

My minors are those I’ll grow for fresh eating like lettuce, melons, and okra.

My rookies are the crops I’m trying for the first time. They may or may not make the cut the next year, but I’m all about trying new things. One year my minors were tomatillos, corn, and Anaheim peppers. My tomatillos later advanced to “minor” status, while corn made it to the “majors.” My rookie Anaheims didn’t make the cut.

For the beginning gardener, or a gardener of a small plot, your majors won’t necessarily be what you’ll grow to last all year but instead what you’ll focus most of your energy on. Are tomatoes your priority? Beans? Your minors will be other crops that would be nice but aren’t as important as the  majors. And your rookies will be the same as mine–new crops you’d like to try.

What are some of your major garden goals this year?

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  1. Hi Jill,
    I’ve been following your blog and listening to your podcasts and love them! We’ve been gardening with raised beds for about 4 years, adding beds each year, as well as fruit trees.
    Do you practice crop rotation in your raised beds? We grow lots of tomatoes and potatoes, sweet and white in our raised beds. My issue is, this takes up 4 beds each year and I’m having a hard time planting other things to precede these and rotate them to not plant them in the same beds year after year.
    Thanks for any help or if you have a pod cast that I’ve overlooked, please advise.

    1. Hi Susan! Yes, I deal with that same issue. I talked about it/wrote about it here:

      Basically, I do practice crop rotation, but not in a strict sense. I rotate tomatoes, potatoes, and cucurbit crops primarily but I don’t worry about the others. And sometimes I have to return the tomatoes to a spot in the second year instead of waiting the recommended 3-7. Hopefully that podcast/blog post above will give you some guidance. My thought is you just do what you can!

    1. I don’t recommend using it alone because it can create an impervious matte on top of your garden. Instead, I recommend using it as the “browns” base in your compost. (Most home gardeners have plenty of “greens” from kitchen scraps but not enough browns.) Shredded paper is an excellent way to reuse unwanted paper and I highly recommend using it! Just either mix it with compost or another mulch before applying straight on the garden.

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