Do you want to improve your health and wellbeing? If you want a garden that feeds your mind, body AND soul, what should you focus on?
A New Year is always a good time to look back, reflect and plan ahead. But you can do some planning at any time of year.
Setting goals can help you:
- improve your health and wellbeing
- learn from your garden as you grow
- make more sustainable choices
- find greater enjoyment
Whether you’re a beginner gardener or experienced, there is always so much to learn. A garden is a great teacher! I call my garden ‘Nature’s Classroom.’ Every year there are new lessons and discoveries. I hope these goals will help YOU plan an edible garden you really enjoy.
1. Dream BIG but Start Small
Grab a cuppa, some paper, a pen and start your Wish List. This helps you get a clearer picture what your dream edible garden will look like.
Perhaps start with a black and white sketch, then colour in the details later. Include what you love to eat. Have fun and be creative. Write down whatever you would LOVE to grow in your garden. You can have a reality check and refine your list later! Once you have a direction, give yourself permission to start small. With bite-sized projects, one at a time.
2. Set Realistic Goals
Pace yourself! Don’t expect perfection. Every garden is a work in progress. Avoid taking on too much if you have limited time, money or energy. There is great satisfaction in doing a small job well. Less IS often enough! There are loads of micro gardening options, like sprouts, microgreens and container gardens. Add one or two new edibles at a time, rather than lots of plants you’re unfamiliar with. It takes time and effort to get to know every new arrival! Keep your goals SIMPLE.
“Don’t wait for the perfect moment or situation to start growing your own food garden.” – Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener
3. Have a Plan
There’s no point feeling daunted and overwhelmed by your goals. Author, Stephen Covey once said “Begin with the end in mind”. Applying this sage advice to your edible garden will reap you a bountiful harvest – IF you are prepared to spend a little time PLANNING rather than jumping in head first and just taking pot luck. Check out my practical design tips to get started.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”– Benjamin Franklin
4. Look for ‘Win-win’ Solutions
Write down the problems you are having on a piece of paper. There are always solutions. Brainstorm some creative ideas. This process is very empowering! You may surprise yourself with the outcome.
You may find your family, friends, neighbours or people in your local community can help. If for example, you don’t have enough organic materials to make compost, perhaps a neighbour would gladly give you their grass clippings and food scraps. If you’re not confident starting your garden, join a local community garden, Permaculture or seed saving group. Many groups welcome volunteers and in the process, you can learn from their wealth of experience.
5. Improve your Design Skills
Aim to maximise the use and enjoyment of your space, while minimizing the maintenance. You don’t need to be a garden designer to get started. It does help to understand some basic design and Permaculture principles though. These skills can help you ‘design out’ problems and ‘design in’ solutions.
Start with a simple sketch of your site or space. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece! Jot down everything you know about your garden in a Journal. Keep a record of your planting history, soil pH tests, fertilizers, sunlight hours, microclimates you’ve noticed, plant varieties, seeds you sowed, what you don’t like (e.g. noisy road, lack of privacy) and other details. A Garden Journal is one of the most valuable tools you can own. It can save you time, effort and money. You will have the starting point for making decisions about what needs to change and improve upon.
“A gardener’s best tool is the knowledge from previous seasons.” – Andy Tomolonis
6. Observe & Ask Questions
You can sit in a chair or walk around barefoot. I often take my herb tea with me! Grab a magnifying glass and check out new visitors like insects on your plants. Investigate. Become a ‘detective’. Be curious! Listen to the birds. Find out who they are, why they are there and whether you want them as guests. Are your plants looking healthy? Do they need help such as food, water, harvesting or maintenance?
“The biggest discoveries often come from the smallest observations. If you walk on by without really looking, you’ll often miss the clues and wonders your garden has to offer – as well as the health benefits!” – Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener
7. Build Healthy Soil
This should be the main goal for every edible gardener! Once you get your soil right, you will find you have less maintenance, pest/disease problems and healthier plants. If you’re growing edibles, it also means your health will likely improve too, as your food crops will have greater nutrient value. You can start by adding organic matter and making quality compost.
Click below for helpful soil building/testing resources
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8. Learn a new Garden Skill
Set yourself a goal to improve your knowledge this year. Attend a course, read books, try DIY solutions rather than buying new. These simple steps help you become more self-sufficient and save money.
Consider learning how to save seeds, propagate new plants for free, make quality compost, start a worm farm or grow a new crop you haven’t tried before. Food gardening is a healthy lifelong habit. When you grow your own food, you naturally eat better – improving your health and wellbeing. By default, you often become a better cook. You get healthy exercise, fresh air and reduce stress, by being in contact with nature. All beneficial outcomes from becoming a more skillful edible gardener!
9. Go 100% Organic
If you have been compromising and still using synthetic or chemical ‘solutions’, consider swapping to organic alternatives. It may require a new mind and skill set, but your health will benefit.
“There are always consequences for using chemicals: for the environment, the critters living in your soil that help your plants – and also for YOUR HEALTH.” – Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener
If you are frustrated by weeds, you need to learn WHY they are there. Your soil needs work and they are trying to help restore its health. Understanding the wisdom in nature opens a whole world of new solutions. I encourage you to learn to work WITH nature for a healthier, resilient garden that’s safer for you and the planet.
10. Plant for Pollinators
This is a goal for every gardener! Not only are our precious honeybees in trouble due to Colony Collapse Disorder and chemically grown commercial crops, but even our home grown edibles can suffer.
“Every third bite of food you take, thank a bee or other pollinator.” – adapted from E.O. Wilson, Forgotten Pollinators, 1996
For being a good host, you will reap the rewards at harvest time with higher yields. Make conscious choices to grow native plants. Grow a variety of flower shapes and sizes. Many herb flowers are attractive to pollinators. Aim to include native flowering shrubs and trees if you have the space.
11. Take Care of Tools
This is an easy but often overlooked task. Are you feeling guilty about those rusty, neglected hand tools? Ideally a quick wipe after each use will keep quality tools in good shape for a lifetime. This saves money and means less consumerism.
Regularly sharpen your secateurs. A little steel wool rubbed on any rust should help clean it off. Rub oil onto metal tools with a soft cloth to keep them well lubricated. Use warm soapy water to clean your tools, buckets, stakes and pots. Store them in a dry spot out of the weather.
Good hygiene in the garden tool department also prevents accidental transfer of pathogens to your plants, pots and garden beds. A healthy reason to put this goal on your list!
Click below for helpful resources
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12. Use Water Wisely
Water is a precious resource. No matter where you live, there are many ways to use it more wisely, even in container gardens. Collect your rainwater, install efficient irrigation systems and improve your soil, so it holds more moisture. Take a few minutes to re-evaluate your garden design and watering habits to eliminate inefficient practices that waste water. Every drop counts – and costs! If you have limited water, rethink what plants you are growing. Thirsty edibles may not be a sustainable choice, so consider growing them as microgreens instead.
13. Make Tough Decisions
Reflect on what is doing well in your garden – and grow MORE of it. Are other plants struggling? Perhaps it’s time to compost them! If things get too hard, pull back on your expectations and do less. Or just mulch your garden and wait for more favourable conditions. This reduces stress and puts you in control, so your garden doesn’t ‘own’ you. It’s there to serve your health and wellbeing, so be tough if you have to!
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens … a time to plant and a time to uproot … a time to tear down and a time to build … a time to keep and a time to throw away.” – Eccl 3
14. Tread Lighter on the Planet
There are SO many easy ways you can live more sustainably. Little steps and simple changes can make a BIG difference. Try to reuse and repurpose more often. Compost kitchen scraps to recycle nutrients. This builds plant health as food cycles from the garden back onto your plate. Make your own potting mix or revitalise and reuse old soil mix, rather than buying commercial mixes. Try DIY garden projects and upcycle containers rather than buying new ones.
Make conscious choices about the suppliers you buy from. Support seed companies who grow and supply certified organic, heirloom and open-pollinated seeds. This goal alone can help preserve healthy seeds for many generations. Plus you’re not eating GM-contaminated or chemically treated food. You get the idea. Just look for opportunities to green your environment. Your health and wellbeing will benefit!
Click below for helpful seed resources
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15. Create a Garden Sanctuary
In a busy world, a garden gives you the opportunity to feed your mind, body AND soul. I’ve designed my edible kitchen garden to also be ornamental. It’s a space that is visually beautiful, fragrant, produces abundantly, provides ‘bed and board’ for pollinators and birds, cut flowers, privacy, culinary herbs and healing medicinal plants. It’s a visual feast as well as an edible one! If you love what your garden looks like, believe me, you’ll enjoy spending more time there.
Health and wellbeing is not just about eating nutritious food. It’s also soaking up sunshine and nature. We all need space for peace and reflection.
16. Share your Garden with Children
Why not aim to introduce your children (or a relative’s) to the joy of gardening this year? Some of my fondest childhood memories are in our backyard and on my grandparents’ farm. I remember discovering plant names, picking and tasting fresh food, smelling fragrant herbs and flowers. I loved digging, planting, holding chickens, collecting warm eggs, sitting in the shade of a fruit tree … using my imagination! I learned to connect the dots between crops outdoors and food on our table.
I so appreciate my family sharing these joyous experiences with me. Today, I love passing my passion and knowledge on to children. Visit my Gardens for Kids articles for fun DIY ideas. I’m sure you know children who would love the opportunity to learn from you too. Share the health benefits! These are ‘seeds’ worth sowing.
17. Celebrate Your Successes
Last – but certainly not least – savour the feeling of pride you feel with every little success. Find joy in small things. Celebrate when you pick a flower, harvest your first fruit or make a meal with your own home grown ingredients. These are satisfying rewards for effort.
- Garnish a plate with fresh herbs.
- Smile at the beauty and abundance you’ve created.
- Pick a bunch of fragrant flowers and pop them in a vase to enjoy.
- Take photos for your garden journal.
- Diarise successes like pollinators visiting your garden, beneficial insects doing the pest management for you and disease-free crops. This shows you are increasing biodiversity in your garden and nature is rewarding you.
- Sit back and just soak up time in your garden.
Here’s to a wonderful year in your edible garden.
So, those are my suggestions for setting goals. Perhaps make these your New Year’s garden resolutions. Simple goals to improve your health and wellbeing. What are YOU looking forward to doing in your garden this year?
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© Copyright Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener 2016. https://themicrogardener.com. All rights reserved.