"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible." - Anthony Robbins

The first thing you need to do when you set up your goals of the garden is to sit down in the middle of you garden. Look around: look at your successes and your disappointments. Make a mental list of things you wish you had time to do this spring or summer and things that really should get done to have a "successful" gardening year. Begin to take notes on specific tasks that must be done, your 'druthers and wishes, and your dreams for your gardening season. Plot it out into a vision for your garden because without this, you may wander aimlessly through the growing season.

Main goals

Once you establish a visualization of your perfect garden this season, you have to organize this visual into specific goals. Imagine what three to five tasks would make you the happiest, feel the most successful, and improve your garden the most. Decide upon a couple of these to make into your main garden goals.

Some examples of main garden goals:

  • Raise and harvest enough vegetables to decrease produce bill by 20%
  • Have a healthy, algae-less pond all spring
  • Reorganize beds into hydrozones
  • Start all annuals needed from seed to save money

Focus points

With your main goals in mind, decide on a couple tasks that would be easy to accomplish and sustain in under an hour each week. These items will make up a secondary to-do list of things you need to focus on in order to achieve the main goals.

Some examples of a supplementary focus:

  • Topdress vegetable bed with a bag of manure once per week
  • Collect/buy landscaping rocks for use as new border
  • Stay on top of weeds
  • Fertilize organically and consistently
  • Water the turfgrass
  • Turn the compost pile

Miscellaneous List

All gardens have an endless amount of tasks to do in order to keep them running and looking good; of course don't forget to add these to your to-do list. It's likely that once you see the bigger picture, the smaller menial tasks won't seem like a burden. Write down every small task you'd like to accomplish this spring, it will allow you more choices when you actually want to tackle the small, laborious things. And plus, when doesn't crossing something off a list feel great?

Some examples of miscellaneous tasks:

  • Spring cleanup and remove mulch in perennial beds
  • Harden off seedlings
  • Repair stairs to deck
  • Buy large planter for back corner
  • Divide waterlilies

Prioritize your list

Obviously you won't be able to get to everything on your list first thing this spring. You may have to wait until summer, fall, or even next year to complete some of these tasks. At list point when you have objectivity, you may as well go ahead and number your list and establish your priorities. This will help you stay on track for your goals later in the summer.

Set up a timeline

Obviously, certain things in the garden must happen in a certain timeline. For example, if you don't get the pond netted by May, you make have a severe heron fishing spree on your hands. Make note of specific time sensitive tasks such as this and assign them a week or month in which to be accomplished. If you need to plot these on a calendar, do this so that important things do not get overlooked.

Whatever you do, don't overwhelm yourself with this spring to-do list. It is only meant to help you and make you feel more productive and successful. Narrow your goals down to a singular season. Do not over plan. Fill your to-do list with things pertinent from now through May or June. Once June comes, you can then address your tasks and then reestablish new goals.


If it will help, use this worksheet as a help to get started on your spring to do list.

Spring/Summer 2009 To do

Main Goals (overarching things you want to accomplish in the garden this season)





Focus (Something you can do once or twice a week that will help establish your goal in the long run)



Specific Tasks to Accomplish:

1. 8.

2. 9.

3. 10.

4. 11.

5. 12.



I hope you will sit down soon and plan your main goals (maybe this weekend?) Just as you would set a career goal or a timeline for your life, goal setting is an important aspect to your garden as well. Use your well thought out to-do list like a tool as important as your spade this year. Make the invisible visible; have the best gardening year yet by planning ahead with specific goals and aspirations.

Thumbnail image of spring crocus courtesy of morguefile user rosavita.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 11, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)