Food & DrinkGood Growing

Five Gardening Goals to Set for Your New Year’s Resolution

Growing lettuces isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Credit: Erin France

I revel in New Year’s resolutions, often listing different goals in personal relationships, finance or health. It’s a whole thing. The last few years, I started attempting to set fewer pie-in-the-sky goals, in order to achieve more reasonable objectives. Here are a few realistic gardening goals I’m setting for myself, and that I’d encourage you to try, too.  

Grow More Greens: In the past, I’ve avoided lettuce—lettuce seeds can be hard to germinate and a target of slugs, bugs and diseases in the warm and wet climate of Northeast Georgia. In 2022, I grew lettuce when I could, but I also started growing my own salad mixes. I cleaned, chopped and mixed kale, collards and kohlrabi leaves into a fun brassica mix. I blended vibrant and spicy mustard with blander lettuces. I experimented with pea shoots, hibiscus and tatsoi. And it worked. I ate way more greens last year because of the variety and interesting combinations I could harvest from my garden. This year, I want to grow leafy greens every week, including the summer. Is there a green you love to eat, but looking at the price tag these days turns you blue? Lettuce, arugula and spinach usually take between 35–60 days to mature, so it’s well worth the $2.75 a packet to attempt. 

Forget About Perfection: It’s gardening, so perfect conditions already are in short supply. Instead, I hope to harvest a variety of delicious produce while managing weeds, pests and my own expectations. I’m going to try to let go of the desire to have everything completely squared away before I invite friends over to visit the farm. Weeds and pests happen. Sometimes plants die, or look terrible before they recover. This year, I want to focus less on perfection and more on manageability. 

Regular Down Time: The first year I moved to the country, my boyfriend and I walked our dog around the property nearly every day around sunset. The practice was picturesque and lovely, and a great distraction from all the looming house projects and overwhelming new job responsibilities. I’d like to return to a daily walk, just to enjoy nature and notice the little changes in the season. I want to see the first daffodil of the season. I want to know when the bluebirds move into their spring nests. Will the transplanted redbud like its new spot? You don’t need a house or garden to set this as a New Year’s goal. Maybe you can find a walking route with lovely home gardens to enjoy from the sidewalk. Maybe you can set aside time each week to meet a friend at the State Botanical Garden. You could even set a goal for drinking your first cup of coffee near your potted plants. However you want to do it, taking a few minutes to enjoy a garden can set a sweet ritual to connect with your environment and give yourself a break from the hamster wheel of worry. 

Reduce Turf: Look, there are some people who love turf lawns. If you love your lawn and want it, I am 100% not going to fight you. For most folks, I think it’s a chore they do because everyone does it. My mom lives on a hill with few neighbors and won’t grow vegetables in the front yard for fear of someone saying that her yard is messy. Personally, I hate cutting grass, and I do just about anything to avoid it. Every year I change a little more turf into something else—a new flower bed or a tree surrounded by mulch. This year, I’m going to try substituting clover for turf. Clover lawns don’t need to be cut at the same rate as grass and, as legumes, they fix nitrogen in the soil. They don’t need as much water as some turf options. Clover also doesn’t turn yellow after a dog pees on it. With three dogs, this is a big plus for my yard.

Get the Timing Right: It’s tempting to get those cukes in the ground during the first warm weekend, but is it past the Apr. 15 frost date? A late spring freeze can kill squash, cukes and tomatoes fast. Even though we’re seeing warm temps now, that doesn’t discount another arctic blast. Planting at the correct time will help your plants grow stronger and produce better. I write out a whole calendar for what I want to plant when. Although I adjust it throughout the year based on reality, it’s a great guide.