No Resolutions! Plant Goals Instead

Let’s just nip this whole idea of New Years' resolutions in the bud before it gets too far, shall we? Nip it, nip it, nip it, in the bud. It’s a false bud that will never fully bloom. Resolutions will only produce disappointment and heavy sighs about how once again, we’ve fallen short.

If you want to get results, really achieve something in 2008, or anytime, set goals instead.

And for gardening goals, I’ve come up with P.L.A.N.T.S to help you remember how to set some goals that you will actually achieve.

Good gardening goals are:

P – Pleasing to you. Set goals that please you. If you are going to do all that hard work to achieve your goals, make the goal something that pleases you. If you are ambivalent about having a backyard pond, for example, don’t make digging one your goal.

L – Listed. Write down your goal. There is something about putting a goal in writing that makes it more real to you. And once it is written down, it is easier to share with others, including friends and family and fellow bloggers who can encourage you as you work toward achieving your goal.

A – Achievable. Start out with goals that are achievable given the resources you have. The more you achieve, the more you will want to do. When you get used to achieving goals, goal-setting becomes almost addictive and you will want to set even bigger goals.

N – Nature friendly. Set gardening goals that are in harmony with nature. You will be more pleased with your garden in the long run when you have rich healthy soil and lots of birds and beneficial insects and other non-plant eating wildlife taking up residence.

T – Time bound. Goals should have a beginning and an end. You want to give yourself a time frame so you’ll get to it and not keep waiting for tomorrow. Tomorrow is always later. Plus, when you have a time frame, you know when you’ve achieved your goal and you can celebrate it.

S – Specific. Be specific about your goals. A non-specific goal seems more like a resolution, and you know that no one keeps resolutions very long.

Some examples…

“I will have a better (insert-type-of-garden-here) garden this summer.” Of course you will! Who doesn’t want a better garden every year? But this is not a very well formed goal at all.

A better goal might be, “This year I will extend the harvest of my vegetable garden by planting spring crops, summer crops and fall crops without pesticides.”

“I’m going to keep my garden weed free.” Yes, you are! I believe you, really I do. (Snort.) Well, actually, I don’t believe you at all because no garden is ever completely weed free, unless you have hired help, and lots of it.

How about instead you have a goal like this, “I will divide my garden into weedable sections and spend some time each week from spring until fall getting as far as I can, section at a time, to keep my garden reasonably weed free. When I’ve gotten through all the sections, I will start back again from the beginning. If I miss a week, I won’t give up, I’ll just start again the next week.”

How about this goal? “I’m going to join in with the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club this year.” No! Though well-intentioned, this is more of a resolution, a vague commitment.

Instead your goal should be “I’m going to get the book, Dear Friend and Gardener by Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd (if you don’t have it already), read it by January 21st and then post about it on my blog before January 31st.”

So how about it? Are you ready to skip those worthless resolultions and set some pleasing, listed, achievable, nature-friendly, time-bound, specific P.L.A.N.T.S goals for your gardening year instead? Yes? Good!


  1. Love it! I have lots of ideas for my garden this year, but I'm going to write them down and them rewrite them into tangible goals! Thanks for the boost aka kick in the pants.

  2. I have never thought very much of resolutions myself. It is far more helpful to give examples of what to do right. Another excellent post.

  3. My goal? Enjoy the garden more! That includes working in it, playing in it and planting in it! Resolutions are made to be broken aren't they?!

  4. Carol this is some of the best garden advise I have read in some time. I will be thinking about this garden goal. No resolutions for me. Ugh...

    I am pleased as punch that I got the 'Dear Friend...' book for christmas and plan to get it read in time to post about it.

  5. Funny, I have been composing in my head the "I don't make resolutions, but my goals this year are..."

    And just garden goals? I think you might get posted on the wall at work! I like this much more than the SMART goal thing!

    THanks for sharing!

  6. I love this! Attainable, specific, quantifiable, documented... you could be leading courses in goal setting! Thanks!
    ~Angela :-)

  7. Excellent advice...and not just for the garden.

  8. Wow...I have that very same birdhouse! The post of mine rotted away in the garden and we moved it to another post. That is so weird...I thought mine was made locally. Here is a link to mine.

  9. Good goals Carol. Your brilliance never fails to amaze me!

    Where did you get that bird house? Why don't I have one? It would look so cute in my backyard,don't you think???

  10. I'm with you on resolutions and even started to write a post on this very subject yesterday - with any luck (and some firm resolve) it will be posted today. - complete with a link to yours! Happy New Year!
    kris at blithewold

  11. Debbie... You're welcome and good luck with your goals for the garden.

    Kathy... Thank you! I hope my examples do help others.

    Layanee... Indeed resolutions are made to be broken, and are usually broken by January 2nd.

    Lisa at Greenbow... I'm happy, too, that you'll be joining in for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club.

    Petunia's Gardener... We do SMART goals at work, too. I'm happy to hear you like PLANTS better.

    Cottage Magpie (Angela)... I don't know about leading a course, but that's kind of you to say.

    MSS@Zanthan Gardens... Thank you!

    Hearts812... The one pictured here actually belongs to my sister-in-law and I don't know where she got it.

    Sister with the Homestead... After all these years, you didn't know I was brilliant? Ha! That birdhouse is sitting in your brother/sister-in-law's front yard. I took that picture on Christmas Day. It really has nothing to do with this post, but I like to include pictures and yes, it would look very nice in your backyard.

    Kris at Blithewold... I look forward to seeing your post about resolutions.

    Thanks all for the comments and kind words. They are the "flowers" of my blog.
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  12. You have definitely been thinking a lot about this subject, and you've done a wonderful job of sharing your thoughts! I appreciate your insightful comments. Thank you! :-)

  13. Great post - how do you come up with this stuff? I also don't believe in resolutions. I'm just not very goal oriented right now. For me winter is still time for garden pipe dreams. I'll get more serious about garden plans around March. I definitely achieved my goal of last year: adding structure.

  14. Great post, Carol! I'm not much on resolutions but I've had plenty of ideas for the garden lurking in back of my mind for a long time. I'll try to be realisitic in the spring, start early, and work a little at a time.

  15. When it is put like that. One can attain goals of that nature. I have plenty of plans for next years garden.

    Is it spring yet. NO? Oh, well at least I can start planting seeds like petunia and Impatiens next month.

  16. Shady Gardener... I do think a lot about goals for the future. Thanks for the nice comment.

    Mr. McGregor's Daugher... That's the beauty of goals, you don't have to come up with them by January 1st. Plenty of time, as you've noted, before we have to get serious about the garden again.

    Mary... Yes, and hopefully, you will be getting some rain!

    Curtis... Hard to believe that we can / should be starting some seeds in a month or so. Some gardeners are already winter sowing!

    Thanks all for the comments and kind words,
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  17. Sage advice, Carol, nicely encouraging to others. You're a first-rate garden cheerleader, that's for sure. Currently, I have one goal; to get my health under control and my strength back. Then the rest of it will fall into place !

  18. I started Dear Friend and Gardener last night. So, to finish it before the deadline is a goal. Goals are better than resolutions. They are more definite. Another goal is to spray my roses every other week for blackspot. This is a worthy goal. Happy New Year.

  19. I don't think I would ever get anything done in the garden if I didn't set goals. For me, it is the way to go. I usually have seasonal goals or "upcoming time-off goals." I think I probably have some form of ADD anyway. If I don't have a set task at hand, I find myself running all over the place and getting nothing accomplished.

  20. Ha! Even when I do have a set task at hand, I often wind up running all over the place getting nothing accomplished. Ever play "Musical Plants"? Or "Where did I put that tool down?" Or "I'll just pot up these extras?" We won't get into "Mom, what's for supper?" or "Help, I need a band-aid!"

  21. Jodi... get well soon! And thanks for all the nice comments you leave me. You are a great "blogging" cheerleader!

    Dee/Reddirtramblings... I am so happy you are going to join us for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club!

    Phillip... I agree, goals are good for focus so when we get distracted, which is easy to do in a garden, we can remind ourselves why we are there and what the task at hand really is.

    Kathy... You need ear plugs or maybe you could wear a "do not disturb, mom is gardening" t-shirt when you are in the garden! I do know those other games, all too well!

    Thanks for adding to the conversation,
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  22. I like the way you think! Great advice...I may just take it! ;-)

  23. Hi Carol,

    I'm totally with you on goals rather than resolutions. Excellent advice!

    I have my own approach that I've just posted. But I think we're on the same path here.

    BTW, I am nearly finished with Dear Friend and Gardener. (I had to read some books on chickens over the holidays!)

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  24. I'm setting goals, too! I'm just a little slow to finish my list. I love this post and how you've presented it. You're always so clever and inspiring, Carol!

  25. Wonderful post! Just calling it a goal and not a resolution seems more do-able to me :)


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