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Guest Post: How does your garden grow?


Bet you’re surprised to be seeing a post here on Sunday. It might, indeed, be a first. But in addition to being a Sunday, it is also May 1 and I happen to have a fantastic guest here today. You might even say he’s a rock star.

Michael Nolan is the co-author of a book called “I Garden: Urban Style” that gives tips and tricks for gardening in an urban setting. He also has a blog called My Earth Garden that is absolutely chock-a-block with great stuff. In April he resolved to try 20 different recipes in 30 days. In May he’s going “Around the blog in 31 days,” meaning that he’ll be guest posting on 31 different blogs all month and he’s starting right here on The Impatient Gardener.

So here’s Michael talking about how to keep your gardening goals realistic:

Patience might be a virtue, but not all of us garden types are all that virtuous.

The most frustrating part of gardening for me is how often I get ahead of myself. As an “impatient gardener” as well, I have to admit that it happens all too often. What I find that helps keep me focused is to have a well-written plan and to set clearly defined goals to remind me when I am being unrealistic. And it happens. A lot.
What’s in a garden plan?
The first step in getting a garden growing is to sit down and make a plan. This applies whether you are working on an existing space or creating a new garden from the ground up and skipping this step can go a long way toward adding to your frustration when things aren’t going so well mid-season. The garden plan should include the nuts and bolts of the garden space; everything from dimensions to soil type, sunlight and shade notes to water availability and drainage. Think of it as the Wikipedia page for your garden and endeavor to make it as detailed as you possibly can.
If you’re just growing for yourself or you an another person, you probably don’t need to start 50 tomato plants from seed.
How to set realistic gardening goals
The biggest mistake many new gardeners make is that they take on way too much. They overplant and are wholly unprepared for managing the chaos that ensues when Madam Spring shows up in full force. It’s also a mistake that well-seasoned gardeners make. I’ve been at this for over 30 years and I still do it every year. I know I only need a dozen tomato plants to meet my needs for the year, so why do I always plant 20-plus?
The process of setting goals for gardening is important even if you are only gardening for aesthetics, because regardless of your inspiration, you need to be able to have a point at which you can say that you have accomplished what you set out to do in the first place. Otherwise, you’re going to end up one of those bitter old Ouiser Boudreaux type old ladies who grow tomatoes every year even though they don’t like them “because that’s what old southern women do.”
If you are growing for food, do a little research to find out what the average yield is per plant for the crops you want to grow. That will give you a good idea how much of a particular plant you need to grow to supply your food and you can add that to your gardening plan, setting goals accordingly. Pay attention to the timeframes on seed packaging or look up information on the ‘net to learn how long you can expect to wait for your first veggies and fruits to be ready for the table and your goals will always be in sight.
With a bit of foresight, some planning and a few gardening goals in place, you’ll be ready to get your hands in the dirt in no time.
Michael Nolan, the Garden Rockstar, is an author, blogger and speaker on gardening, sustainability, food ethics and homesteading. He is currently in the process of writing a new guest post on a different site for each day in May. To follow his progress, visit

11 Responses

  1. I’m so familiar with “don’t take on too much”! I’m a true over-planter. I don’t grow 10 lettuces, I grow 100. Not 6 basil plants but 50. Then they all ripen at the same time and I’m scrambling to find ways of using them all. In the end though, I suppose it’s a great learning experience and I get to share lots with other people which is fun!

  2. Michael's a rockstar indeed. I wish I could go back in time a few weeks and plant fewer squash plants. They ALL grew and it looks like it's going to be a bumper year for zucchini. Oh dear!!

  3. great tips! i never make a plan and ALWAYS overwhelm myself with the upkeep and maintenance and then i tucker out early and let things get away from me 🙁 i really need to do this! fabulous post!

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