20 Garden Goals Worth Setting

Whether you're new to gardening or have been digging in the dirt for a while, let our ideas inspire your own garden goals.

Photo By: Image courtesy of All-AmericaSelections.org

Photo By: Image courtesy of Gardeners.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Gardeners.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of All-AmericaSelections.org

Photo By: Image courtesy of Gardeners.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of ProvenWinners.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Colorblends.com

Photo By: Image courtesy of Grace Design Associates

Photo By: Image courtesy of Gardeners.com

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Photo courtesy of All-AmericaSelections.org

Photo By: Image courtesy of Gardeners.com

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Image courtesy of Lynn Coulter

Grow Something Tasty

Dig into backyard gardening by raising some homegrown food. When you grow veggies and fruits, choose varieties that you won’t find at the grocery store, like blue potatoes, striped tomatoes or colorful carrots. ‘Purple Haze’ carrot features purple edges surrounding an orange center. The purple color fades when cooked in water, but remains with quick cooking methods like stir fry. ‘Purple Haze’ (Daucus carota) is a full-size carrot and a 2006 All-America Selections winner.

Add Color

Splash some color into your garden beyond the plants. Choose colorful stakes, ornaments, furniture, or even garden twine. Including color-filled items in the garden ensures there’s always a little sparkle, no matter the season. With biodegradable objects, like twine, the color isn’t permanent, but can easily change with the seasons.

Invest in Good Pruners

If you’re cultivating a serious greenthumb, consider buying a good pair of pruners. They’ll pay for themselves in just a few growing seasons—and you’ll still be using them decades down the line. Hand pruners are also known as secateurs. Look for the bypass type, where the blades work like scissors. Bright colored handles help prevent losing them in mulch or grass. Felco (shown) is the standard choice among many professional gardeners. Leyat pruners offer wonderfully fun handle colors.

Create a Garden Escape

Few gardeners take time to actually smell the roses and survey their beautiful handiwork. Make the task of slowing down easier by adding comfy seating in the garden. Give your bench a little privacy, and site it to have a great view. You’ll find it quickly becomes your favorite spot for morning coffee or end-of-the-day unwinding.

Stake Perennials Early

Not much is worse than wrestling with a full-size perennial that’s been wind-thrown by heavy summer thunderstorms. Beat Mother Nature to the punch by staking plants early in the season. The job becomes easier when you keep stakes on hand. You can purchase half-hoop supports, or make your own with a pair of bolt cutters and metal tomato cages cut apart into hoops.

Try Something New

Grow something new each year you garden. It might be a plant that’s been on the market awhile but that’s never been in your backyard. Or it might be a newly available plant, like this New Guinea impatiens called Bounce Pink Flame ‘Balboufink.’ This impatiens has the look of traditional shade-loving Impatiens walleriana, but it won’t succumb to downy mildew disease. This is a 2015 All-America Selections award winner, which means it grows well in all regions of the country.

Invite Birds

Birds and gardening go together like spaghetti and meatballs. Birds will naturally show up when you start a garden, but you can do your part to get these colorful, singing creatures to call your garden home. Hang birdhouses, include a birdbath and choose plants that offer nesting spots or food for birds. Why would you want birds around? The No. 1 reason is free pest control. Many birds feast on insects and act as a pest patrol in the garden.

Learn About Bugs

Get yourself a good insect identification guide, or find one you can access online. Many insects in the garden are good guys, like pest-eating ground beetles and pollinating bumblebees. It’s important to know what you’re dealing with before embarking on a pest control plan. Start with the insects you commonly see. It’s a good idea to take photos to use for a reference as you ID the critter.

Plant a Pretty Pot

Dress up your outdoor spaces with eye-catching container gardens. Look online for plant combinations and recipes. This pretty pot features variegated purple fountain grass (Pennisetum purpureum ‘Fireworks’), Flaming Supertunia (Petunia hybrid) and Sweet Caroline Bewitched sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas).

Grow Up

Get in on a big-time trend: vertical gardening. Growing plants up instead of out takes up less space in your yard, which means you can fit more plants. Vertical gardening can be as simple as green beans climbing on a twig trellis or a hanging basket filled with flowers. Vertical gardening principles work equally well with ornamental and edible crops.

Catch Some Rain

Turn rainy days into savings on your water bill by adding rain barrels to your property. In some municipalities, catching rain can earn utility rebates or waivers on property runoff fees. Whether you purchase manufactured barrels or make your own, be sure that your barrel has an overflow device to direct water away from your home’s foundation. Look for downspout diverters with proper fittings to keep water flowing freely through gutters and spouts.

Plant Bulbs

A strong spring garden show starts in fall with bulb planting. Take the time to tuck bulbs into soil in autumn so you can reap a colorful spring. Plant a mix of early, mid- and late spring flowering tulips and daffodils. Tulips like these large-flowered Darwin Hybrids open in mid-spring. For best discounts on bulbs, order in early summer from garden suppliers. Bulbs will be delivered in time for planting in your zone.

Add Water

Give your yard an ambience of relaxation with a trickling fountain. The sound of moving water will help you to unwind, and will also beckon birds. Choose a fountain that suits your garden’s style. If you enjoy a good DIY project, you’ll find that plumbing a simple fountain is not difficult. Otherwise, you can find ready-to-use fountains at any retailer. Be sure to choose one designed for outdoor use.

Get Scientific

Give your garden a boost courtesy of the latest advances in plant research. Red mulch, for instance, increases tomato harvest by up to 20 percent by reflecting far-red light wavelengths onto plant leaves. Red mulch also works with red peppers, melons and strawberries. Blue mulch is the right choice for cucumbers, summer squash and cantaloupes. Keep up with research advances through your local extension office.

Plan a Path

Transform your favorite shortcut into a formal path. Stepping stones, gravel or mulch offer an affordable option, which is easily upgraded to more permanent hardscape over time. A path helps formalize design and can really take a backyard garden to the next level.

Start Composting

Set up a compost pile and start making your own organic matter. Homemade compost can be a simple process with very little cash outlay up front. Fall is an ideal time to start composting because there are plenty of autumn leaves to add to the mix.

Gather Bouquets

Make it a point to clip blooms to bring indoors—and plant perennials and annuals that can contribute stems to garden bouquets. Blanket flower is a great choice for slipping into vases, like this sunny variety, ‘Arizona Apricot’ blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), a 2011 All-America Selections winner. Other great candidates for cutting include bearded iris, black-eyed susan, purple coneflower, zinnia and cosmos.

Light Up the Night

Make your garden an evening destination with a few strings of twinkle lights. Light up an arbor or trellis, or string lights along a porch rail or fence. Lights in a small tree add a magical effect to a garden. Look for solar-powered lights to stage a show that doesn’t add to your electric bill.

Care for Tools

Master a new technique in caring for your tools this year. Try sharpening hand pruners or loppers, or take a file to a mower blade. Oil wooden handles, and sand any rough spots. Tighten screws on loose tool heads, and lubricate working parts. To get started, choose one tool and tackle getting it into good working order. Every garden season, take up another tool.

Sow Seeds

Experience the magic of seed sowing by growing something from direct-sown seed—seed you plant directly in the garden. Candidates include many flowers and vegetables, such as larkspur, zinnia, or flowering tobacco and beans, squash or watermelon.