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Garden “Checklist”?

My long time friend and reader, Patricia, emailed me today with the following question and statement:
Do you have a mental checklist that you go through as you do your daily garden maintenance tour?  I would love to write that down and follow the same pattern as you.

Yes, I have a mental checklist that over the years has become so ingrained that it’s just part of what I do without giving it conscious thought.

Every gardener’s detailed checklist will be different depending on what their garden goals are, what they grow, how big their garden is, and what the season is.

But the foundation of your list for your daily garden maintenance tour is pretty basic. After you have that you can add from there depending on your goals and the amount of time you have each day. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

Reasons to Check the Garden Each Day

As all of us know who have gardened even one year, our gardens are constantly changing – even from day to day. This is one reason our daily checks can be so important. We see what’s going on and if something is “going wrong” we can often be “on top of it”.

In addition, this is how we learn. Not only about the plants we grow and the creatures (good and bad) that visit the garden, but about your garden itself.


Believe it or not, in my 2500 sq. foot garden there are dozens of microclimates. Some sections for various reasons are much more productive than others. Over the 17 plus years we’ve been at this location, I’ve gotten to know every square foot up close and personal.

I know the spots that

  • grow the best tomatoes
  • where bind weed can be a problem if I let it
  • where mache is likely to appear in the fall
  • where I can’t plant potatoes if I don’t want scab on them
  • what areas dry out more quickly than others
  • what spots have sandy soil and
  • what spots are “just right”
  • what spots are better planted with cool weather crops rather than crops that go through the summer

Our brains are constantly collecting information with each visit IF we’re paying attention.

The Purpose of Your Daily Check is Your Starting Point or Foundation of Your Checklist

I can’t give you yours of course, but I’ll share mine with you and you can take it from there.


Hunger is what primarily drives me to the garden everyday. Unless ice and snow prevents it, I’m out there looking around for something I can eat for today or tomorrow. I’m also looking to see what’s growing enough to be available tomorrow and next week.


This purpose is accomplished as I move through the garden to harvest. Harvesting also takes care of the other purposes like pest control which I do as I go along.

Here’s what I look for:

  • Does anything look like it’s having a problem.
  • What’s doing particularly well.
  • What’s doing poorly?
  • What’s producing and what’s not?
  • Pull a weed here and there. For example, nutsedge comes up in various spots, but is easy to pull out.
  • Any bad bugs? (I look for and kill those as I go.)
  • Any sign of voles?
  • Collect seed for saving if it’s that time of year.

Checking the overall garden also takes care of planning what has to be done in the days and weeks ahead.  I can make a note or two when I get back inside.  Here are various examples of what I look for:

  • What things are growing in the fence that I’ll need to cut and/or pull.
  • Does my clover in garden paths need to be cut so I won’t trip?
  • What beds need more mulch?
  • Where will I plant my next cover crop?
  • What beds will best be suited for winter rye; what beds will be better with oats? (That will depend on what I plan to plant there next year.)
  • Where else can I plant garlic this fall?

Now you have the basis and know my starting points.

After I accomplish the basic stuff, I do at least one task that I have designated as a have-to-do-today task  such as transplanting a container of lettuce seedlings or planting a cover crop in a bed.

Then I work 30 minutes (or longer if I want) on a major job that I’m trying to finish. Here are some examples of what they may be:

  • start a lot of seed in flats or containers
  • transplant or plant in the garden
  • edge a section of the borders
  • take Creeping Charlie out of various places
  • take out a bush
  • move loads of straw to the garden or borders

Important to My Well-Being

I have a certain amount of time I allot to outside tasks each day. On the worst day it’s 30 minutes and on the best day it can be 3 hours;  possibly 4 hours on super-great day.

The average (and my goal) is 2 hours. Sometimes I split that into 1 hour in the AM and 1 hour in the PM.

Although I do some muscle strengthening exercises each morning for about 5 or 10 minutes, I’ve never been fond of or good at “work out” type exercises. But I can go outside and walk and/or work. Thus, another reason I consider my daily routine in the garden important is my physical and mental well being.

Final Thoughts

Everyone’s list will vary, but hopefully this post has given some basics that you (and Patricia) will find helpful.


All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.


  • That is very helpful. I tend to be “all over the place” when I go to the garden. I see a million things that need doing and run around like a hungry chicken.
    Now if I can just get focused and organized and stick to it

  • I’ve never really thought about having a checklist but after looking at yours, I realize I have actually had one developed over the years. I “always” check my garden daily if home and wonder about it if not. I walk my various garden sites in either of 2 sequences. Actually same route but reversed so I get a different perspective on growth. Aside from learning, one of the things I like about your site is the way it makes me think about how and why I grow things as I do and consider if there are better ways to enjoy my garden. Thank you

    Ray Kent
    PS 31ºF here this morning at 6.

  • Thank you, Theresa, for answering my question and for providing this great practical model. This is so helpful! I am going to take your list and tweak it to my situation. I do better about staying on top of things if I have a plan of attack. I think this will help me to develop a habit or routine that will help to improve my success. Many blessings!

  • I so enjoyed your checklist. Didn’t realize I was developing one of my own each day. Have you ever published a list of your favorite varieties in each major vegetable group?

  • Toni, I have some additional information coming up that will help you as well.

    Ray, that’s a good plan about doing the same route but in reverse for different perspective.

    Patricia, all of us do a much better job when we have a plan of attack.

    Ann, I’ve mentioned my favorite varieties throughout TMG, but I want to mention some in a specific “favorite varieties” post before we all start ordering seed in January.


    PS. Ray — keep those cold temperatures up in Canada. 🙂 I want this nice fall weather as long as possible.

  • Here at the edge of the Black Hills, the temp was 33 this morning.

    Like others, I had not realized I have a set pattern of walking through the garden. Thank you, Ray, for the tip about reversing the pattern.

  • Just put together my “Garden Tour Checklist.” Feeling happy to have one now. Thank you again for the guidance.

  • Hi, Theresa. I just wrote you yesterday, thanking you for your wonderful book, and I’m enjoying it so much. I truly love your common sense approach to gardening. I almost typed, no nonsense approach, and that would have been correct too. My garden is in a community garden, four miles from me. So, I can’t visit it every day, but several times per week. I can see, though, as a new gardener, I really need to make a check list. The fact I have to travel a distance to garden, makes it even more important for me to do so. I’m adopting this habit right away. Thank you!!

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