Keeping a Garden Journal
By Terese Houle
I don’t know about you, but these warm temperatures and spring-like rainfalls have me longing to start digging in the garden. Over the last several days, I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of all the seeds and supplies I ordered in preparation for this season, which for me begins soon as I start most of my seeds indoors.
This year I was inundated with an overwhelming amount of seed catalogs, and while I love combing through them all, there is no question that at times the task can be intimidating. There is so much to consider when selecting which varieties I would like to grow. Questions such as what do we like to eat, what does well in the market stand, as well as, what did and did not do well in prior years, all need to be answered before I can even begin to think about ordering seeds. There is a lot to remember from year to year.
Thankfully, I don’t have to rely on my memory. Instead, I can turn to my garden journal, where I gratefully refer to the copious notes I have been taking each year since the day I started gardening. Using my journal as my guide, I can confidently browse through all the seed catalogs with the wisdom that comes from the experiences I recorded in prior seasons.
Yes, I know, you are probably saying to yourself, “Who has time to sit down and write notes in a journal during peak harvest?” I get it, as there are days, after spending numerous hours digging, weeding, planting, and picking, the last thing I want to do is write in a journal. But, I assure you, the few minutes you spend recording your notes, will be more than worth your while the following year when you are trying to remember when you picked your first tomato the prior season, or when you saw the first cucumber beetle.
If the task still seems daunting and you are unsure how to even start that journal, here are some highlights of what I like to document in my notebook:
Each year I sketch out my vegetable beds so that I can plot out where everything will be planted for the season. As an organic gardener, I rely on crop rotation and companion planting to help enrich my soil, prevent diseases, and deter pests. Having a diagram to refer to helps me to thoughtfully map out where each plant will have the greatest opportunity for success in the coming season.
Monthly Calendar & Tasks
Once I order my seeds, I turn to this section of my journal to start scheduling when I need to begin sowing my seeds, both indoors and out. Additionally, I record fertilization schedules, transplanting dates, and soil temp changes. I like to also take notes on weather &emdash; recording frost dates, temperature changes, and extreme weather events. Having this detailed calendar to refer to helps me to make decisions as to when it will be the safest time to transplant, remove row covers, feed my plants, etc.
This section is where I keep all the seed packets for the current season’s vegetables and herbs. I staple each packet to a page and use the remaining space to record sow dates, germination dates, transplant dates, and any other useful information. Additional details you may want to include are first and last harvest dates, information related to diseases and pests, and production notes.
The information I record in this section is more general than the notes I keep in the seed catalog. This is where I chronicle information on the season itself. I reflect on a number of things including how wet or dry it was, how often I had to weed, new organic fertilizers I tried, what was doing well, what was not performing the way I had hoped, what was overly abundant, and what we wished we had more of in the following season. Essentially, I record any information in this section that I feel will help me during the next seed selection time.
We run a small market stand that we stock with a variety of vegetables from our garden each year. I like to record information on what was popular, as well as what was skipped over. This is especially helpful when deciding how many plants of one particular vegetable or variety I should grow when plotting out the next season.
This is where I store all the receipts from the garden including seed orders, irrigation supplies, soil amendment costs, and any other expenses associated with the maintenance of it. Having this information from year to year helps me to understand where the money is being spent and analyze how we can take steps towards having a more self-sustaining garden in the future.
These are only a few ideas of what you can record in your notebook. There is no question that keeping a journal can be time consuming, but I assure you, it will be invaluable to you year after year, most especially when you sit down to start perusing through those seed catalogs scattered all over your desk.
My Garden Journal
Keeping a “Garden Miscellany” book
Priceless Advice of the Heirloom Variety
As the seed catalogues start to overtake my mailbox, I find myself reflecting on my humble beginnings with gardening and my early introduction to heirloom vegetables. Now, several years later, one particular heirloom plant continues to provoke feelings of nostalgia, from one season to the next.
Putting the Garden to Bed
Tips for putting your garden to bed for the winter.