Monday, March 28, 2016

Starting a Garden Journal in 2016

It’s that time of year when my garden is on my mind as I sift through seed catalogs and plan my Spring garden. This is actually one of my favorite times of the year for gardening, when the possibilities of the upcoming garden year are before me.  It’s time to shake off the gardening mistakes of the past and look forward to the new year.
How wonderful to sit at a large table, with a warm cup of my own, organically grown, herb tea, and dream about the warmth of the summer sun, surrounded by a smear of catalogs and ideas.

This year I am planning raised beds.  I will create and make lists of crops to grow and where I will put them.  It has been years since I had to plan a garden from scratch and I cannot wait.  But what to plant? and what does it need? and when do I start seed? For those answers I turned to my garden journals from years past.
 This is a page from 1993 
In 1994 I wrote out a monthly narrative of what was happening in the garden.

                                                             By 1997 I was much less organized.

Now the question is did I make good gardening notes those years ago when I had a personal garden? Hopefully your garden notes are some place you can find them this year during planning time and not on sticky notes hidden somewhere. That is why it is beneficial to keep a garden journal.
Lorene Edwards Forkner makes this observation in her book, Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest – “Practice a little citizen science by keeping a garden journal to track what blossoms when; what the weather was doing at the time; and the corresponding appearance, or disappearance of backyard birds and insects. Over time you’ll accumulate a picture of the very unique seasons found in your own back yard and a series of valuable reminders that when you see this happening in the natural world it’s time to do that.”

The purpose of a garden journal is to keep track of what you planted, when you planted it, how to take care of it and if it worked for your garden. Once the pages are created, the information can be recorded by hand and retyped later.  For the past 14 years I have lived in an apartment, so my personal garden has been in pots on the deck. I have detailed notes in a spiral notebook about the successes and failures of containers.  All gardening experiences, good and bad, increase your skill set.

In my garden journal I:
  •       keep growing notes on new plants I’ve never grown before
  • ·         have a place to refer back on things –
  • ·         What was the date I actually planted my garden
  • ·         When was the garden soil dry enough to do a first tilling
  • ·         When were the first and last frost dates for “my” yard
  • ·         Was this a wet or dry spring and fall
  • ·         keep detailed planting notes for crop rotation in my raised beds
  • ·         have notes on new techniques I learn or want to try

These are pages from my Garden Journal available on Etsy
So instead of trying to remember the recipe for that new garden pest technique you tried or that great heirloom tomato you decided to grow, write it down in your garden journal. Make a quick note in a place where you know you can find it later. My personal preference is for a physical book; you can buy one or create your own.  If you are tech savvy, try an online garden journal instead.  Here is one to try:
Making the Journal
You can hand write everything in a spiral notebook or you can make customized pages and place them in a three-ring binder.  I have also purchased a day planner or calendar book and written everything in there.  It is all up to you.  The most important things to record are:

Garden layout and layout key page
The garden layout is a sketch of the garden. A grid created by inserting a table makes drawing easier and keeps everything in proportion. Leave room at the bottom for a key to list the symbols used to represent items in the garden.

First, sketch your home, driveway, patios, sidewalks and pathways. Next, fill in the flowerbeds, trees, shrubs and perennials. Create a key at the bottom of the page. On a separate page, list the symbols and the plants they represent for the entire garden.

Use a pencil so mistakes and changes can be corrected easily. You may need to rewrite or retype your list to keep the symbols in order for easy reference.

Since you’re working on a small piece of paper, you won’t be able to include everything. But be sure to include dominant features and plants.

Photo pages
Photographs keep track of how your garden has changed year after year. Panoramic shots or wide angle shots reveal both the good and bad. Close-up photos of favorite plants lets you can enjoy them year round.

Plant profile pages
Plant profiles keep information about your plants all in one place and at your fingertips. This section identifies plants, tells how to care for them/ and how you cared for them and where they are located in your garden. Find a plant profile page online and print multiple copies if you do not like recopying the same information. Record what you planted, when you planted it and how well it did.

Common name
Botanical name and/or cultivar
Type of plant
Light requirements
Water requirements
When to plant or divide
When to prune

Date seeds started indoors
Date planted in garden
Seed or plant source
Fertilize date and mix

Record of seedlings and cuttings
Keep track of how well your seeds and cuttings perform.
Plant name
Date planted
Seed or cutting source
Date seeds germinated
Total days indoors
Date transplanted
Location planted

TO DO page
Keep track of gardening tasks.
Soil Amendments

Pocket pages
This is a great place to save plant labels, garden articles, postcards, notes and other inspirations.

Daily record Pages Note pages

Keep notes on problems and victories, record rainfall and weather conditions and other notes, drawings or anything else you want to remember, including those recipes I mentioned earlier.
Here are some links to plant sample pages you can download:

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