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Journaling (for a Non-Journalist!)

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Journaling (for a Non-Journalist!)

As gardening chores have wound down for the winter here in the Midwest, I take time during these cold months to go back through my journal and mull over last season’s chronicle of garden activities.  As the years go by, I also enjoy reading past entries and muse at the “to do next year” notes which… never got done.  Still a lot of wonderful gardening did get done and I especially take delight in the random entries describing the antics of the many creatures that frequent my yard.  I add the occasional flower sketch and inspiring quote when I find one.  Here is one of my favorites:

To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest
critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty,
to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether
by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition,
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.         -   Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you have ever wondered when you planted a favorite tree or what you fed your perennials last year, then keeping a journal is a great way to capture all that goes on in your yard.  Taking notes on your gardening methods also reminds you what works and what doesn’t.  As the years go by, it becomes an invaluable reference and can be used as a handy calendar to keep you on top of all your important garden chores.  A garden journal helps to build an awareness of what happens in your garden over time and keeps you focused on what you still want to achieve.

Don’t be intimidated by the process of starting a garden journal.  You can keep your journal on the computer or have a physical book that can be toted outside.  The information you decide to keep in your journal can be as short or detailed as you want.  There are several good online garden journals you can try, but if you do choose a book, then don’t worry about getting it dirty.  Think of it as your own cookbook, filled with pictures of your favorite plants and recipes for planting success.  All good cookbooks get splattered and the pages become dog-eared.

Here are a couple of suggestions for useful information to include in a garden journal:

  • Have a page just for first and last frost dates in your yard.  Even though you can find the average first and last frost dates for your area, your particular yard has its own micro-climate.
  • Make notes on weather patterns – has this been an exceptionally wet or dry season in your area?
  • Keep detailed planting notes and crop rotation schedules for all your vegetable beds.
  • Are there any new techniques you want to try?  Keep a page for all the new ideas you run across while you are doing garden research or browsing through magazines.
  • Your journal is a great place to keep important garden milestones.  Note dates when the garden soil was dry enough to do a first tilling, or when were you able to actually plant the garden.  You will see patterns emerge from year to year.
  • Keep notes on new plants you’ve never grown before – make a page for each and list its botanical name along with any specific information from the plant tag.  Go online and research any additional things you need to know to be successful growing it.
  • Note details on the specific seeds that you’ve planted.  When did you start those heirloom tomatoes?  What kind of lighting did they require and when were they ready to go out in the garden?  Did you start them too early or too late?
  • Make a fertilizing schedule for individual plants, groupings and vegetable beds.  Keep track of the results and when you need to schedule the next fertilizing date.
  • Keep notes about your container gardening combinations.  List the type of plants and the container you choose to use.  How did it do? Were there specific watering requirements?

It’s fun to look back through my journal at the many gardening seasons and remember where we were living and the successes and failures I had back then.  I am still dreaming, learning, and experimenting, even today.

Jan Gowen
Kemper Center for Home Gardening

| Categories: Winter | Tags: journal, record keeping, planning | View Count: (1564) | Return
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