Sunday, February 11, 2007

Garden Recordkeeping

Lately, I've been enjoying my blogging crony Tracy's posts on her blog Outside, reviewing the vegetables she grew in her garden this past year. I'm impressed with her recordkeeping and the systematic way she is reviewing the successes and challenges of her garden. It is one of those things I wish I were better at, but that kind of recordkeeping eludes me.

I do keep a garden journal, in addition to my collected ramblings on gardening that appear here at Henbogle. My journaling efforts started out well my first year in the house, collecting my thoughts in an inexpensive composition book. My garden journal includes several plant lists --for attracting wildlife, for sun, for shade, for wet spots, for dry spots; the (then) dimensions of the vegetable garden, the results of my soil test from the U Maine Cooperative Extension Service, a very basic yard map, and for good measure, the dimensions of the lot, the house/shed/barn, the freestanding deck. I drew the plan for the vegetable garden, recorded some of the seeds I purchased and started, and made a list of bird sightings. My last entry that year: April 8 (!) Planted flower seeds: Marble Arch Salvia, Coreopsis v. Baby Sun, Lavender Vera, Flax Flower, Baby's Breath (pink), Shasta Daisy, Nasturtium (Jewel & Peach Melba), Cosmos (Sensation Mix), Rudbeckia (Indian Summer), Dianthus (Cheddar Pink), Delphiniums, (Belladonna & Pacific Giant mix). I know I started a great many more seeds than those listed, as Dan and I were planning our backyard wedding, and we were dreaming of lovely gardens overflowing with flowers. (Unfortunately, Hogdemort the evil groundhog had other plans and did his best to mow the gardens to the ground. Still, our wedding day was lovely and the yard was beautiful. So there, you rodent!)

The 2002 gardening season had even fewer entries. The vegetable garden plan, a brief note about the lilac hedge we planted to hide our neighbor's garage, an even briefer note about the previous year --"2001 Planting: Silver Garden."

The 2003 entries were a bit more useful, listing the two dwarf cherry trees, a Stella Bing-type, and Montmorency sour cherry, in addition to the vegetable garden plan, and pasted-in photocopies of my seed orders, but little else, probably as that summer we were busy painting the house, a huge task that appears to be never ending.

In 2004 I made more of an effort, beginning in March with an entry about goals for the season,
and with regular entries through May 31, with some wrap-up entries beginning in November and continuing into 2005. I also cleverly realized I could print out color photos for inclusion in the journal. I did manage to write well into the summer in 2005 (July 1), but included no useful notes on the production of the vegetable garden, instead keeping more a record of the gardening projects undertaken. I gave a gardening journal to Dan's mom last year, and found her journal inspired me to include, as she does, clippings from the newspaper or magazines on interesting gardening topics such as a new plant variety or unusual herbs. She also taped plant tags onto the pages of her with her notes of where and when each plant was located in the garden.

Tracy has inspired me to pay more attention to the vegetable garden as I start both the new gardening season, and begin my journaling this year with a brand new journal. Yes, despite the few cryptic entries, my old journal is full, and I need to start anew. I know I really value what little I did write in past years, and am sure I will continue to do so. I suspect this blog will provide
much information to me in the future, but I think I will still need the journal, which I can carry about with me as I garden, consulting as needed without worrying too much about mud, hose accidents or forgetting it outside overnight.

The empty pages of my new journal beckon, and the lengthening days remind me I need to finalize my plans and get them in the journal to guide me in future years. And so, dear readers, I want to know: how do you keep track of your gardening efforts?


Tracy said...

Ali: Wow - I'm very flattered. Thanks for all your kind words!

Now, the naked truth . . . my vegetable reviews are based solely on re-reading old blog posts and memory. Actually, I started blogging because I was so bad at keeping a garden journal (you think yours is sparse, you should see my 5-year-old notebook - only half-full!). The only thing I've been very good at recording is my garden plan so that I can get the rotations right.

I think that blogging has made me much more aware of what's going on in the garden, though. I now feel obliged to keep track of what's happening, whereas before it was only me.

One of the things I noticed as I wrote my reviews is that I didn't keep very good records of first harvests (lettuce, cukes, peppers), so that's something I plan to do better with this year.

Again, thanks!

Carol said...

I also think keeping garden records is fun, and I enjoy looking back at mine. I record high/low temp for the day, anything new that bloomed, what vegetables I harvested and if I did anything other than maybe water containers. I haven't always kept records, but now that I've gotten into the habit of doing so, I'm happy to have them to refer to.

Ali said...

Well, it is good to know, Tracy, that your blog is helpful in writing your reviews in two ways -- as actual records, and in feeling the pressure to keep on top of your posting! I have found the pressure to be useful, too :-)

Carol, I like your temperature idea, I will have to try and add that to my notes. I too tend to record what I did, the projects, and even the project plan, i.e. the plant map of the silver garden, but I don't always record the changes that happen as I go. For example, when I decide that plant A won't work where I had planned it, I don't record what plant B (or C) is put in plant A's place.

I need to work on that, because in the spring there is a lot of headscratching. "Is that a coreopsis or a weed?"

Tracy said...

Ali: You know, re-reading what you wrote and the comments from you and Carol, I was also thinking about one thing that surprises me. The things I write on my blog just for myself - the mundane stuff like the reviews - tend to be the things that get the most comments. I know that I love reading about other people's projects (like your deck and the chicken coop) and the other day-to-day stuff. Maybe because that's the kind of thing you can't read in garden books or magazines.

Ali said...

Tracy, that's an interesting observation, and one I think is true, at least in my case. I also love reading about others' projects and the day-to-day stuff -- and I've gleaned many great ideas from doing so. I also think it is part of our intrinsic need to connect with others and buld communities, and that is one of the things I'm enjoying most about blogging.