By Donna Balzer
I harvested radishes in thirty days, lettuce in 75 days and fully formed cauliflowers in 160 days. And I know the varieties I grew this year. I am not bragging and I am not some kind of gardening genius. I am reading all this directly from my garden journal.
Before I started garden journaling, I kept scraps of paper on my desk with vital pieces of info: “remember to thin carrots today; seed a second crop of beets next week.” These notes were useful, when I found them in time.
And even the foolproof method I employed for tracking garden hits and misses (writing valuable information directly on seed packets) had its problems. I forgot where I stashed the packets or forgot to go back and write when the plants came up or when food was harvested.
I am not a new gardener, or a fabulous gardener. Like everyone I know, I fit gardening between my other ventures, hobbies, travels and work. In other words, I love it but I’m fickle about record keeping.
Some say: “Why bother tracking? Just be grateful for the food you produce and the flowers you grow.”
I say: “Wouldn’t a potter record the exact glaze used in a series of successful pots she produces; or a chef record cups of flour needed to blend that perfect pasta?”
Since I have been tracking how and when I plant my garden I have noticed growing garden awareness. I now know my garden grows about six butternut squash per plant per year and my family only eats one winter squash a month, year-round. So I only plant two butternut squash. Any extras produced because of a banner season or better rains can be shared with friends and food banks.
I notice the exact day my zucchini leaf edges curl under and I apply a tablespoon of mineral zinc in water to the leaves. This mineral application worked last year, extending the harvest season, and delaying powdery mildew, so I did it again, a bit earlier this time.
Even with climate change, rainstorms and greenhouse overheating incidents, I eat my own fresh food as long as possible and my garden journal is becoming my go-to “book” for gardening in my yard. It is specific to my latitude, in my unfortunate north-sloping lot with my fast-draining sandy-soil.
I encourage everyone to grab a dedicated notepad and draw three or five lines across each page and start tracking your garden success and activities over the course of three or five years. You’ll be surprised what you do in December (last year I seeded fresh basil indoors on December 8th for our Xmas feast. Good idea, but this year I’ll start a week earlier so the plants are bigger when gifted to friends.)
It’s good to be grateful, so start recording how you got your hits and misses, how your hands got dirty or what critter you spotted in February or November. You can write down weights of potatoes grown in pots versus soil or the number of cabbage harvested from each packet of seed so you can be more precise when ordering in the future.
Recording information is a valuable, money saving tool for all gardeners, so I created a special journal just for that purpose together with my daughter Chelsie Anderson. The Three Year Gardener’s Gratitude Journal sprouts January 12, 2018.
In my garden today in November I picked a lemon. Then I covered my plants for winter with row covers and plugged in the Christmas lights, connected to a thermometer so they will offer just enough heat to keep my lemons above zero degrees Celcius (32 degrees F) this winter.
What are you doing in your garden today? If you write it down you are more likely to remember it. If you write it down in a book, you are more likely to find it when you need it. I hope.
Meet the Author
This article was first published in the Garden Writers Association blog in November 2017 (https://gardenwriters.wordpress.com/) Donna Balzer gardens in the Pacific Northwest where she grows lemons outdoors and radishes in her greenhouse. Her garden blog is at donnabalzer.com