In the Garden:
These ornamental kale plants will provide color all winter long, brightening an otherwise dull corner of the garden.
Keeping a Garden Journal
I keep a garden journal to help jog my memory about plant performance. In it I chronicle victories and record disappointments, note what fertilizers I've used, and jot down anything I think is special about a particular plant. My journal contains a wealth of useful information and I refer to it often.
A journal can be as detailed as you have the time and desire to make it, but it doesn't have to be terribly involved. When you're first starting out, choose the entries that are most relevant to you. You can always expand as you gain gardening knowledge and experience. Some of the categories I think are important include:
Most plants can adapt to almost any soil pH, but some are really picky. Blueberries, for instance, thrive in acid soils, requiring a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. Lilacs prefer alkaline soils (I need to remember to add lime every 2-3 years), and hydrangea blooms can change color depending up soil pH. Making these notations helps remind me to check the soil conditions near the roots of these plants and adjust as necessary. I also keep track of fertilizer applications, including type, formulation, and amount applied.
I keep a rain gauge near the veggie garden. If we get less than 1-inch of rain each week, I supplement with water from the hose. It's also important to note any unusual weather patterns. The effects of weather related stress may not show up for weeks and entries here can provide clues if a plant becomes sick later in the season.
Keeping track of what's planted where helps me decide whether to change locations from season to season. With vegetables, this can help outwit pests; with flowers, I can avoid repeating disasters such as dwarf varieties that outgrew a border. Rotation also discourages depletion of soil nutrients and helps avoid outbreaks of soil-borne diseases.
Performance (one of my most important categories)
If I plant four varieties of carrots, I want to know if they met, or exceeded, the catalog descriptions. Were the petunias really non-stop? If the Lewisia died from crown rot, it's important to note, so I can improve the soil drainage or plant the crown higher if I decide to plant another. I also not the flowering dates here, in case I need to plan ahead for a birthday bouquet.
Name of Plant
Planting date, source, and tag information goes on this page. If tags get lost, or I forget why this plant was deemed special when it was originally chosen, this entry will help clarify things.
The final category is what I call "Significant Events." Here I record seasonal indicators; the first crocus bloom, the first ripe tomato, total pounds harvested, first frost, etc. I can compare these entries from year to year and get some sense of emerging patterns. Based upon this information I can anticipate an early spring or a late frost, which can dictate whether I should prune earlier or fertilize later than normal.
Now that the garden season is winding down, it's a perfect time to start a journal. Begin by recording the names of the best performers and listing new plants you'd like to include in next year's line-up. Then make a weekly note in your calendar to make at least one journal entry every week for a month. In no time at all, writing in your journal will become a habit, and you'll be building an extremely useful history of your garden.
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