Keeping track

By now, most of the US either has warm weather crops out in their garden or is carefully watching the weather forecast to get them out.  Among the weeding, monitoring soil moisture and checking for early signs of bugs, there’s another task you may want to take on: starting a garden log.

Over the years my garden log has evolved from a free-form journal with notes, sketches of future projects and hand drawn maps to a computerized mapping program, online calendar and a very low-tech box of multicolored index cards.  While the journal was superior at recording generalities like “early March rainier than usual” and daily specifics like “first squash bug eggs sighted 6/7,” it was more difficult to keep the garden map updated as crops were rotated in and out, and much more difficult to look up information in.

Hence, the index cards.  Every crop I try, I record the species, variety, seed source and year, and other characteristics.  Through the season I update with key dates, like when direct seeded, first sprouted, first harvest, and so forth.  At the end of the season if not earlier, I write some general notes on taste, performance and productivity, disease or pest issues, and maybe flag it either to never grow it again or to make it a regular variety.  Then it gets filed away.  Using my index file, I can always check up on a variety before buying seeds or to report on my experience to someone thinking of growing it.

Since some days I can’t remember why I walked into a room, having an easily accessed alphabetical file prevents me from repeating past mistakes and reminds me of special successes.  I can also data mine the file manually to compare soil temperature dates with direct seeding dates, and see if there is a general pattern of better performance…. or lack thereof.  I only wish I started my file much sooner.

Index cards may not be your choice, but keeping some sort of log can do the same for you.  Whether you’d prefer a verbose garden diary, brief notes in your day planner or something in between, a log will begin to create a written history of valuable information specific to you and your garden.

If you already keep a garden history, please share your method in the comments to give other people ideas on how to start or improve theirs.

(By Nicole Castle)

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