January 31, 2013 in Washington Voices

Journal can be a helpful tool for gardeners

Pat Munts
 
It can be easy

A journal can be a simple notebook in your tool bucket or as complicated as a formally bound book, sophisticated computer database or a tablet app where you can record everything. It can also be a series of journals for weather, planting or individual gardens.

It happens all the time. You really enjoyed a variety of corn or tomato but can’t remember its name when planting season comes around again. Or you dig into that bare spot to plant something only to find a dormant perennial or bulbs were there first.

Keeping a garden journal is an easy solution for the dilemma of lost names and hidden plants. A journal can make it easy to record your successes and failures, a memory jogger for names and sources and a mapping system for garden beds to remind you where you planted.

A journal can be a simple notebook in your tool bucket or as complicated as a formally bound book, sophisticated computer database or a tablet app where you can record everything. It can also be a series of journals for weather, planting or individual gardens. There isn’t any right or wrong way to keep one.

A seed journal makes a handy way to keep track of what you planted and its source. I have a three-ring binder in the garage that I put my empty seed packets in, as well as the tags from plants I buy at the nursery. If I order from a catalog, I stick the packing slip in the notebook as a record of my order.

A vegetable planting journal can be tucked into your tool bucket when you head for the garden. I keep a Rite in the Rain notebook with all-weather writing paper where I first lay out what I am going to plant in the spring. I can plan the succession crops that will be planted after the spinach, lettuce and other early crops finish. Past year’s records let me plan my crop rotations from year to year so I avoid pest issues and manage the fertility needs for different vegetables. Corn is a good successor to beans because beans fix nitrogen in the soil that the corn loves. As I plant, I record the exact date of planting and later the harvest dates.

Keeping track of what you plant in your perennial and shrub beds can be a challenge. A journal with bed maps can help you remember where you planted those peonies or perennials and bulbs you got on sale last fall. The maps can be drawn to scale and printed off on large sheets of paper and it’s a simple matter to measure the point on the map. Since tags left in the ground with the plants tend to disappear, you can create some pocket pages to keep the tags near the map for future reference.

My husband is the keeper of our weather journal. He records the temperatures and rainfall through the year so we can look back to see what happened last year or track changes over several years. There are also home weather stations on the market that will record the weather data for your yard and download it into a database that you can run reports on temperature trends, rainfall amounts, wind and humidity.

Pat Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.


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