Keeping a garden journal
Gardening is food for my soul.
Well actually, it’s how we produce a large portion of our food each year, but I do it out of the pure love of having my hands in the soil.
However, we do need to eat, and that means the gardens need to produce a large harvest each season.
A garden journal is one of the easiest and most effective ways I have increased my gardening success each year.
Basically, you just take a couple minutes each day to jot down a few key notes, and use it as a reference later on.
I suggest having an actual notebook that you use only for this purpose, or if you keep a journal already, you can add the garden journal notes in there as well. (It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just an inexpensive journal or notepad will work!)
The things I find most helpful to document are:
- Planting dates and amounts I planted
- Sketched diagrams of where I planted things
- Specific variety of seed/plant I planted. ie “Heirloom Bonnie beefsteak tomatoes”
- Weather (sunny/cloudy, rainy/dry, high/low temp, depending on the season.)
- How much I have to water the garden. (I use water from our rain barrels, and water with a 2 gallon watering can, so I know exactly how much I use each time)
- When plants are ready to harvest, and when they finish producing
- Exactly how much I end up harvesting and preserving.
- How much money I spend on garden related purchases. (Lime, seeds, stakes, etc)
- I also like to record how much bulk produce or fruit I get, so that I can see how it lasts each year. Like how many bushels of apples I get from the orchard, or pounds of strawberries I pick from a farm.
Depending on the time of year, a garden journal entry might look something like this:July 12, 2014 Hot, very humid, high around 95 degrees. Picked enough green beans for supper, a basket full of zucchini, and another basket of tomatoes. Harvested 10 large onions and left them out to dry. Froze 4 quarts of grated zucchini, and 2 quarts of chopped zucchini. Saving the tomatoes for a couple days until I get enough to can. Watered the garden with 8 gallons in the evening.
OR, it could look like this some days:July 13, 2014 Cloudy and humid. Low 90’s. Picked a few cucumbers and pulled a few weeds.
Nothing too detailed, just record the basics, then you can use the data the next year. Here are a few ways I used the info this year.
- This spring, I couldn’t remember how many tomato plants I needed to plant, so I looked up last year’s notes and found that I didn’t have enough tomatoes to can last year, but I had WAY too many tiny cherry tomatoes. So, I increased my large tomato plants, and planted fewer cherry tomato plants.
- I was worried that my green beans were not doing well, so I looked up the date that they began producing last year. They were a few days behind, but I also compared the weather, and this year had a significantly cooler spring than last year, so it was pretty normal for them to be a bit behind.
- I knew that I wanted to get around the same amount of strawberries I picked last year, but freeze more and make less jam. So, I looked up how many pounds I picked, and how much I turned into jam last year, and went from there.
I have a pretty decent memory, (as long as I’m not pregnant!) but I don’t always remember the little things, like how many onions I planted last year, and whether it was enough to last us through the year.
Here are the plans I used for my raised beds in 2014. Notice that you do not have to have any artistic skills to create a sketch of how you want to plant your garden!! My only goal was to have a rough idea of where I wanted things to go., and this is pretty much how my garden ended up being planted.
I find that the couple minutes it takes to jot down daily notes seriously pays off for me the next year!
This post has been shared at Tuesdays With a Twist, Down Home Blog Hop, The Home Acre Hop, From the Farm Hop, Old Fashioned Fridays, Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, Maple Hill hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, and The Art of Homemaking.