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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Keeping a Gardener's Journal

Gardening in my part of the country means walking through the full spectrum of the seasons. Only once per year do I visit summer crops, twice a year some of the spring and fall ones. Because of those gaps, much knowledge gained through experience could be lost were it not for my gardening journals.

My first venture into garden journaling was quite utilitarian. I still use that initial journal when I want to access bare-bones knowledge. In fact, it could hardly be called a journal at all. It resides in an accordion file.

Each section is divided by the month. In the front, I keep a map of my garden lay-out for each year. Since I must garden in the same small plot every year, rotating the plants that deplete the soil--heavy feeders, they're called--is a must. A map helps me remember what my plan of rotation should be.

A nice article on the whys of crop rotation can be found here:

More importantly, one that helps you break your "crops" into family groups and offers maps for garden layout can be found here:


Then in the accordion files, I have notes by the month of what I planted and transplanted, harvested, pruned, fertilized, etc. I make notes of the various pests that visit my garden and of seasons when fungal stresses make an appearance. Then as I move from month to month each year, I amend the notes, make additional comments, observe what is consistent yearly and what seems to be a one-year anomaly. This particular mode of journal-organization proves very helpful and easy to use.

On the other hand, I have another journal that is purely for fun. It is my field journal. It is also organized by the month, but it is kept in a sketch book. In it, I sketch from the garden and make more general and fanciful observations.

This is the journal I pull out to review when the garden is asleep, cold winds howl, and I long for a little sip of summer life.

In it, I make simple sketches--pen and ink, colored pencil, marker--nothing profound, but memorable in their creation if not their quality. By taking the 30 minutes necessary to create a sketch, I build myself a moment that is memorable--complete with smells and sounds--that I'll be able to revisit in those dark winter months. Summer in the garden will return more fully and more readily than if I'd just popped out to snap a quick photo.
Although I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to such "frivolous" old world pastimes, I do try to fit in a little of it, just to enrich my soul with something beyond the sheer work of gardening. Today's sign-off: happy creating!

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