garden notebook

On Keeping a Garden Notebook

Do you keep a garden notebook? If not, have you considered doing so? If you are like me (always pressed for time) you might think, “No! I don’t need to stop what I’m doing to take notes! I’m in this to relax!” However, there are some really good reasons to keep a garden notebook.

  • A garden notebook can save you much time over the long run. Many has been the time that I have avoided wasting time and energy by consulting my past notes. When I did, I discovered that something wasn’t going to work as well as I thought, or else, I was able to jog my memory about a quirk of a given variety, requiring different management. Every year, for instance, I end up going through my past notes, to find how late I can plant something, and still have a usable harvest.
  • A garden notebook can deepen your knowledge and understanding of the plants you grow, as practically nothing else can. I take all sorts of notes, storing them in my notes. Later, sometimes years later I’ll have a question about something and be able to comb through my notes, correlating observations, and discover something new.  As an example: individual plant varieties can really fool you. Based on one year’s observations, one can draw wrong conclusions about what makes a plant behave the way that it does. Yet, if I keep notes, over the span of a couple years, I can compare notes from years with different conditions and draw more accurate conclusions.
  •  A garden notebook can help you to be much much more observant in the garden. Once in the the habit of taking notes, it’s not necessary to concern oneself about drawing immediate conclusions. Instead note taking takes the form of gathering data, which can be analyzed later. This kind of analysis  is one of my favorite winter time activities. I go through my notes and analyze what happened while planning the course of the coming year’s garden.
  • I’ve discovered that “plain old human memory” is more fallible than one might think. Sometimes I will have drawn a conclusion about a variety, only to upturn my own conclusion when I look back a couple of years and see what I actually wrote about it.

Tips for Taking Garden Notes

  • No matter what you use as a “notebook,” it’s best to have some kind of system to take actual notes while you’re actually in the field. I use the memo feature on my mobile phone. My father always carried around 3 X 5″ cards and a pen. Most people will find, that if they don’t make a note while “in the field,” by the time they get back to the house, they won’t remember what it was they wanted to record.
  • Details you probably want to include in your garden notebook are: Planting/starting dates, Last and first frost dates, Temperatures, Rainfall, Varieties planted, location of plantings, first flowers, first picking, date when first seed is ready to harvest, when a given cultivar dries down completely (dies) and variety performance (vigor, insect resistance, drought/heat/disease resistance, flavor, peculiar growth habits, soil preferences.
  • As time permits, work on adding details to your notes: precipitation, temps, storms, clouds, pests, etc. The easiest way to do this is, when referring to your notes,  pay attention to details you wish you had recorded!

I’ve been keeping a garden notebook since the mid 80s. If you don’t already do this, consider it. It may revolutionize your gardening.

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