garden journal  - by Grey County Master Gardeners

So, you bought two new asters in June but have lost the tags and you don't remember the variety. Or in early spring, you wonder where is that plant I put in last year? Did I accidentally pull it up thinking it was a weed? Or, you can't remember where you bought those tomato seeds that produced so well last year? Or, you wonder why your roses did so well last year but are most unhappy this year? I'm sure we all have had these experiences at one time or another. And they can be frustrating!

One of the challenges of gardening is keeping track of various things such as plants, planting times, tasks, what worked well, what didn't, etc. A garden journal can be of great assistance in helping you to organize your thoughts, your purchases and plan your activities during the year. A journal works well not only for outside gardens but also container gardens and houseplants. Depending on the journal, there is an opportunity to record things such as:

• Goals for the season
• Materials, seeds, plants to purchase
• What you planted, where, and when
• Where you purchased seeds or plants
• Bloom times and colours
• Seed germination times and quantities
• Watering
• Site /placement in the garden
• Pest and disease issues
• Garden layout (especially if you need to rotate plantings next year)
• Weather conditions, including first and last frost dates, rainfall
• Tasks to be completed and when and reminders
• Plants, shrubs, etc that need to be divided or moved
• Harvest times and quantities

There many different types and styles of journals available. Some are yearly, some span five to 10 years, which is great for comparison purposes. Some have very detailed in the information to record, guiding you through steps and topics while others offer many blank pages for you to populate according to your needs and level of experience. Some journals include blank pages only, some have grids for planning purposes, some provide tips and details, while others may have a calendar. Some provide information on hardiness zones, soil needs, propagation, growing in containers, composting, terminology, etc. And then there is size! Some are small and fit into your pocket while others are much larger and may have space for photos, seed packages, etc

An alternative to a commercially purchased journal is one that you develop and customize according to your needs. It can anything from a purchased blank exercise book to a computerized document you develop and print out each year. Customizing your own journal allows you the flexibility to add, subtract, make changes, and include specific information that pertains to your level of experience and your particular garden. For example, a companion planting chart, your vegetable garden layout, or container plants that fit with your needs.

Garden journals are year round companions. In the winter, they provide the opportunity to dream a and plan - what you will plant and where; what seeds do I have left over and what do I need to purchase (and where); what are my goals this year; what experiments do I want to try, etc. By reviewing the previous year (or years), you will have a better sense of what works well in your garden and what doesn't. In spring and summer, garden journals help to make you more efficient and keep you on track with the garden tasks. Your planting decisions have already been made as part of your plan, so you just need to put the plants or seeds in the ground. You have already purchased the seeds you need (before they are sold out) and you know exactly what plants you want at the nursery. As well, during the summer, you can make note of what is doing well and what isn't. In the fall, journals provide an opportunity to review your successes as well as thing that may not have worked as well.

So, whether your “garden” is a series of containers, houseplants, raised vegetable beds, perennials, annuals, etc., a garden journal is helpful regardless of the size. Also, garden journals make great gifts!

This will be our last Eco-Responsible Gardener column for 2021. There is so much more to talk about as we explore a new way to think about our gardens – as part of nature. We look forward to sharing more in 2022.

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