Jotting a note for posterity

   Journaling makes gardeners better, helps them share

 

December 15, 2005

GRACE SULLIVAN

Victoria County Master Gardener

 

The new year is a perfect time for gardeners to start a garden journal. A written record of what has happened in your garden offers a way to assess both progress and setbacks. And it will make you a better gardener.

You will need a notebook to get started. Your needs and preferences will determine the style you choose. An inexpensive spiral notebook may meet your needs. With so many pretty journals available, you may choose one that is simply attractive to you. The most flexible option is a three-ring binder filled with loose-leaf papers and dividers. For easy reference, label your dividers with categories that work for you. Some suggestions are vegetable gardening, perennials, roses, lawn, photos, gardening articles. You may decide to categorize by month or seasons.

Consider purchasing a plastic zipper-type pocket that can hold seed packets, plant tags, receipts and pens. Including a calendar in your notebook will be helpful for record keeping.

Keep it simple

Journaling doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming. The most important information to write in your journal will be your observations. Record the plant name, planting dates, germination, bloom and harvest times, and feeding/watering schedule.

As problems arise, make specific notes about your observations. Record the date so that you can be on the lookout for the problem next year at the same time.

Along with the date, describe and identify the pests that are attacking your plants. A good description of your plant's disease symptoms will make diagnosis for you easier the next time around. Record what treatments work or don't work. Noting how you won the battle is one of the benefits of journaling. Time spent traveling to the garden center will be reduced as you become a better diagnostician. Be sure to keep products on hand that you know work.

Progress reports

Another idea for using a journal would be to record the progress of a sick plant, turf grass or tree. This can best be done by making notes on a weekly basis for a smaller plant or on a monthly basis for a tree.

Taking pictures often, especially with the ease of digital cameras, allows you to show progress your journal. This is particularly helpful in showing progress of slow-growing plants as you view them from year to year.

Don't forget to make note of the good also. If something grows well for you, record what you did right and look forward to growing it again next year. Record those special surprises that await you daily in the garden.

Recently, while walking in my back yard, I noticed an amazing spider web in my plumbago. As I stepped a little closer, I was startled to see the spider, one of the garden's most beautiful "beneficials." Identify the good bugs in your yard, and be thankful they are fighting the battle for you.

Picture it

Consider a separate photo album for your garden snapshots. Sometimes we spend so much time digging in the dirt that we forget to step back and notice the transformation that has taken place in our gardens. Include photos of the bugs and butterflies in your yard. When visiting other gardens around the state and country, take pictures so that you have new ideas for your garden.

References

As you come across gardening articles that are of interest to you, keep them in a special section of your notebook. Having quick access to this information will be a time-saver for you. Advice from a trusted gardening friend can also be kept in this section of your notebook.

Make it yours

Remember that this is your journal so there is no need to explain. Some people journal for cut-and-dried reasons. Others journal for emotional reasons. So go ahead and include a bit of poetry, add garden-variety quotes or describe the weather the day you planted a rose garden. Explain why certain plants are in your garden.

My son gave me a Mrs. Jimmy Spangler hibiscus for my birthday this year. Now a freshman in college, I think of him daily as I water the plant he lovingly picked out just for me.

I love butterflies so I plant a variety of plants in my yard that include host plants for the caterpillars and nectar plants for the butterflies. The notations we record in our journals will be wonderful, helpful keepsakes for generations to come.

As you complete your Christmas shopping, consider buying a journal for a gardening friend. Better yet, buy two and treat yourself to one. Journaling will get your new year of gardening off to a great start and who knows, may help your family members be more aware of what is around them!

Special stuff

In that journal you keep for yourself make a point to record the things in life that are important to you. After all, like stated above, this is your journal with your notes about what impacts your life. Jotting a note for posterity insures that those who come after you will know something significant and special about you.

Communicating about nature and with those who embrace its beauty is many times consoling and comforting. Gardening often brings out these sentiments in us all, and it allows us to express ourselves in ways that we would not ordinarily do so.

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NOTE: The Victoria County Master Gardeners express sympathy to the family and friends of one its own - Master Gardener Intern Karen Caskey (and her husband) whose lives tragically ended two weeks ago in an automobile accident. Karen had just begun to provide notes in the journal pages of those master gardeners around her in various gardening projects. Her enthusiasm for bamboo and natural surroundings has been "noted" and will not be forgotten.

Our thoughts are extended to her survivors with the hope that they are blessed with many other notes of memory that will be with them for time to come.