The best gardeners learn from their prior success and failures. It’s all a learning experience. It’s part of gardening. So with that in mind, making notes and taking pictures of your garden as it grows through the season is a key part to ensuring a bountiful and healthy garden in future seasons. But what’s important to note and where do you begin? This week, Joe Lamp’l walks you through the process he goes through, starting before the first plant goes in the ground. Keeping good records is one of the best habits you can form as a gardener and this podcasts includes lots of great ideas on what to know.
Show Notes: BHG006 – Using Notes & Pictures for Gardening Success
I know when I’m starting my garden for the new season, I can’t wait until the day the plants are finally ready to go in the ground. It’s all I think about! And over the years, I’ve had some great success, along with a fair amount of challenges. And that’s ok because that’s what gardening’s about right? In fact learning from those “mistakes” is what makes us all better gardeners.
So here’s an idea I wish I had put into practice a long time ago. Take notes and pictures of your garden. And start doing that early in the process! I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a real aha moment or tasted a special variety of tomato, and then tell myself I need to remember this for next year. HA! It rarely happened!
Or perhaps, you had a perplexing problem with your squash or peppers. Fill in the blank for any plant…it doesn’t matter. All the conditions seemed right, but you just couldn’t seem to figure out what was causing the problem.
Well, by taking notes and pictures, you can be your own Sherlock Holmes as you compare notes from season to season, or you can use this recorded information to share with others who might be able to help you solve the problem.
And there’s no better way to repeat the successes of the past and avoid the same recurring problems, than to make note of them, especially when accompanied by pictures. You might even want to start a blog about your garden. What a fun and easy way to share your garden with others. Or even better? Video! A couple years ago I posted an entire series on YouTube, called My $25 Organic Victory Garden. To this day, it gets lots of views and I had a really fun way to document and share my garden online.
So let me walk you through a season in my garden and tell you how I use notes and pictures to track the experience. And by the way, it’s important to note that the more information you provide as your make your observations, the better that information will be as you look back on it later. Things I always list include, date and weather conditions, with particular attention to moisture and humidity, since so many problems can be tracked back to excessive moisture.
Here’s what I do:
For any plants I start from seed, I make notes on when I sowed them, how long the seeds took to germinate, did they come up easily, how many weeks until they were ready to go in the garden and were there any problems along the way.
Something else I do before any plant goes in the ground, is make a drawing of my garden beds and a plan for what to plant where. This accomplishes several things. First, it keeps me from getting over zealous at the garden center.
Secondly, it assures that I’m placing my plants in the appropriate parts of my garden, with the tallest and biggest plants sited so as not to shade out the smaller ones and that I’m rotating my crops so I’m not putting plants from the same family back in the same spot year after year. That helps ensure that my plants stay healthy from season to season. And there’s no way I can keep up with what went where, year after year without notes or pictures.
Then there’s the issue with pests & diseases. As an organic gardener, I try to create the most healthy and diverse environment possible. And I’m always trying new plant combinations for that. I love knowing which plants work best in my garden for attracting certain beneficial insects and pollinators and potentially repelling other unwanted pests. But again, making note of what works and what doesn’t is the only way I know to repeat those successes and avoid those defeats in subsequent years. I also make note of the dates for whatever pests find their way into my garden. That way, I can have a better idea next year on when I might expect to see them again. This is really important because being proactive in your garden is one of the easiest ways to keep pests and diseases in check.
As my garden begins to grow, I make note of the dates I planted what, and then add comments about the weather conditions, namely the water, or lack of it, and temperature. A rain gauge and an outdoor thermometer that records minimum and maximum temperatures are a great resource to your record keeping. You can probably find them wherever you buy your Burpee Home garden plants. They’re not expensive and I find them invaluable for keeping good records.
In recent years, I’ve been taking more pictures than ever. With the ease of digital photography, it’s so easy. I take pictures about once a week, making sure I do so from the same perspective. It’s really fun at the end of the year to revisit the evolution of your garden. And by the way, for about seventy bucks, you can even buy a camera designed to place and leave in your garden and IT will take all the pictures for you. All you do is tell it how often you want those shots recorded. Then, once you’re ready to review your shots, simply remove the memory card and download them to your computer. How simple is that?
Something else I use my pictures and notes for, is to track diseases that crop up. Since no two years are the same in any garden, being able to refer back to a similar experience when it happened in your own garden can really help in finding ways to avoid those problems in future years.
Finally, as your record your season, make sure you find a system that works for you and keep it close to the garden. That may sound trivial but trust me, it’s really important! So next winter, when you can’t wait to get started again, at least you can relive and plan your next garden, with the notes and pictures from seasons past. But that’s for later. We have an entire gardening season in front of us. So if you haven’t already, go out there and get your Burpee Home Gardens plants in the ground and chronicle your season in words and pictures. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
And just to let you know, we’ll be right there with you, every step of the way to help you have a great season in the garden. This is just one of 26 podcasts created to get you off to a successful start and provide helpful, weekly tips throughout the entire growing season. And to be sure you don’t miss any episodes, you can subscribe to this podcast series for free in iTunes.
And for more ideas and inspiration any time, be sure to check out burpeehomegardens.com. We’ll be right back here next week for another Burpee Home Gardens Tip of the Week.
Now go get dirty!