A welcomed comment from one of our first-year participants recently concerned what the program meant to he and his wife: “It has taught us many things including discipline concerning recordkeeping. We are so astonished by the harvest totals. We would have never come close to guessing our amounts without the recordkeeping.”
They harvested over 1900 pounds in 2020.
Along those recordkeeping lines, something I’m a fan of is keeping a garden journal. It can be a creative endeavor or just a plain and practical gathering of notes. If you’re artistically inclined, you can add sketches or watercolors, but alphanumeric data is useful as well.
Some items to make note of in a garden journal would include…
1) Varieties that have done well or not so well. This year, our growers are trying two new varieties of hardneck garlic – Krandasger Red and Brown Rose. Will these perform as admirably as the Music and Spanish Roja we’ve done in the past?
At home, I planted a variety of beans that produced well, but my family just didn’t like it as much as the Turkey Craws, so it would behoove me to make note of that.
2) Supplies, seeds and plants needed (or wanted). I could use a couple more step-in posts for my deer fence. I need to get my strawberries covered before winter. A mailbox mounted at the garden would be a great place to stash my hori hori knife and trowel. And I want to try a fig. And I’m going to plant amaranth in the corner.
3) Maps. In 2004, I attended an apple-grafting workshop. I grafted 25 varieties and, surprisingly, I had a 100 percent survival rate. I labeled by new grafts, and when I planted them in their permanent locations, I told myself, “I’ll remember that this is an Arkansas Black closest to the barn,” and “This Lodi will be obvious when it starts bearing.” You know what? I don’t know what those trees are now.
A garden journal is a good place to map out fruit trees and berry bushes, as well as information about who gave you this rhubarb and who gave you that one.
4) Soil test results. I only recommend that our gardeners test their garden soil every three years. Keeping up with those results over the long term can help identify trends. Perhaps you see some micronutrient deficiencies a couple of years after liming. Over time, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect from your soil.
5) Disease cycles. An excellent way to visualize how plant diseases move from one season to the next is through disease cycles. Is there a particular disease that you’ve confirmed in your garden or orchard? Is it one you fight year after year? Chances are you’ll find a disease cycle for it online.
Some of those can use a lot of confusing terminology, but it doesn’t need to be complex. Just draw a circle with the top being the young plant in the springtime. A disease cycle can show you when the pathogen enters the plant at various times in the growing season and therefore can provide an idea of how you can interrupt that infection.
Another technique I’m fond of is “bullet journaling,” in which different types of bullets indicate if what you’ve written down is something you need to remember, a task to complete or an event to attend.