Seven Garden Records You Should Keep Each Year
Gardening season is coming up! This is the time of year when I get really excited about the new year and new plans. I pull my garden records from last year out and remember what I did right and what I did wrong. What do I need to do differently this year to make my garden the best ever? Here are seven garden records I keep each year to help me in my planning.
I keep my garden records in the form of a journal, with pictures, notes, drawings, etc. I know it takes a little more time, but this is just more fun for me.
1. I keep garden records of what I planted. Did you plant seeds? Plants? In a greenhouse? In a sunny window? What starting soil did you use? What did you plant? How many? Where did you get your seeds/plants? Garden Center? Seed/plant catalog? Did your seeds germinate? At what rate? Did your plants grow well or die out quickly? Have other varieties worked better for you in the past?
These are all very important questions to answer. Some plants work best in our area if you start them as seeds, because the growing season might not be long enough to harvest from them if you grow plants. Some plants grow best if they are started in a greenhouse, some grow best if they are started in a sunny window, some grow best if the seeds are planted directly into the garden.
As for starting soil, the absolute best I have ever used is worm castings. If you know of a super duper starting soil, please leave me a comment below.
Some things I plant every year. My family loves my homemade salsa recipe, so I always plant a salsa garden. I like sauerkraut, my family not so much, so I plant a few cabbage plants. With zucchini, I plant enough to enjoy, then freeze grated zucchini for making Zucchini Bread in the winter (baking in July, not a good thing here). Winter squash, potatoes, and onions are all great for winter storage, so I plant a lot of them. Cucumbers for pickling, tomatoes for canning, pumpkins for carving, and more.
I know I personally have had good and bad experiences with different Garden Centers, seed catalogs, brands, and varieties. I could tell you that information, but what worked for me might not work for you and vice-versa.
Keep garden records of what you planted. What worked and why.
My husband has drawn a map of our property, with all the buildings and their locations compared to the woods, orchard trees, nut trees, herb garden, and the vegetable garden. This is very handy to have. We can look at the map and walk our property to figure out where the best places to plant things are. Some plants like “wet feet” some like lots of drainage. Take this in to consideration when deciding where to plant your garden. One end of our garden in much wetter than the other. That is great for some plants, but limits crop rotation.
Keeping track of what you planted one year, helps you decide where to plant things the next year. Different plants take different nutrients, minerals, etc. from the soil. You should always try to plant different types of plants in a location each year, so you don’t deplete your soil. To help with this problem, it is also a good idea to keep garden records of the next item on the list, soil amendments.
3. I keep garden records of soil amendments I made and soil test results. Making soil amendments will help to keep your garden soil from being depleted of important nutrients your plants need. Each year, we keep garden records of what we add to our garden.
We add ashes from our fireplace, manure from a local farm (They give this stuff away free, for some reason.) or from your own animals, composted leaves and food scraps, compost tea, and sometimes tilled in cover crops. Each of these things can add different nutrients to your soil that are very important to different plants in your garden. So, keep a garden record of these things and see what works for you.
4. I keep garden records of how I planted my plants. I love trying new ways to to plant vegetables in my garden. While traditional gardening is best for some plants, we have had very good success with other methods like lasagna gardening, vertical gardening, container gardening, and more.
I have grown potatoes in a trashcan, tomatoes on stakes, beans on a fence, and cucumbers on a trellis. We have used leaves or cardboard to keep the weeds down. These methods have all worked well for me. My worst experiment was pumpkins next to the sweet corn. The pumpkins tried to grow up the stalks of corn and smashed them down. Duh, is all I can say to that.
I pay very close attention when I see someone who has better success with their gardens than I do. My uncle experiments with different methods every year and I am there taking notes. He bought this book, Vertical Gardening: Grow Up, Not Out, for More Vegetables and Flowers in Much Less Space by Derek Fell and has had a lot of luck using their gardening methods. A book called All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More In Less Space by Mel Bartholomew is also helpful in this area.
So, keep garden records of how you planted the things in your garden and share what works for you in the comments section so I can add them to my list of things to try.
5. I keep garden records of critters and pests that visited my garden. I have a love/hate relationship with critters. I love to see critters scampering around our property and taking pictures of them. I don’t mind sharing a little of my food with them either. What I don’t like is when the critters get out of hand and demolish an entire crop of vegetables when there is plenty of other food on our property to eat.
We have had a raccoon destroy our sweet corn, deer eat all the tops from our strawberries, rabbits eat all the stems of our green beans, slugs eat many holes in (and sometimes eat all of the leaves from) our cabbage and pepper plants, tomato worms eat the leaves off our tomato plants, deer and rabbits eat our tomatoes, and more. Every year it’s a new battle and we come up with new armory to deter the enemy. We have tried fencing our entire garden in, spraying things with soap, vinegar, and other substances. We have put netting over some of our garden to keep animals out. These and many other methods can be found in a book called The Impatient Gardener by Jerry Baker.
What kind of deterrents have you used to keep critters away? Leave me a comment below.
It is good to keep garden records of what works to keep critters out of your garden so you know what to do year after year.
6. I keep garden records of my yields. Did you plant enough? Too much? Did you plant things your family did or didn’t like and you want to plant more/less next year? These are all important questions answer in your garden records. At the end of the year I take an inventory of how much my garden produced.
Only I like okra in our family and a few plants are plenty to provide the amount I need for the year. My husband does not like tomatoes (That’s just wrong, I say.) , but the rest of my family loves them. Like I said before, there are many things in our garden that only a few people in our family like.
Last year we had a problem with slugs. They had eaten the leaves off all my pepper plants and it was too late to plant more. What a waste. Most of them did not make it. This cut our pepper harvest severely. I had to buy peppers at a farmers market to supplement our salsa making.
These are only a few of many ways your yields can be affected. Keep garden records of these things to help you plan for next year.
7. I keep garden records of vegetables I wish I would have planted this year. Maybe you saw it in someone else’s garden, at the farmer’s market, or in a seed catalog, but it was too late to plant it. WRITE IT DOWN! While it is still fresh in your ind write it down in your garden records or journal. This will help you to remember to plant it next year.
I have a wonderful friend, who owns The Glass Rooster Cannery, here in our area. She is always trying new plants in her garden (mostly heirlooms). I take along a pen and paper and am ready to take notes when I am touring her gardens. Finding out which varieties are good for canning, pickling, making salsa, etc. is always good information to have.
What vegetables did you see last year that you want to try in your garden this year? Let me know.