Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Garden Journaling

One of the most overlooked but most important aspects to growing your own food (and flowers!) is keeping track of what happens from year to year and planning for the next. I have to be honest, it is something I have been kind of slack on in the past, but count my blog as a huge aid now in doing so. I try to keep records of what I plant, when I start it (if it needs started inside), plus pictures of the sprouts for identification (very important for someone who -it never fails-ends up with mixed up seedlings right before their big move outside), when they sprouted, when they leaved, when I moved them out, when I did my direct sowing, where I planted everything, when it blossomed, when it fruited, how well it fruited, pictures of EVERYTHING, any issues with pests and if anything worked to rid them, whether we liked a variety or not, soil amendments, plus our preservation planning is now added in.

It seems like a lot, but just a couple minutes a day should do well. Just pay attention and write it down! You will be so glad you did. I know that I planted a certain variety of lettuce last year we just didn't eat. We didn't like it. So it gets scratched from our list and new varieties come in. I know that four years ago I was planting brassicas on this date outside, but the last three I haven't gotten them out until May, and that the April planted ones did a lot better than my May ones did. This gives me information so that I make a point to really shoot for April plantings (though obviously the weather is my biggest issue with whether this happens or not) and change something I do (fall tilling, which I couldn't last year, or separate raised bed that needs little cultivation and cares not whether it has rained or not for planting) to make sure they see April sun. I could easily forget how things went without my notes.

Another aspect to the journals, though, is also the beauty. This year I made a point of illustrating my plans for the garden. I tried to make them pretty, but with the little time I have, not as pretty as some are able to do. It helps me see quickly what I am doing, make changes as necessary and will be a pleasant addition to my journal. Right now they grace my wall, making my office a reminder of the sunny days to come. Pictures of my produce are handy for when I want to market on the net what we've been doing, but also just in the beauty of food. In the rat race that is the standard American food system, the beauty of homegrown, whole foods is outstanding, especially in heirloom varieties. It gets lost in mass marketed supermarket foods and drive throughs. There is nothing so beautiful as July's bounty caught on (digital) film.
One last thought is the heritage that is recorded in such journals. My children can see what we were doing for the growing months by looking at my records. I can put down when they started helping, and also teach them to start their own gardens and journals. My oldest loved drawing pictures of the pea sprouts in her tiny patch last year, and seeing them go from seed to peas. It creates something else we can share in our relationship, also something that they can use as they grow. I get a lot of my motivation for what I do from my time spent with my dad and grandparents as a young girl. Both were big on the homesteading movement in the eighties, and I took all of that with me to use as an adult. One of my favorite pictures is part of my dad's gardening journal-a shot of a huge bounty in the back of his pickup truck, full of color. It is my inspiration every year, and a reminder of how important keeping track of my interactions with our farm is.

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