DH and I started a garden log in 2011. Out of sheer laziness. I hate marking the garden where we have planted things so to save time I decided to make a map. Back then we had 3 raised beds, (we now have 10 with more on the way), and were just getting started with the garden at our new home we had purchased the year before. I thought it would be nice to (sorta) have a plan where things should go so I could get my seeds ordered and begin visualizing my summer bounty. The garden log was born…
There is actually a lot of indoor work a gardener can do in the winter after the garden has been put to bed. There is planning and seed ordering, research, implement sharpening, seed starting, etc. The list goes on an on, but the workload is not nearly as heavy as in the summer. My garden log helps me stay focused on what my priorities are in each season.
One of my current winter projects is to work on seed saving. Since DH and I are new to the practice, we wanted to try a bit of it (this winter). Most would have there seed collection tasks already done I suppose, but since Sweet Baby was born at the height of the growing season, it was hard to find time to perform all of the necessary tasks that needed to be done, so admittedly, I let my lettuce plant grow 6 feet tall, go to seed, and then I hucked a garbage bag over the top of it, lopped it off, let it dry, and my dining room is where it currently sits, and has sat since. I will get to at some point this winter; and honestly, I’m not really sure what I’m doing anyway, but a lot of why I LOVE gardening is the constant opportunity for learning, and the trial and error that goes with it. With so many different projects going in the garden at once, keeping a binder really helps me stay organized and record all my efforts amidst the research and the dirt.
I sometimes feel like my plants in the garden are my teammates, and I’m constantly rooting for them. I’m out there cheering them on, protecting them (from slugs!) and I view their failure as my failures too. When one of my “players” isn’t doing so well, it effects our team as a whole, and we work hard to get back “in the zone,” to win the game… of harvest!
So, the garden log has become a valuable tool for us here at the P Patch. It’s like our play book. It’s utility helps me save me time and stay organized by:
- Providing an outline for where crops can/should be planted
- Eliminates the need for garden markers since I make a detailed map
- Helpful in forecasting/reminding when the plants will mature since each crop is labeled and dated on the map
- Makes succession planting easy to prepare for
- Key in planning for crop rotation from year to year
- Easy to plan for “companion planting” since there is a detailed map
- Keeps track of perennials (and bulbs) so you don’t till them under come Spring.
- Allows you to easily note varieties that performed well or poorly, any varieties you weren’t fond of, and the dates they fruited, ripened, ect.
- Can easily keep track of indoor seedling activity
- Tracking of fertilization and soil inputs
- records of soil tests and pH’s
Also included in our dirty old binder are notes from the previous year about pruning, fertilization, pests and management of them, successes, failures, ideas and problems that need solutions. It is also a place where I store my seed catalog, helpful handouts I’ve collected and any invoices I feel are prudent to save so I know what I ordered in the previous year.
2/15 Pruned the apple and cherry trees quite heavily. The honeycrisp hadn’t grown much.
4/15 Laurel arrived this week and was planted. 40 plants–look healthy. Added yd. of compost when planting the hedgerow. Indoor seedlings doing great! Fertilized with fish emulsion this week. Bottom watered. Most all have 1st set of true leaves, many working on second. Many seeds set out in garden beds have germinated–except sugar daddy peas. I think those seeds are old/bad.
8/27 Eggplant did well in 3 gallon bucket. Pruned hard on the tomatoes to encourage ripening. Cherry trees got pear slugs. Sprayed them off with water. Need to find a solution for next year.
In reviewing our garden log, I can easily recall all of the issues we were struggling with last season so I can research them now in foul weather and not when I need to be outside. I can also gather any materials now that I might need in preparation, to save me more time in the growing season. I am sure most of you can relate to having a job, pets, and a little one; so anything to save time, especially in the Summer is truly welcomed here! What fun is a garden if you can’t sit out in it when the sun is going down and share your seasonal meal and a glass of wine with your loved ones? A garden isn’t any fun at all when it becomes all work and no play. (Oh, and did I say “share” the wine? That was a typo).
I also use the garden log to set learning goals for the season in areas where I am weak and am struggling so I can research solutions and get help when needed. Last year’s goals were to practice better companion planting, pest management, and a crop cover. We achieved all of them, but, it wasn’t perfect and again most of what we do here is trial and error so we will see over time what works and what doesn’t.
I sometimes feel like we are stumbling along in the garden and am often overwhelmed with everything I wish I could do vs. what is actually practical to do. The P Patch is constantly evolving, as it should, and the only thing we are experts at is knowing that we have so much more to learn! We are dedicated and passionate about our garden and although we are no where near the yields we want and need to be more self-sufficient, we get better every year at the garden as a whole and are slowly closing the sustainability loop.
What tools do you use in your garden to save, time money and effort? I’d love to glean some tips!