Let me conclude my last post by adding the final element of the record-keeping system….a behavioral one. Even all the finest tags and notebooks won’t mean a thing if you never actually update them. Beside making the initial seeding entry, you’ve got to get out into your garden, notebook in hand, look at those numbered tags, then write down your observations. At the very least, make a few notes at the major transition points. For example, when you transplant your seedlings write a thing or two about how you prepared the soil, what was in the bed prior, what fertilizer you applied if any (might as well also note the continuous calendar day number of the transplanting…see previous post if this doesn’t make sense). The next major notable point would be harvest, but I’m hoping you’ll take a little time before then to write down some other important things. How’s the weather been, and how does this season compare to years past? Are your plants looking healthy or not? If no, have you tried any interventions, and if yes, has there been any response? At harvest you may note anything from the frequency of harvest (as in….”Got jalapenos until mid- November this year – late frost, yes!”) to size of fruit (as in “Can’t believe how big the pumpkins are this year….could it have anything to do with the bag of fertilizer I spilled while planting?”) All this stuff is going to be grist for the mill some winter or early spring day when you reread the journal and try to tease out its suggestions for the next season.
Find a time to get out there just for observation and note taking. When I was a farmer, I walked my land every Monday morning, notebook in hand, taking notes on the progress of the crops and simultaneously making my to-do lists for the week. On the home garden scale, I am likely to do my walkabout on a Sunday morning before reading the paper, or maybe I am observing things on a summer’s eve while hand watering then coming in and writing down what I noted. It could even expand into a kind of Artist’s Way practice, where you are moving about the garden every day, writing about whatever comes into your frame of view for 10 or 20 minutes. The important thing is JUST DO IT. This is how you will grow in wisdom as a gardener, maybe even as a naturalist, and possibly as a human as well.
Above and below are some pages from my past rooftop garden journals. As you can see, I didn’t limit myself to words alone – sketches are great, too.