I was raised by my grandmother who was a great cook and gardener and was always jotting down –as she put it–“what she had learned that day”. She referred to those notes often-and swore that she would have been lost without them. She taught me a valuable lesson-and it has served me very well over my years as a gardener.
Journaling is the ultimate gardening tool. A journal-based on your own trial and error gardening over the years- is the best book on gardening that you could possibly refer to. It is– as my grandmother said -a record of what you have learned -as you grew in your gardening skills. A written record is one that you can rely on-because it is written as you go-and serves as a much more reliable way to “get it right” than just leaving it up to remembering ( our memories can sometimes fail us).
As a gardener I use all sorts of notes to refresh my memory of the information that is so important to successful gardening. I keep lists of varieties and notes on which ones were best and which ones disappointed me. ( FYI-it is as important to record failures as it is to brag onyour successes.)
I note the dates that I plant plants and seeds and how they react to different types of weather. (For instance I learned that zinnias and marigolds do much better and last longer if you wait until mid summer to plant them so that they can skip our usually wet springs ) I may not have noticed this if I hadn’t had notes from different years to compare.
Thanks to digital photography we can easily take pictures and save them as reminders too. Sometimes pictures can jog your memory of just how pretty a particular combination of plants looked that year– or they can record important facts like knowing how the sun moves across your landscape in July which is so important when picking the perfect sun or shade spot for a plant. (July is the hottest time of the year and also when the sun is all the way as far north as it will get.) One of the greatest stresses on any plant is being planted in too much sun or shade. If you have never done a sun track in July-make yourself a note to do one this July. I guarantee that you will have at least one surprise-no matter how long you have lived and gardened there. Take a picture of the same area about every 2 hours from sun up to sun down. Use this record as a refresher of what you learned before planting new plants. If you have the Lucy’s Picks garden design CD you will notice that I give you very precise sun and shade information on each plant…. even if you think that you have mostly shade-you need to know what is actually happening all day.
A picture can be a great record as well as a treasured keepsake. Please be aware that the Lucy’s Picks CD also has room on the last page of every plant selection for you to add your own notes. your own experiences can add even more to the knowledge bank of this great interactive garden design tool. Many of you have one of the Ladies Of The Garden Journals that Patricia Cowan and I wrote in 1995. That journal format consisted of month by month information from us and also left several pages each month for you to fill in from one year to the next. This form of journaling gives you notes from several years all in one section for easy reference. I prefer this format for my records because our month to month weather tends to be so different from year to
year- not to mention so erratic from one day to the next. Realizing this has given me a very successful approach to gardening in North Central Texas-I plan to be ready for anything that could happen—just-in-case. So if we get a last minute freeze in late March—I am prepared to cover warm season annuals – but I really hope that I don’t have to.
In 2013, technology has given us many new ways that we can journal– and there’s still the old fashion way too. Make your records fit your lifestyle. I keep hand written gardening journals- mainly because I already know how to use a pencil. No matter what journaling tool you choose– it is a great way to make you a more successful gardener. It doesn’t matter if
you are just starting or are already a seasoned gardener- Start writing your own journal-and learn more
Love & Luck, Lucy