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Garden Diary: For The Record

So much more than a place to record your successes and failures in the garden, a diary can help you to connect with your patch, understand your environment and maximise your yield.

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A diary can be as elaborate or simple as you like. Photos By Kel Buckley

It might seem like just another task that’s taking you away from the time you’ve set aside to get stuck into your garden, but jotting some things down about what you observe and learn along the way can make a significant difference to how much food you’re able to harvest from your patch.

At the time, certain successes and failures can seem like something you’d never forget, but as each season passes, and new highs and lows occur in your garden, it’s easy for things we learn to slip from our minds over time. So by noting things down – as briefly or elaborately as you like – not only is it making it easier to remember a particular moment in time, but it’s growing our understanding of our gardens and helping us form a deeper connection to our patch.

Planning Ahead

A successful garden diary, however, is more than just jotting down things that have occurred in the past. For food growers, a garden diary is hugely beneficial in terms of planning what needs to go into the ground and when, to make sure you’re ready to go when the weather is.

After a year or two of seasonal records, you’ll have a heads up about what you need to start from seed at a certain time in order for it to be strong enough to plant out in the garden at the optimal time. You might learn that your winter vegies need about a month in the greenhouse before they’re ready to go in the garden, so you can make a note to remind yourself that it’s time to think about seeding things up.

A diary can aid successful succession planting, too. Many of us have the best intentions to practise succession planting in order to maximise the usability of what we grow and to minimise gluts, but helpful reminders and diary entries can help a lot when our lives get busy.

As well as making notes about the wins and successes you have in the garden, it’s really important to record any failures you have too, along with any reason you can think of why they may have occurred.

The Seasons

There’s some really obvious benefits that come with jotting down things you learn as you go in the garden. Germination rates, dates to maturity, certain pests that have sprung up at certain times are all examples.

But the more you write down and the more you’re encouraged to think about why something has happened in your patch, then the more connected you’ll become to your environment, to your soils and to your seasons.

As well as being able to track things that are growing from year to year, a well-documented garden diary also allows you to track how the seasons are changing over longer periods of time. So you might note down that you started harvesting a certain thing on a certain date, but the next year it may be a week or two later even though you planted the same variety and at the same time. By adding into the equation what your observations or diary entries have also taught you about temperature and rainfall for your area, you’ll begin to develop a better understanding about why certain things are happening in your garden, and maybe even learn to predict certain outcomes, too.

results
The results of experimenting with different trellising options is a great thing to record
diary
A diary helps with successful crop rotation and succession planting
Germination
Germination rates is valuable information to have from season to season
disease
Noting down the weather conditions when certain diseases occur will deepen your understanding

The Sun

Garnering a longer-term understanding of your environment can be invaluable. A good example is noticing and recording where and how the sun moves across your yard at different times of the year. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate or complex entry, it may be as simple as drawing an outline of your yard, balcony or garden beds, and then, at the same time on the first day of each month, you shade in which areas of the garden are in full sun, which areas are in full shade and which areas are receiving dappled light.

This is invaluable knowledge when it comes to planning when and where you’ll plant certain things in order to give them the best chance at producing a high yield.

Words And Pictures

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a wordsmith – little drawings depicting a bug, a disease that appears on a leaf or even a quick diagram of what’s planted where in a garden bed in a particular year can often be more descriptive or informative than using words anyway.

Of course there’s an array of digital offerings and apps which will purport to save you time and effort in recording all the goings on in your garden, and for a lot of people, they may be well suited. But there’s a lot to be said for leaving the digital world behind when you’re stepping into your garden space, and building up a couple of years of garden diaries is a lovely and rewarding thing to have on your bookshelf to be able to refer back to.

Recognising Patterns

Once we can begin to recognise patterns, we become better gardeners. And recording the important events that are happening in and around the garden means we can make better decisions around where we’re spending our time and effort.

Understanding which varieties flourish in your particular soils should mean you have fewer failures, so will recording the growth rates of different things; it might be bought seedlings versus raised seedlings, or saved seed versus bought seed. Of course there are so many variables from year to year, the level of rainfall is an obvious one, or there might years that bring a particularly severe case of a certain pest or disease. Being able to refer back to your garden diary to see what you used to combat a pest or encourage a particular outcome will eventually be like asking that hugely knowledgable friend how they deal with certain things in their garden.

Getting Started

A blank notebook can be really daunting, so if you find yourself looking at blank page and wondering where and how to start, an easier way might be to get started with a calendar (Pip’s Kitchen Garden Calendar is perfect!). Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, a day-to-a-page planner or diary will at least show you exactly where to start.

That way, instead of feeling like you need to set a page up with dates and things, start the process by jotting down simple things you want to remind yourself of for next year’s growing season. This might be when the first or last frost of the season occurs, or noting down the time a particular seed took to germinate in the greenhouse or in the garden bed.

And once you start to see the benefits of being able to refer back to what happened when along your gardening journey, you’ll be more inclined to want to record more things more often.

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