Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Simplicity is success ...

"Simplicity is success."
                                                                                           -- Evelyn Corley Buzbee

It wasn't until after my grandmother, Evelyn Corley Buzbee, passed away that we found her gardening notes.  They were from speeches about gardening she had made all across America as she toured the country judging daylilies and hostas.  

Though this was many years ago,  I believe the messages in her notes are especially pertinent today.  I often hear from people that they do not know which way to turn with all the information available to them about gardening -- it seems almost overwhelming, especially to beginning gardeners.  To these people, my sugggestion is to keep it simple, because simplicity really is success.  And the best way to keep it simple is to start your garden with methods, ideas and plants that are compatible with you.

For instance, if you're planning to grow vegetables for the first time, start with the ones that you love.  This is a wonderful starting place, and such a simple concept.  Yet, it is this concept that will carry you through your very first season of growing and the challenges you will face.  And you will face challenges, no matter how simple you keep things -- that's the nature of nature.  There truly is so much to learn, yet you'll be greeting that learning curve from the perspective of growing things you love.  So simple, yet so far-reaching.

Simplicity is success -- thank you, Grandmother :)


Monday, January 30, 2012

Keep records about the garden? Is that a joke?

I'll never forget the first time someone told me I needed to keep basic records of things I was doing in my garden -- was this a joke?  I thought, 'How hard can it be?  Plant a seed, water it, eat it.  Keep records?  I think I'll skip that part and get right to the growing my own food part.

True to form, I had never tried growing anything, yet my plan was to grow all my own vegetables.  And that first person who told me to keep basic records?  It was my step-father, who had been gardening and farming for more than 50 years.  Oh, how much I've learned since that first year ...

Though I did get some food that first year, it was a constant struggle.  I could not understand how other people's gardens looked so lush and beautiful, and mine seemed to be having a near-death experience on a daily basis.  Still, when spring rolled around the next year, I caught the fever and decided that this year would be better, and to try again.  So I called my mother to see if it was time to plant yet.

My step-father answered the phone.  Laughing at my obviously ridiculous question, he said "Look at your notes from last year!"

Shamed into it, I decided to at least give it a try and write down the basics -- when it rained and how much, what I planted and when, and how it all fared.  Within a few weeks, I could not believe the treasure-trove of information I was building -- I marveled.  Still, I was constantly wondering about things from the year before -- did we get this much rain last year?  Which variety of tomato was it that did so well?  Which one didn't?  That's when I realized the value of building on it year after year. 

Years later now, as every season passes and I take a few minutes here and there to jot something down, the wealth of information expands -- my record book truly has become one of my most precious possessions.

Today as I am drooling over seed catalogs, my record book is right next to me so I can quickly see which varieties worked well in the past.  I'm also recording the extraordinarily warm weather we are having this winter, and what that is doing to my backyard world. For instance, last year I didn't see the first daffodil bloom until February 18, but this year, the buds are ready to pop right now.  You better believe I am looking for that bloom every day, just so I can note it in my record book.  And the bullfrogs are already singing down by the pond -- which I recorded in my book, simply because it was such a shock to my system to hear them in January.

The more time you spend in your garden and backyard world, the more you notice.  The more you notice, the more you record.  The more you record, the more you marvel.

What once seemed like a joke to me is now one of my greatest pleasures.  Whether you purchase the Perpetual Gardening Record Book (cabintiger.com) or make your own, I would encourage you to really get engaged in your garden and backyard world by keeping notes and records of the basics -- as well as the anomalies.  Before you know it, you will be marveling at all that goes on in your own backyard world.