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 ( 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.