Successful Gardening Means Recordkeeping

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A couple years back I paid 25 cents for an unused gardening journal at a church rummage sale. When I got it home my husband asked me, “Why on earth did you buy that?” Wouldn’t you know, we started using it that spring and since then the journal has become like a bible for us. We consult it regularly, and I’m not even sure how we ever lived without it!

A gardening journal helps you keep track of what you planted where and when. Equally important if you put food up, you can use it to record your yield and consumption as well. Tomatoes are one of our largest and most important crops. Last year we wrote in the journal that we had 16 tomato plants. We froze and canned 25 quarts of whole tomatoes, canned a dozen pints each of salsa and pizza sauce, and canned half a dozen quarts of spaghetti sauce. I’m about out of frozen tomatoes, but I have too much pizza sauce and not enough salsa. Being able to look back with accuracy rather than trying to rely on memory helps inform what seeds we’ve started and what we’ll aim to put in the ground this year. It will also play a role in deciding how we preserve our harvest this coming fall.

The journal helps us stay on track, so we know what we’re supposed to be doing each week, especially at this time of year when we have so many different kinds of seeds to start. Some of our crops, mostly pumpkins and winter squashes, require as long as a 120-day growing season, which is pushing it for our area. Timing is critical for getting the seeds started and figuring out when we can plant. Last year I harvested more than 150 pounds of squash and pumpkins. We’ve eaten all but one frozen quart and won’t harvest again until late September, so I know this year to try to put in a few more plants. (Don’t ask me how we’ll fit them in the garden, though!)

Another value of the journal is keeping track of your crop rotation. We use graph paper and sketch out the garden each year as we go along. We look back at several years of sketches to make sure we aren’t planting the same things in the same place too often.

Reading the journal brings back memories for us, good and bad. We record floods and droughts. We also record firsts – first tomato of the year, first zucchini, etc. I enjoyed picking up the journal during our long, hard winter this year just to remind myself of the possibility of summer.

The journal I have is only meant for a single-year use but I’m cramming it full of as many years as I can. It’s easier if everything is in one place and why buy another? If you aren’t keeping a written record of your gardening activities, it’s never too late to start. Maybe you’ll get lucky too and find a garden journal a local rummage sale.