Colorado Master Gardener: Keeping a garden journal
Recently, I was sitting here looking out at the snow falling with seed catalogues laid out all over my desk thinking about planning this year’s garden. What should I grow? When should I plant? What goes in the greenhouse, and what goes outside? What worked last year? What didn’t? Should I try something new this year? Fortunately, my old garden journals will help me with these tough questions.
Through the years working in the gardens at The Home Ranch, I realized that in Routt County we live in a unique area, and our growing season doesn’t always fall in the guidelines of published planting guides. Our best information comes from our own experiences. Creating your own journal or planting guide will be of great value over your years of gardening in Routt County.
There are many different types of journals to choose from, but I recommend starting with a simple planning type calendar that lists the months and dates but does not include the days or use a completely blank journal and create your own gardening calendar. Both will allow you to make entries under a date in subsequent years, color coding each year with a different color ink. After a few years, you will have made your own planting guide.
What to include in your journal? The list is endless, and the more you include the better your personal guide will be down the road. The following are a few ideas to start.
- Latest and earliest frost date and any that may occur in between.
- First spring sightings: when the first crocus pops up, when the garlic you planted last fall emerges, when the tarragon comes back (it is always so late that I am sure it died over the winter).
- When you start seeds inside and then transplant them out, noting how those seedlings did inside and how they made the transition to outside.
- When you direct seed crops outside.
- How much rain falls and when.
- How you prepare your soil, what soil amendments you use and the dates you amend it.
- What you plant each year.
- Crop successes and failures, noting ideas for improvement in the future.
- Crop rotation, throughout the season and from year to year.
- Companion planting trials.
- Diagrams and photos: your garden plan, where you use crop rotation, bugs you encounter and the damage they do, etc.
- What plants you like and don’t like and why.
- Information on plants you purchase so you can get them again if they are a success.
OK, time to start your journal. It can be as simple as stashing your collection of garden notes written on scraps of paper in a notebook. Or it can be a calendar like I’ve just described. Or you can create a work of art and include little botanical illustrations along the edges. In the end, you will know what it takes to garden successfully in Routt County.
Now, I am off to start a new journal of my own.
Adele Carlson has been a Master Gardener since 2007. She lives, gardens and ranches in North Routt. She originally took the Master Gardener class to learn more about weeds and rangeland management, but since has focused on vegetables and flowers.
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