As home gardeners, a garden journal can be a valuable tool. Keeping one will help you learn from your successes and failures by keeping track of those details before they’re forgotten. A journal can be as simple as a spiral bound notebook or as elaborate as a leather-bound volume. Maybe you’d prefer to computerize your notes; it’s all up to you. For some people, a few brief written comments may suffice. If a photograph would help, take some pictures. Making diagrams and/or sketches of planted areas may also prove quite useful in trying to recall what is planted where. Rough out a crude drawing of the areas you’re working so hard to improve. Such visual reminders will help you remember where you’ve planted those hosts, for example, and where those daylilies sprout.
Before you begin put the garden to bed, take stock of this year’s growing season. How does the yard look? Are your plantings creating the appearance you desire? Be as critical as you please when you survey your domain. Did the shade garden area really work out well? How are the annuals and color spots looking—did the plants thrive or were they too weak to fully thrive? Have trees and other large plants grown so much that formerly sunny areas are now too shady? Will pruning help, or is shifting things around a better option?
We learn as much from our failures as we do from successes. Did you start your plants from seeds indoors? How well did they grow? Would it be better to set them out earlier—or later—next year? Write down those details now, before you forget them. If a particular plant or even an entire flower bed turned out to be spectacular in its blooming glory, record the details in your journal. Conversely, if one spot proved to be too shady for certain sun-loving plants, mark out a different location for them next year.
Then, during the cold, dreary winter months, you can plan next summer’s layout. Asking yourself questions like these, and writing down your thoughts, conclusions and fresh possibilities will help you when next year’s gardening season arrives. Be as grandiose or conservative as you please in your sketches, assessments and plans. Over time, keeping a garden journal will bring you more pleasure and success as your garden takes shape.
— By Mary C. Moss, Master Gardener, Wayne County