Urban Homesteading — a Garden Journal

| 3/11/2010 1:37:31 PM

I’ve always been in awe of the wonderful gardening journals I’ve seen in bookstores. Their records span decades of detailed notes on varieties, weather and harvesting. And, they’re frequently illustrated with lovely fine ink sketches or delicate watercolors. Having gardened for a number of decades myself, I could have a similar collection of reportings on the successes and failures in my gardens from Pennsylvania to Washington State. But, in fact, I have never managed to keep a record going for more than the first week of spring planting — until now!

Last weekend, I pulled out the notebook that had a few pathetic garden entries in it from years past and drew out the five raised beds in my backyard. I labeled each bed with the veggies I planted last spring, along with notes about the harvest — or not! I had planted onion sets between the two rows of potatoes. The potatoes grew faster than the onions, and eventually smothered them and cut off all sun to the struggling onions.

Amazingly, I was able to find last year’s seed packets and made a list of the varieties and which if any I wouldn’t plant again. Actually, there were two varieties of vegetables I’ll want to replace this year. The first is the kind of green beans we grew — pole beans; they did too well! How can that be? Well, we put up a nice two-sided chicken-wire fence for them to grow on. The trouble was the fence was only four-feet high and the beans grew about 12 feet tall. The vines reached for the sky, encountered other vines to hug, grew a bit taller and cascaded to the ground. The beans themselves were all tangled up in the cascading mess. This year we’re planting bush beans!

The other less-than-stellar veggie was the arugula. Not paying close attention to the package label, I ended up with "wild arugula" (Diplotaxis muralis), when what I wanted and have successfully planted previously was Eruca vesicaria. The flavors are similar, but Eruca has a more substantial leaf.  Interestingly, Eruca is also perennial in some areas of the country.

This year, a group of us here ordered a variety of potatoes from Wood Prairie Farm, in Maine. I have five varieties to plant in my 4-by-8-foot raised bed. They’ll get planted fairly close together, but that’s OK. And here in the office, we have three flats of peppers and tomatoes just sprouting — four kinds of peppers and eight varieties of tomatoes. A few of these will go into another raised bed.

Back to the garden journal: I’ve drawn out the five beds again and soon will figure which will house what plants. We did a great article in the February/March 2010 issue on crop rotation that should help me to know what to plant where. I’m planning to make notes on what we harvest during the growing season. It would be fun to know how much money we saved growing some of our own food. I’ll let you know how the journaling goes!

6/7/2010 3:23:50 PM

I've started my garden journal before I've even got my garden set up. Figure this will be the "resource" section since it has notes on just about everything -- companion planting, crop rotations, seed sources, plant restrictions in AK, natural pest control, composting an soil amendments, successful varieties locals have mentioned, season extenders... you name it. One thing I'd really like to do, maybe this coming winter when it's too cold to go outside, is make a template page for my journal so I can easily jot down notes, attach seed packets and photos (lots - in all growth stages for easy identification when hubby does the weeding!). Once my beds are built, making a computerized template diagram will make it easy to update what is where each year/season and to figure out different plans before planting. If figure that keeping all this on the computer, and burned to CD/DVD, but only having one or two years of printed journals at the desk will help reduce all the paper clutter... sure don't need yet another filing cabinet taking up our minimal living space!

LIz _1
4/14/2010 2:53:03 PM

This is too funny- I just wrote a blog of my own about garden journaling and am about to publish it! It will be up at Frolics From Scratch (http://batchworthlane.blogspot.com) shortly.

3/18/2010 12:03:49 PM

I've kept a running journal, mainly diagrams, of what we've planted and how it has done and what I need to do to make more productive changes in the garden. One thing we have made a conscious effort in is limiting or dismissing the use of pesticides on the garden. We have used SEVIN on our grape plant for Beetle control, but haven't seen reason to use it on the garden. We are interested in applying only natural bug deterrents and constantly research how to control weeds and bugs naturally. A log or journal, I feel is absolutely mandatory mainly due to performance and crop rotation and keeping track of plantings that cooperate with each other. We're adding on to our garden, with a twin 8'x48' foot raised bed to go with the first and perhaps another 8'x32' bed to add before a late-spring planting session... This will give us 3 beds where we can easily rotate crops nearly every year.... We'll probably add 2 more large beds in 2011 for strawberries and that important 4th bed for fallow years... Thanks for another great article.

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