Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I live in a city famed for its rain, but within the past two years, I've seen both a foot of accumulated snow in my backyard and 100˚F weather. The most recent meteorological anomaly has been the glorious bout of sun that caused temperatures verging on 60˚F in Seattle in FEBRUARY. All groundhogs aside, the daffodils in my backyard are already seeing their shadows!

But instead of sputtering about things you can't control, like the weather, why not starting taking charge of something you can? Whether you're a seasoned green thumb or a complete newbie, garden record keeping should be a vital part of your regimen.

Your first garden is the hardest one to plan because everything is theoretical. The following crops are suitable for a beginning gardener with a small garden or several large containers. This garden will produce many months of good fresh food, beginning with lettuces and green onions in spring followed by a continuous harvest of the other vegetables through summer until frost.

  • Bush beans
  • Bush peas
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Onions from sets
  • Summer squash
  • Swiss chard (no spinach)
  • Tomatoes (climate permitting)

To plan subsequent gardens, simply adapt the plan used in the previous year, making changes based on what you have learned. It helps to keep weekly notes on a big calendar with plenty of space to write. Keep your records going all summer, even during the busy growing and harvesting months; if you wait until winter to think about lessons learned from the previous summer, you may forget an important note for the coming year. In fact, it helps to do a preliminary plan of your next year's garden each fall while the current growing season is still fresh in your mind.

Your garden records become a valuable tool and offer perspective as you discover that no two gardening years are alike. Weather changes, pest populations fluctuate; even your choice of what to grow will vary. After two or three seasons you will begin to see patterns emerge, and over time you'll grow to understand the conditions unique to your garden.

Sample Garden Record

  • Varieties planted
  • How much seed you used and how much garden space you were able to plant with it
  • Problems encountered-poor germination, insects, disease, bad weather
  • When you began to harvest
  • The yield from each crop
  • Any changes to be made

And if you're in the market for a lovely, keepsake-quality seasonal record book, be sure to check out the Remember Journal from the popular paper-cut artist Nikki McClure.

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