Inside: The best way to prepare for next year is by taking end of season garden notes. Evaluate your garden with these simple tips.
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It’s late fall, and one important task remains on my to-do list: taking end of season garden notes. By jotting down observations now, I hope to improve on next year’s garden and make the work load more manageable for all I want to accomplish. My aspirations tend to be bigger than my ability to carry them out. With some fine-tuning I hope to be more efficient with the time I have for outdoor projects. That’s the plan, anyway.
Make a list of garden areas
First I make a list of every area I garden, dividing that between flowers and food. For me there are several in the food category: large raised garden plot; small rectangle raised garden bed; small plot on east side; cole crops, strawberry, cucumber, and herb beds; new plot around fallen log, and two large tubs on the west end of my house. I also have peach and apple trees and an almond tree that needs some love. For the flowers, I have my perennials bed, west flower bed, the stump, small rock garden, containers around steps, and containers around trees.
Ask Two Simple Questions
Next I ask myself two simple questions: what worked and what didn’t work. Revisiting each garden area, I pay attention to such items as the performance of vegetable, fruit, and flower varieties, soil prep, weather conditions, and my participation in it. The latter meaning my time and effort. Did I slack off at some point? Lose interest? Not give enough attention to something? All of these are taken into consideration as I jot down notes for each area. But it still boils down to what was successful and what fell short of my expectations.
For example, when I look at the small rectangle garden bed, I have these observations:
I was happy with this new bed I constructed by taking small logs of various heights (roughly firewood size) and placing them on end. Turned out great. Tried my hand at hay bale gardening with mixed reviews. Peppers did okay (they don’t like overly wet conditions), but they didn’t have enough fertilizer. The bales collapsed more than I had anticipated, which posed a challenge. (I stuffed loose hay into the bed in places.) I liked the marconis (pepper variety) but didn’t care for the shishitos (another variety). All peppers perked up in early fall, and I couldn’t figure out why until I remembered a little habit I’d developed mid to late season. Whenever I emptied out the compost bucket, I’d turn on the pump and fill the bucket with water to rinse. I started dumping that rinse water onto the hay bales, and after several weeks the compost rinse water really made a difference. What I absolutely love about gardening are these little discoveries that work–particularly the happy accidents.
Lest you get the impression all of my notes are this elaborate, I assure you they aren’t. Looking over my flower containers under the trees, there isn’t much to report:
Coleus continues to do well in shade. Height of season sun path and hot weather cause containers to dry out quicker, needing attention. Pink polka dot plant did well in a container with pink begonias.
Keep a Garden Planner
Purchasing a notebook for your garden notes is a good idea. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple thin notebook, the kind that are a steal when school supplies go on sale, will do just fine. If you want to part with a little green (pun not intended), you can find a nice selection of planners online. The one from The Old Farmer’s Almanac caught my eye and will probably end up on my Christmas list.
Whatever you choose, you’ll be in good company. Years ago when my family toured the gardens at Monticello and later at Mount Vernon, I learned that both of these Founding Fathers took many notes concerning the plant life on their farms. My impression was that Washington’s managerial skills motivated him to keep good records while I believe Jefferson’s pure love of the natural world and discovery prompted him to jot down observations. I’m a mixture of these motivations.
Whatever the reason you decide for taking notes, now is a good time to start! Your spring 2018 self will thank you!
How did your garden grow? Tell us about it in the comments.