Keep notes on today’s garden to help you grow tomorrow’s

By George Bria Associated Press Writer
Wednesday February 28, 2001

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. — Sooner or later a gardener finds the need to keep a journal. From simple jottings in a notebook to entries in a computer database, today’s diary helps to grow tomorrow’s garden. 

No garden is like another and thus a journal is especially valuable in recording what happens in your own. When do your flowers bloom or your vegetables mature? Knowing the dates lets you create a garden that flowers in spring, summer and fall and keeps fresh vegetables on the table through the seasons. 

What’s the weather like each day? When did rabbit, raccoon or deer last get over or through the fence? 

To aid you in crop rotation, keep track of where you plant your tomatoes, corn or beans each year. Moving them around makes for healthier plants. And your records show whether your harvests from perennials like asparagus and raspberries are in good shape or if the plants need help. You might think your tomatoes are late, but looking in your journal you find they’re actually early compared to two years ago. 

Also, you can record where you bought plants, seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, their performance and their cost. 

Thomas Jefferson, a tireless gardener, started a journal when he was only 22. His first note, written in Virginia on March 30, 1766, said, “purple hyacinth begins to bloom.” He kept such brief reminders even when he was president. All of these, together with his garden correspondence and writings, are preserved in Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, published by the American Philosophical Society, Independence Square, Philadelphia. 

Always interested in new technology, Jefferson would likely have welcomed and experimented with today’s gardening software, which helps you keep a many-sided gardening journal, including even video and design. You can buy ready-made programs or craft your own from generic database applications. A big plus in a computerized journal is the search facility, enabling you to find an old record instantly. 

If you want to try out software, a Canadian firm offers one that you can download online or mail-order cheaply. Go to www.gardeners-shop.com/GardenersJournal/Index.html or write to Marco Software, 9 Cellini Court, Ottawa, Ontario, K1G 5J7, Tel. (613) 247-1336. 

Over the years, I’ve kept records with programs like that one and designed my own database, but settled finally with just doing the job with my word processor. I print them out at the end of the year, thus having both a paper and an electronic record. The beauty, of course, is that you can edit as you go along. 

Jottings do the job, too, but your handwriting better be good if you expect to read them next year.