27 September, 2008

Garden Journals

All our attempts at gardening are more or less experiments and there is no book written on gardening that will prove more helpful to you than the one you write about your own garden. Gardening, I heard said, teaches one to think ahead a few months in meal planning – I would reflect that in some ways, if you buy that statement, that gardening even would push someone to plan ahead in terms of years about what’s eventually for dinner.

There are more ways to keep a garden journal now days than there are varieties of apples to grow.

Everyone’s journal should be as different as gardens are different and that’s part of the wonder of gardening. And garden journaling.

Some possible choices for a garden journal:

An internet based format
A computer based format
Or a good old fashioned ‘write with a pencil and glue in photos from a camera’ kind

An Internet Based Garden Journal

One site is actually called “The Garden Journals” – at http://thegardenjournals.org/. They provide nothing more than a blog kind of template that you can use to record your garden’s progress online.

Or you can just create a blog with any one of over a dozen sites that host blogs. Just so we are on the same page a blog is only a log of your thoughts or observations and can be on any subject your heart desires. They couldn’t call it a “log” as that word already had a specific meaning, so the ‘b’ was pulled off the word “web” and appended to “log” and that’s how we are all talking about ‘blogs.’

Blogspot, of course, hosts this blog at http://lagarden.blogspot.com/, but there are many others one can use. Blogspot has the most robust tool kit and easy to use interface – that’s why I use it.

I also use the Kitchen Gardeners’ International site; and this has place for your observations too. The Learning Garden’s space is http://my.kitchengardeners.org/profile/TheLearningGarden – and, though it’s not, it could be used as a blog/journal for gardening information.

If that seems a little too much information to share to the world at large, there are other ways to create a garden journal that is useful to you.

A Computer Based Garden Journal
As in all categories, there is a lot of variety in how one can use a computer to construct a garden journal.

Unlike the internet based journal, this one is more private and you have a variety of tools to make this a viable journal.

I like a computer based journal, I use a Word document, because I can paste digital photos; I can include web links and make tables and import data and charts from Excel. If I choose. Typically most of my journal is text because I am a writer and that’s what works for me.

Others who are much more detail oriented will find Excel, brimming over with pinpoint control in every cell, fills the bill. That’s just too much work for me. If you use Word 2000 or later, the link below lists a lot of templates you can use to create your journal in Word.


Some overtly techie gardeners have used software available for the Palm computer platform.

The Hand Written Journal

The advantage of using a hand written journal is that it can be taken into the garden easily without fear of expensive computer parts being destroyed. It isn’t ‘nice’ to get water all over your garden journal, but computers are positively allergic to dirt and water and expensive to repair or replace – and a hassle if anything goes wrong.

I have used three ring binders, spiral bound notebooks and special little notebooks that are very artsy-craftsy. The latter can be very fun, but aggravating to use over the long haul because they tend to be smaller and, while artistic, about as practical as storing charcoal briquettes in the freezer.

With the three ring binder, I had several different tabbed sections; one was devoted to seed starting, anther to suppliers. But the bulk of it was composed of tabs by month in which, I made entries (nothing like daily, but that was the goal) in what was happening today in the garden.

In those leisurely days, I cut out the “Local Weather” column from the LA Times – there was the minimum/maximum temperatures, as well as the forecast for the immediate future. Next to that pasted in information, I wrote my observations. Also pasted in were the plant tags for plants I had bought (the descriptive sales tool tag with all the information about that variety) and, every so often, the pilfered tags of plants I intended to buy.

The Homestead Garden website offers a free download journal template in the Portable Document Format (PDF), which you cannot change, but you can print out and create your own garden journal. Once you have downloaded the file, you can print off multiple copies of the pages you need the most. In fact their list of pages provides a wonderful glimpse of what one can put in a garden journal, as follows:

 Seed Starting Journal
Dates, days to germination, varieties, quantity, seed packets’ information, planting mix used… started indoors or direct sown?
 Catalog Wishlist
Not only for seeds and plants, but also tools!
 Monthly Journal
Which presumably would be a monthly collection of “Daily Journal” entries?
 Plant Description Journal
Divided into “Plants I Want” and “Plants I Have” – most useful to ornamental gardens
 Printable Garden Sayings
As opposed to “unprintable garden sayings?”
 Daily Journal
 Layout and Design
Every garden journal needs some place for even rudimentary drawings
 Plant Information
This would be a helpful division for information on trees or perennials.
 Garden Contacts
Specialists you might need (tree pruners, specialty growers) – your fellow classmates? Garden clubs nearby – other resources…
 Future Reference
 What's Blooming
Wouldn’t this be a part of the daily journal entries?
 Garden Chore List
Likewise this… Besides, I always thought making a chore list was such a chore… I mean, I do make a ‘chore list’ but I refuse to call it a chore list.
 Wildlife Sightings
Many gardeners get into birding – I look for smaller ‘wildlife’ – like cabbage looper, Lady Bugs and so on… Ma Possum making her “run” through the garden…
 Garden Reference List
Whatever you like to refer to…

Here is the link to that download:

Other pages they don’t include that I would include:
Books – to read and have been read
Magazines – those that are helpful
Grafting – what I used and what was successful and what was not
Cuttings – as with seeds, this is one way to get a LOT of plants
Harvest report – amount harvested, was it tasty? Different parts of the garden vs. other parts; different years production
Recipes of what to do with the harvest
Insect control – dates and weather information of infestations; observations on beneficial insects in the garden

Garden journals of the artistic often include drawings of wildlife in the garden as well as plants or layouts. For myself, I am grateful for the advent of digital photography which affords me a wonderful tool to circumvent my lack of drawing talent. Alison Starcher turned her drawings of insects she found in her Santa Monica garden into a book – a lovely little book too on beneficials we find growing in the Los Angeles basin.

But all the pages in the world do nothing if you find it too cumbersome to use. Go with as much control as you can deal with combined with the amount of data you find most compelling and you’ll begin to suss through the myriad of choices to arrive at Your Garden Journal.


24 September, 2008

Gardens for Gourmets: Cool/Warm Season

Suggestions for Cool Seasons:

Artichokes (a perennial)
Burpee’s Golden, Chiogga
Premium Crop, Shogun
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage (including Oriental cabbage-like greens)
Mokum, Parris Market
Cauliflower – there are purple ones too!
Argentata, Five Color Silverbeet,
Fava Beans
Windsor; Aprovecho (sometimes appended with “Select”)
Florence Fennel (bulbing)
Romy, Zefa Fino.
Garlic (this is a long season crop, plant in Fall harvest next Summer)
Dinosaur or Black Kale
Carina, King Richard
more varieties than you can shake a stick at – or grow a mix!
Onions (also a long season growing; find “short-day” varieties)
Other leafy salad things
All-Blue, Caribe, Yukon Gold
French Breakfast, Fluo, Easter Egg, Purple Plum

Include all perennial herbs and perennial flowers. In addition, try some fun annuals like calendulas, larkspur, poppies (bread, California or Iceland types), sweet peas, and venidium. Make room for cilantro! Lots of cilantro!!

Suggestions for Warm Seasons:

Lettuce Leaf, Genova Profumatissima,
Beans - drying
Black Turtle
Beans - lima
Beans- snap
Roc d’Or, Romano, Royal Burgundy
Sweet Corn
Early Sunglow, Golden Bantam, Peaches and Cream, Country Gentleman
Lemon, Mideast Prolific
Asian Bride., Rosa Bianca
Peppers (Sweet)
Peppers (Hot)
Squash (Summer)
Zahra, Lebanese White
Squash (Winter)
Acorn, Spaghetti, ornamental gourds
Brandywine, Golden Jubilee, Italian Gold, Orange Sungold, San Remo, Stupice, Sweet 100’s, Yellow Pear and about a thousand others!

Plant from seed or buy transplants at a nursery of fun warm-season annual flowers like marigolds, cleome (watch the stickers!), cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias. These warm season flowers make cheerful bouquets. You can also grow everlasting flowers like statice and gomphrena. The widest selection of flowers and vegetables is available to those who start their own from seed and order by mail from the catalogs above and many, many others.

Gardens for Gourmets: Syllabus

Please note change in the point structure in this syllabus since it was handed out on September 21st!

Course Number: BIOLOGY X 498.6

Instructor: David King
>>phone number redacted<<

I am at The Learning Garden reliably from 10 to 5, Tuesday through Friday and 1:00 to 5, Saturday and Sunday.

There are no prerequisites for this course, although some experience with gardening will prove useful.

All classes will meet at The Learning Garden on the Venice High School campus where it can be hot and cold by turns – but reliably MUCH COOLER than other parts of Los Angeles. For your own comfort, please bring a sweater or coat to every class meeting. We will have access to a classroom for any possible rain events; class will meet regardless of the weather.

Today, gorgeous vegetables, fruits, and herbs from all over the world are available to the contemporary gardener. Explore how a rich variety of food plants can add dashing color and evocative foliage to your garden. We will learn when, how, and what to plant as well as all facets of plant care---from pest control and fertilization to proper pruning. Students will learn tips on choosing from the cornucopia of food plants at their peak of freshness to enhance a garden design in inspired and unexpected ways. Students help create garden beds that show the possibilities discussed in class. While not a cooking course, the instructor also shares recipes and encourages students to bring in their own harvests, so students can cook what they grow.

Textbook Required:
Title Sunset Western Garden Book
Author Brenzel, Kathleen Norris (Editor)
Edition Feb. 2007
Publisher Sunset Books
ISBN 978-0376039170

Textbooks, Recommended:
Title The Kitchen Garden
Author Thompson, Sylvia
Edition First
Publisher Bantam Books
ISBN 0-553-08138-1
*(She has a companion cookbook that is worth investigation too!)

Title Heirloom Vegetable Gardening
Author Weaver, William Woys
Edition First
Publisher Henry Holt
ISBN 0-8050-4025-0

Title Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide
Author Dreistadt, Steve H.
Edition 2nd
Publisher Univ of California Agriculture & Natural Resources
ISBN 978-1879906617

There will be no assigned reading from these books, however, as references, they will prove invaluable to any serious student in this field. There will be bibliographies describing other books as the quarter progresses, I am a ferocious reader and not at all shy about suggesting books I like.

Course Schedule:
21 September, 2008 Introduction/Garden Tour/ Garden journal/ garden layout/tools/seed starting/care of seedlings
28 September, 2008 Soil/Soil Preparation/Use of compost and mulch/planting skills
05 October, 2008 Garden design and Planting Schedules
12 October, 2008 Sub-tropicals for foliage and food/composting
19 October, 2008 Supplies/Sources/Annuals
26 October, 2008 Annuals Continued
02 November, 2008 Perennials/Bulbs {mycology}
09 November, 2008 Trees/Vines
16 November, 2008 Irrigation/maintenance
23 November, 2008 Wrap Up
(Syllabus may be changed liberally as needed to reflect reality.)

Point Assignment Structure

Class participation 30
Journal 30*
Planting Project 40*