26 July, 2016

Garden Journals

A photo from a 1990 journal, planting seeds of California
Natives for a new nursery. A Haws 2 Imperial Gallon
watering can is visible on the extreme left. Don't look
at the skinny guy in the center of the photograph.

From high school on, I have kept a notebook close at hand to record inspiration, to reconcile accounts and to hold information that I wished to have access to without trying to memorize.

These notebooks originally sprang from my early days as a Beatnik Poet wannabe – the first of them were all “creative writing” notebooks and the first ones were my actual assignments for Creative Writing classes. After my formal schooling was done, I continued with the notebooks and they evolved over the years. Mind you, now that I am in my 60's I have accumulated a rather large store of these and the recent loss of a free storage area has necessitated a rather drastic culling of these notebooks.

I went through each notebook, looking for any good writing and/or anything important and was stunned at the amount of effort I put into so many of these notebooks and there were several particularly germane to my life today: I found old garden notes!

Written in Kansas during my first marriage, my first outdoor garden as an adult – I mean the first garden I was completely responsible for – had its own group of notes. I was excited to see these; I knew I had gardened at that time, and I even had lessons I had learned that I still support, but I forgot I had kept these written notes. I was impressed that I planted 6 Big Boy tomatoes I bought at K-Mart (I wrote this down) but I also grew 6 Rutgers tomatoes that I knew from my Grandfather's garden – which means I had grown them from seed. I did the same with peppers – some were purchased, others I grew out myself from seed.  I had forgotten I was completely a seedhead from the very beginning. One page was a list of seed houses I intended to make certain I had their catalogs before the next year's plantings were being considered.  I suppose I came up with the list by remembering the plethora of seed catalogs I had been accustomed to at my Grandfather's home.  In Kansas, in winter, with frozen ground and snow, looking at photos of luscious tomatoes and other vegetables counts for gardening time.  I was particularly obsessed with those catalogs.

I had no recollection of keeping a garden journal. I did remember that same year, I planted two rows of pole beans – one was Kentucky Wonder, an old variety that maintains a good deal of popularity even today, and the other row was an experiment with Romano, a large flat Italian bean. I walked away from that year totally nuts about Romano beans! I had a 5:1 ratio of harvest from the Romanos, which, bean by bean, were larger than the Wonders and they produced over a much longer time than the Wonders. I did not plant another type of bean until my 2nd marriage – she detested Romanos. Funny that.

I teach gardening students to have a garden notebook – though nowadays it is much more likely to be on a computer. Some students, still favor hand \-written notes – usually those with good handwriting skills. I have seen works of art turned in as garden journals – drawings and glued plant ID labels, hand-drawn maps and so on.

Others, like me, use computers today. Each day I enter weather information (it's an easy cut and paste from an internet weather site) and my drawings are usually done with the mediocre drawing tools in my word processor. It is better than anything I could hand draw. But these paragraphs here and there make a long history of gardening. I have photos of insects, diseases, and fungus infestations alongside photos of hundreds of tomatoes and peppers – floral arrangements and stacks of canned and pickled food.

Obviously, we can't remember everything. Being able to make a record so easily on the computer, with photos from our phones, there is no good reason every one of us should not employ a garden journal to help us with our ever learning process in the garden.

A flawed photo, but in 1993 this was 1/3 of the Persimmon
tomato harvest - they are big yellow ones.  We had 7 tomatoes
off six plants - these were the tiny ones because we ate the
others right off! they were HUGE and tasty The photo may be
flawed, but the memory it inspires is still precious.