Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 4/16/2005 1:55:35 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
At the beginning of a new year it’s tempting to look back on the previous year and think of ways to do things better in the coming year. A worthy goal for gardeners is to keep better records of their gardening activities.
Why? Because keeping good records can help make you a better, more successful gardener. Records help you to remember what worked and what didn’t, and this makes your gardening efforts more effective and helps you avoid past mistakes.
There are a number of important things you should keep track of. For example, keep planting information, such as what, how many and when plants were planted. Did any die? When did insect or disease problems appear, and what treatments were used? When and how much fertilizer was applied? Which bedding plant and vegetable cultivars were the most successful, and which were flops? Also record weather information and anything else you think is important.
Keeping these records doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some ideas:
Buy a 2005 calendar with big daily square spaces. When you come in from the garden, stop and jot a few brief notes in that day’s square. It takes just a few minutes to note the essentials.
You’ll be surprised at the amount of useful information you will have accumulated by year’s end. At that time, you can sit down with the calendar and summarize the performance of plants, when different things happened in the garden, such as pest outbreaks and peak blooming periods, weather conditions and when plants were planted.
Photographs and videotapes also can be very valuable in making garden records.
The appearance of a garden can change radically from one season to the next. A visual record often is invaluable, particularly when it comes to remembering what color combinations were especially attractive – or which color combinations you don’t want to repeat.
Photos and videos also are quick ways to record where and what things were planted. This really is easy to do with digital cameras and computers.
As you play back the videotape or go through your photos, it is amazing to watch the transformations that take place through a year and from year to year.
Keep Records On File Cards
A handy way to keep track of the performance of vegetable and ornamental plants in the landscape is to make notes on file cards.
It’s easy to separate these cards into various categories with dividers. As comments are recorded, the cards are placed into the category they refer to such as "Rose Bed" or "Front Lawn" or "Tomatoes." Don’t forget to date all of your entries.
This record system makes it a snap to look up information on a particular plant or landscape area by reading the cards in that particular category.
Start A Journal
A journal is like a diary and can be a very satisfying way to make garden records. Although this is a more time-consuming method, it gives you the opportunity to record comments, feelings and details that breathe life into your records. You also can use it to develop ideas and plans for future gardening efforts.
For practical recording, a notebook or journal is more likely to be used if it’s handy to the garden. To keep the notebook readily available, clean and dry, some gardeners install a mailbox on a post in their garden. The mailbox can be painted decoratively and become a nice accent piece in the garden.
Then you can keep the notebook in the mailbox and never have to put off jotting down information until you go into the house. The mailbox also makes a good place to stash garden gloves and small tools.
Use Your Computer
In this age of computers, don’t forget computers also can function very effectively in garden record keeping.
Virtually any method of record keeping can be adapted to the computer. An advantage of computer record keeping is the ability to organize information in a variety of ways, edit entries easily, make duplicates of information and store information in the computer as printed copies or on CDs or diskettes.
With a computer, you can even combine techniques. For instance, it’s easy to paste a digital photograph of a garden bed next to the journal entry that discusses it. Digital images of insect, weed and disease problems can be pasted into text that identifies the problem and includes control recommendations. (You could even include links to Web sites you have found that are helpful in identifying and controlling pest problems.)
It’s never too late to start keeping gardening records. Why not start tomorrow? If not tomorrow, then definitely soon. Once you see how useful the information is to your gardening efforts, you will realize it is well worth the effort.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.