Expert offers some good reasons to keep garden records

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.  |  1/4/2011 1:07:44 AM

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For Release On Or After 01/29/10

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. 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 remember what worked and what didn’t, and this makes your gardening efforts more effective and helps you avoid past mistakes.

You should keep track of a number of important things, such as:

– Planting information – what, how many and when plants were planted.

– Did any plants 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 varieties were the most successful and which were flops?

Also record weather information and anything else you think is important.

Mark a calendar

Buy a 2010 calendar with big square spaces for each day. 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.

Although it may not be very detailed, you’ll be surprised at the amount of useful information you’ll have accumulated by year’s end. Then, you can sit down with the calendar and summarize plant performance, when things such as pest outbreaks and peak blooming periods occurred, weather conditions and when plants were planted.

Take a picture

Photographs and video recordings can be very valuable in making a garden record. A garden’s appearance can change radically from one season to the next. A visual record is often invaluable, particularly when it comes to remembering what color combinations were especially attractive or not to be repeated. It’s also a quick way to record what you planted where. This is really easy to do with digital cameras and computers.

As you play back the video or go through your photos, you’ll be amazed to watch the transformations that take place through a year and from year to year

Keep records on file

Another 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 the cards into various categories. As you record comments, place the cards in the appropriate category, such as “Rose Bed” or “Front Lawn” or “Tomatoes.” Don’t forget to date all 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 satisfying way to make garden records. Although this is more time-consuming, 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 is more useful if it’s handy to the garden. To keep the notebook readily available, clean and dry, put it in a safe place such as a mailbox or similar water-tight container on a post in the garden. It can be painted decoratively and become a nice accent piece. This also makes a good place to stash garden gloves and small tools.

Use your computer

In this age of computers, don’t forget they also can function effectively in garden record keeping. You can adapt virtually any method of record keeping to the computer. An advantage of a computer is the ability to organize information in a variety of ways, edit entries easily, make duplicates of information and store them as hard copies or on CDs.

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 helpful Web sites you’ve found.

Start tomorrow

If you don’t start keeping garden records tomorrow, definitely do it soon. Once you see how useful the information can be for your gardening efforts, you’ll realize record keeping is well worth the effort.

Rick Bogren

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