Taking notes in the garden

Taking Notes

Garden Life
Often times, when thinking about gardening, tranquil images spring to mind. Gently wafting through a garden, casually plucking a few flowers, and gathering tomatoes and peas at a leisurely pace. It can be perceived as a peaceful and relaxing hobby, and spending time just being in a garden is exactly that. The stresses of the modern world can just melt away.

However, if you are a serious gardener, this experience more often than not is a rare thing indeed. As gardeners we need to remind ourselves of why we do this and need to take the time to experience this relaxation in the environment we have created.

Most of the time we are out there doing the hard yards, digging to prepare a rich and fertile soil, back breaking weeding to ensure only our desired plants survive and flourish. We spend hours out there with a hose or a hoe keeping the garden looking wonderful. Pests and disease cause us to worry and the cossetted garden receives extra attention to resolve the problems. And then the harvest arrives and the adage for many crops – ‘the more you pick the more you will get’ sounds like a good deal. Yet this requires more work from the garden to bring the harvest in and then process it in a timely manner, so nothing is wasted.

Gardening can be exhausting if not managed properly. It is also one big learning opportunity. Your knowledge and understanding can be improved and refined each season making working smarter, not harder in the garden resemble the stress-free hobby it appears at first glance.

Albert Einstein is believed to have said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results”. And it is so easy in the garden to repeat the mistakes of the previous season, often because it was such a long time ago and we don’t remember what we did, so we do what comes most naturally, which turns out to be what we did last time.
The key to avoiding this cycle of madness and get onto the path of success is to start writing things down. Write everything down. When was is warm enough outside to start preparing the soil, what were your worst weeds and what did you do to get rid of them. What seeds did you buy and what seed did you plant? (Checking your notes often may help you to find a stash of impulse bought seeds are still languishing in the bottom of a shopping bag and will ensure they end up growing in the garden and not remain lost and forgotten.)

Write down how long things took to germinate, how long things took to ripen, and what they tasted like. Just because you have left over seeds from the previous season doesn’t mean you need to use them again – especially if it is for something you didn’t enjoy, but completely forgot you didn’t enjoy them.

Make a note of the pests and diseases that find their way into your garden. Make a note of when they turned up and how long they stayed as often these have times and conditions they prefer. Write down what you did and how well it worked. Often this is more of a note to self not to try that method again as bugs just laughed at it and carried on munching your tender green leaves. Take the time to notice the beneficial insects. When did the ladybirds show up? did hoverflies linger on the dill you accidently let go to seed? Jot it down to deliberately let the dill go to seed next season.
While chatting with a neighbour or friend about local gardening tips and hints that could enhance your gardening experience, especially if you are new to the area, write it down. Having said that it does always pay to check old wives tales and internet ‘hacks’ against a reputable source as while some old school knowledge is great, these were also the people who sprayed DDT liberally about the place and were doing things unheard of today like spraying sprouts and cabbages with methylated spirits to prevent mildew!

There are plenty of opportunities to capture snippets of information across the course of a day spent indulging in all things gardening. So, how do we best document this information? The answer is simple, yet not intended to be glib “whatever suits you best.” Many folk are good at keeping a note book at their side and jotting down thoughts as they come to mind. Others find their well-intentioned notebook in a dusty corner of the shed with only a scant half a dozen entries months after its existence has been forgotten.

These days we never seem to have our phones or an electronic devise far from our person – even when working in the garden. The impromptu photos that can be taken with phones there and then can be the best photos. If you used the device for your garden musings, you’ll always have them, nearby.

You may prefer to come in at the end of the day and create a debrief for yourself in a comfortable chair with a refreshing beverage at your side, in an old school journal or on your computer. The advantage of using a computer is the information is immediately searchable when comparing one season to the next, however taking the time to read handwritten text from years gone by can have the added advantage of a nostalgic journey.

However you like to do it, the main thing is to just do it and as the garden grows, so does the gardener. Without knowledge, gardens become a battleground to be worked against to try to gain order. With knowledge, gardening is a pleasurable occupation and if you work with it and allow it to teach you, you can create something wonderful.

Taking notes