Monday, 20 September 2010

Garden Lessons

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I keep a garden journal in a simple notebook. Nothing fancy, college rule size lines represent my rows in my gardens - and my hieroglyphics mostly likely would take some deciphering by anyone other than myself. I keep track of varieties, planting & harvest dates, amendments, tillage and weather. The information when set down isn't that important, it is later when I am able to look back and draw conclusions or make decisions on past events that my garden chronicle takes on its true identity.

This year while most of the U.S. baked, we grew moss on our backs, the Pacific Northwest is known for its rainfall, but this was the hardest year for gardens/crops in my garden memory. In a normal year, we have a rainy spring, and then a lull in May enabling at least some planting. This year there was no lull, which delayed planting until mid to late June. Those first plantings in May are a critical time for some of my winter roots. They need a full growing season to mature, if a month gets lopped off on the beginning, my winter stores are in jeopardy. The jury is still out on my root crops normally planted in May, they are plugging away slow and steady. Root crops I plant in June are doing well. No differences there. Definitely this has been the year for cool weather crops.

Warm weather crops have been almost non-existent in my garden this year. I have peppers only because they are planted in a hoophouse where I can exert a little more control over the temperature. With our cool nights this summer we couldn't have began to come close to the minimum heat units needed to ripen warm season type crops. I can't go by the days to maturity on a seed packet - which is just an average anyway - I have to think of heat units. For instance, at my location a 69 day early sweet corn takes on an average, 95 days to ripen. This is where my garden diary excels. Garden books are great as a baseline, but the lab that is my garden is where I get most of my new information for next years garden and beyond.

From past notes, I knew that dry beans were out if planted any later than Memorial Day, so I didn't waste my seed. It was a good thing too, they would never have matured. I just picked my first green beans this past week. Normally in early September I am harvesting those beans for seed for the next years crop, and getting ready to put the poles away for winter. While I am a little wistful about tomatoes and corn, I am not writing off the garden season as a bust. Rather, it was just different and we had to adapt. Using my garden notes of past successes and failures, I could make informed decisions on whether to plant certain vegetables on not. The cooler weather actually made my later plantings of fall and winter vegetables easier. It's sometimes a push to keep cool weather transplants stress free in August - but this year it was a snap.

My garden notations are invaluable to me in my ongoing quest to grow most of our own food. Do you keep a garden journal and does it help you make better decisions for planning your garden?


Anonymous said...

Does anyone here read the Cliff Mass weather blog he is a meteorologist at the UW he kind of specializes in NW weather. Anyway, according to temperature records, this has been the coolest summer since 1980 here in PNW:

Sense of Home said...

I too like to keep a journal of the garden, I have had a small notebook for a while and now this year my blog has helped to chronicle the garden. Since every area is so different it really helps to have notes specific to our own soil and weather.

Hope you have a nice long autumn.


Melissa @ Sweet Homestead Alabama said...

I'm feeling a bit jealous, actually... We've had an absolutely insane summer, and it hasn't ended yet. We're still experiencing highs in the upper 90's and I can't even think about planting my fall crops. I did have a summer garden, but had to call it quits mid-July because my plants were cooking in the 100+ degree heat. Corn and beans? Completely dried up in the field. And rainfall? Remind me what that is again, please? If we could only barter weather conditions with each other we'd be alright!

Paula said...

I just started a garden journal, and started keeping a garden calendar as well. I'm hoping both will help me do a better job of managing my garden.

I have weather issues as well. since the weather has cooled already, I'm having a hard time ripening melons and peppers. the melons were supposed to 'slips' from the vines, and they weren't so I let them stay on the vines. this evening I went out to get a cabbage and noticed the same darn melons have split!!

Gardening, I'm learning, is a serious crap shoot. I sure hoe the journal helps some.

Seren Dippity said...

I've been using a fantastic online journal called ... this is not a spam, just an endorsement from someone who has used them for the past couple of years and found it a very useful site.

I'm very new to gardening and am starting to see how relative things can truly be. I've learned that the best selling gardening book in the world is not worth much at all if it doesn't deal with your specific climate.

As a fairly new gardener though, I've had a hard time telling why a crop fails. Was it the 100 plus degree August? Was it the fact that I planted in a "new" bed that doesn't have a good microbial environment? Or was it just the wrong variety for my area? Or did I just plain screw something up?

This summer I focused on peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, okra and black eyed peas. Good dependable heat loving crops that sure enough thrived through our hot summer.

Kelle said...

I absolutely keep a garden log, have for a decade or so. I started it because I was trying to keep track or rotation of spaces and found it hard to recall from year to year exactly which crop was planted where. It's like a phot album of the past, fun to go back and take a look at how far we've come*wink*

I then started making notes as to our weather, when we planted which crops, insect problems and what was tried and what seemed to work, which crops were successful, which were poor, when certain crops first flowered, when those crops ripened, etc....

I couldn't survive without this valuable info.
I agree if we hadn't put up our hoop house we wouldn't have gotten any peppers,tomatoes, cantaloupe or eggplant. Our summer was just to cool and wet.
Things are in clean up mode here and getting compost and composted manures worked in for a winter's rest. Also cleaning up some pepper crops that are finished and working in compost and manure to get our cool weather salad crops planted in the hoop house, with hopes of harvesting greens well into Nov. before they too will freeze. We are not planning to heat the hoophouse at this point, that may change.

Thanks for sharing your wealth of info :o)