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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Make a Note

Well, the beautiful weather has gone back to a moist gray chill.  I suppose I will be back in the house for another week or two.  That's okay though, since I wanted to bring up the topic of notes.

Taking notes on your garden seems like a waste of time, but in reality it is rather hard to remember the date and conditions of planting a specific seed for a year or more.  As your garden gains more plant varieties and you start to push the limits of what you know, it's important to write these things down so that next year as you select tomato seeds you can refer back and remember that Brandywines were good producers, but Legend struggled in the bed it was in.  You can make a list of what seed you have at the end of summer, so your new order in Spring doesn't accidentally double up.  You can look back at some misconceptions you had and remind yourself not to do those things again.

I tend to get so excited about gardening by springtime that I put plants into the ground too early, or start them in the house too early and have sad spindly plants by the time the weather has warmed enough for them to go outside.  I have to make a note to remind myself that curcubits don't actually like the weather in Oregon in May, they get too cold and wet and end up with mildew issues.  If I use this information next year I'm more likely to hold off until June.  I also keep notes on what seeds were planted inside, outside, and at different times; what day they were ready for harvest; what sprouted well and what didn't; and what the weather was like.

Taking notes is like slowly building up a Farmer's Almanac that is based on your specific location, crops, and experiences.  You may plant rhubarb this year, have it die, then 6 or 7 years down the road think, "Oh, I should plant some rhubarb, I like rhubarb!" but not remember the circumstances that led to its death the last time and end up having the same thing happen again.

Note taking doesn't have to be really intensive, if you're a journaler by nature keep a little leather bound journal next to your garden gloves, or keep a cheap spiral bound notebook if you prefer.  If you're a blogger, type it all out in a blog.  I am lucky to have an iPhone that I keep on me nearly always, I use the Notes app to type in notes on what day it is, what the weather has been like, what seeds/plants are growing and how they fare, and this year I will add to that what sort of harvest I see from each.  I almost prefer to do a voice-to-text note taking; I am not a skilled typist and even less so on the iPhone keyboard, it's tedious to take notes that way but it's always at hand and is durable.  Plus I back my notes up with Dropbox so if my phone is lost or damaged I will have a backup copy safe and sound.
Sample of notes in the Notes app.

Note Dos and Don'ts:

-Do date your entries!
-Don't write a book, this is just some notes not a novel.
-Do list plant varieties as well as types, and anything special about them.  Indigo Rose (determinate, blue, slicer, hybrid) tomato produced 3lbs. by July 8th.  Oregon Spring (determinate, slicer, hybrid) produced 5lbs by July 8th, first tomato of the year ready on June 12th!
-Don't keep notebook in your bookshelf in the office or library.  Keep it close to hand to ensure you will keep it up to date.
-Do keep up with note taking throughout the year.  How much harvest and how long your preserved harvest lasts will be helpful in deciding how much to plant next time.  Jan. 31st 2012, still have 14 jars strawberry jam, and 20 jars freezer jam; ran out of frozen strawberries.  40 jams is too many, freeze more whole berries next time. 
-Don't forget to keep track of trials on new things! April 2nd, 2012 laid pennies around two cabbages to test for slug repellent, check back in two weeks.  April 16th, 2012 cabbages surrounded in pennies show less slug damage than others, will continue with penny use.

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