There are a number of things you should take into consideration when you are deciding what to grow. This is true whether you are only planting ornamentals, only planting vegetables, or planting a mix of them. I prefer planting a mix; this kind of companion planting can be very beneficial to both. I will discuss companion planting in a later post.
The first thing you should think about is the amount of space available. If you have made a scale drawing of your garden in your garden log, you should already have some idea of how much room you have for your different plants. Seed catalogs will let you know how large different varietals can be expected to grow. It can be useful to jot down the diameter of each plant in your garden journal. You may also want to note the actual size of your plants when they reach maturity. This can give you some idea of the accuracy of different catalogs. It might also provide an insight into how successful your techniques are.
I recommend looking into intensive and square-foot gardening methods, especially if you are planting vegetables. These methods can greatly increase the yield of the space you are working with. When I am growing vegetables, I try to space them to that their leaves are just brushing against one another when they are fully grown. This provides a kind of natural mulch by shading out weeds.
Find out what USDA hardiness zone your garden is in before you decide to plant. The hardiness zone is based on an area’s minimum temperature and dates of the first and last frosts. You are limited by the hardiness zone in what you can grow and when you can start your garden. Of course, you can grow many plants outside of their recommended hardiness zones, but they will need to be moved indoors for much of the year. I keep a note of my hardiness zone in the front of my garden journal so that I don’t have to remember it when I am buying seeds or planning my garden.
If you are a busy gardener, it is important to select plants that do not require a lot of maintenance. You may also choose to use techniques such as drip irrigation, water crystals, or self-watering containers if you are very busy. I will discuss more techniques to reduce the amount of work your garden requires in a later post.
As I mentioned in my last post, unless your garden gets full sun all day long, it is important to note the areas that get less sun or are fully shaded. There are many plants that tolerate and even thrive in the shade. You can accent your garden with strategically placed shade lovers. Shade loving plants are often fairly hardy and require little maintenance, so they are a welcome addition to the busy garden. Keep notes in your garden log about how well different plants do under various light conditions. There are very few hard and fast rules in gardening, and everyone’s process of trial and error leads them to the best techniques for their own garden
A good place to start your gardening log is by making a detailed plan for your garden. Whether you are starting a new garden or adding new plants to an existing garden, a detailed plan will help. I like to peruse gardening books and jot down ideas as I come across them. When I have a good idea of which plants I want to grow this year, the next step is to decide how many of each I intend to plant.
Then I make a scale drawing of the garden and sketch in the different plants I will grow. It is useful to sketch the plants to scale at the size they will be when they are fully mature. The space available in the garden is one of the main factors you should consider when you’re deciding what to plant. Another very important factor is the available sunlight in different parts of the garden. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to be gardening in a location that gets full sun all day long. If not, I recommend noting the areas that do get shade in your garden log so you can plan accordingly.
By planning the garden’s layout in my gardening journal, I can explore a few different options until I find the best one. This way I will have a good idea about what I will be doing before I even start my first seeds. This helps me to avoid wasting anything. It also helps me to make sure that I won’t miss anything when I do start planting. I bring my garden log with me when I go to the garden center and keep a record of what I am purchasing.
Often I will look at garden maps and lists from previous store trips that I have made in older garden logs when I am considering my options. This helps me to budget for each initial spring planting as well as for manure, plant food, or any other purchases I will expect to make during the year. While I’m planning my garden, I can review any notes I made about what arrangements did or didn’t work and why. By keeping a detailed log, I can continually improve my garden plan in small ways each year.
Once I have decided what I will be planting, I find it useful to jot down a few notes about each plant. For vegetables, I like to note the number of days from planting to harvest. I often try to plant vegetables in what is called succession planting. This means reusing the same part of the garden for several different vegetables through the season. I start cold season greens like chard or lettuce early in the season under cold frames. Then I plant tomato or pepper seedlings in that spot to grow through the summer. When they are done, I plant root vegetables like turnips or radishes, which I will keep under cold frames through the fall. It helps to keep notes of which successional methods worked best and which did not.
Spring has to be my favourite season. I walk out my door, and the sound of birds greet my ears. Spring is the time to dust off my tools, and start getting them dirty again. Spring is also the time to start reflecting upon what I did wrong in my garden last year, and start working on improvements for this year.
That’s where my garden log comes in. I have a terrible memory, I forget birthdays, my keys, and I forget what I planted last year, and how long it took to come up. Keeping a journal of my activities within the garden gives me something to refer to when I want to know how my tomatoes did when I moved them to the back of the garden, or how long it took for my carrots to get big enough to pick. Before each season I can look back a few years to get ideas, and make informed decisions about when and where to plant.
A garden log can also be a great planning tool to remind us to fertilize, water, or plant a second rotation of lettuce, so we don’t run out in May.
Mainly though, keeping a Garden Log is fun, particularly if you keep photos as a part of your journal. Nothing is quite as satisfying as seeing pictures of your garden progress, and showing it off to your friends and family.
Here at theGardenLog.com, we believe that keeping a journal of your garden should be a fun activity, and we’re working hard to make sure that we all have the tools to make it so.