*Keeping a Garden Journal: Learning from Mistakes and Successes*
By: Alaskana
20 March 2006

Keeping a garden or homestead journal is often recommended but seldom done. When we move here six years ago, this habit helped to ease the very sharp learning curve that resulted from a very difficult climate for growing food.

To start a journal, make a file on your computer, or put together a loose-leaf notebook for the calendar year. I like to print all my files, after having lost several entries due to a system crash. On a weekly or daily basis, jot down notes on what seeds you ordered, when they were planted, when watered, insect and animal damage, what ripened, what you ate and didnít eat, etc. Draw diagrams of what plants went where and where the sun shines at a given time of year. Did your back hurt? Was anyone injured on your property? How did you use stacks of wood, and was it convenient in a pouring rain or in two feet of snow?

List jobs you would like to get done in the house and garden, dreams (A greenhouse? More sun? No slugs?), and books you have read. If you come across really good info on the internet print or save the info for your book. Examples I have included in my journals are how to chit potatoes, and how many to plant per person, wild food information, how to butcher a deer, can edible ferns, and build a bat house.

As the season progresses, jot down observations. What grew well, or didnít? Did you sit out in the garden? Note weather and yields. What plants grow well in other peopleís gardens?

What can you learn? Part I

Once you start to have some data - your journal, you can begin to analyze it. I keep a special page each year for ĎLessons Learnedí.

Here are some of mine from last year:

Using Info, Part II

Over several years, we have been able to look over the notebooks and make decisions based on experience and facts. Here are three examples:

Nothing beats personal experience in learning. However, due to natural busyness, memory loss, lack of useful detail, and many other factors, I find that having observations, facts, and ideas down on paper allows me to distance myself from daily concerns, step back, and see a bigger picture. The things I have learned in this way are truly useful, and can then be conveyed to other gardeners in an exciting way because they donít just recycle what someone wrote in a book. Facta Non Verba!
Alaskana



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