January 5, 2011
As we begin a new year, it is time to think a bit about last year. As Mary Mary Quite Contrary was asked, “How does your garden grow?” Do you remember how things grew in your garden? Many of us – no, make that all of us – have made mistakes when they garden. Many people place their plants too close together in the garden. When you look at the tags that come with the tomato plants, the tag will tell you that the tomato plants should be spaced 3 feet apart in rows 3 feet apart. If you ignore this spacing, you will have plants that will be fighting each other for water and nutrients. In the end, you will get fewer tomatoes from your plants by placing the plants too close together. In fact, by planting fewer tomato plants in a given space, you will actually get more tomatoes from fewer plants. Once you have made this mistake, you should remember that spacing is important. If you are like me, you may forget some important things from year to year. This is why all gardeners should create a gardening diary.
If you take time to write down what you have done when you garden, you will learn from your mistakes and relish your successes. How often you fertilize your plants and how often you water your plants can be keys to the success of your gardens. Granted, you may have to water less in a rainy season, but you will have to keep up with fertilizing your plants even in rainy seasons. If you keep track of what you have done through the years, you will be able to go back and review what were the most successful things you were able to accomplish in your garden. As an example, if one year you kept up with fertilizing your tomato plants and you got a huge number of tomatoes and the following year you were lax on feeding the tomato plants and got much less of a yield, then you have proof that fertilizing the plants truly made a difference.
I have many customers who start their vegetable plants from seed. The people who kept a diary of what they planted, and when, soon learn that you should not start the plants too early in the season. As an example, let’s say you want to grow your own tomato plants from seed. You only need about 8 to 10 weeks from planting the seed until you put the plants outside. If you figure May 30 as your date for putting your plants outside, then that means that you plant the seed indoors about the end of March. If you planted the seed indoors earlier, you would find that the plants tend to get tall and spindly. Keeping good records would tell you that one planting time was a success and the other not so good. Keeping good records would help you to prevent making the same mistake year after year.
If you look online, there are many websites that will sell you fancy garden diaries for keeping track of what you are doing. You could do the same thing with a Word document that you keep and update all through the season.
Keeping track of your vegetable gardens is not the only things you should be tracking. You can plant shrubs and over time record how those plants have grown in the area where you placed the shrubs. Planting perennials can also be a huge learning curve. Keeping good records will tell you the best places for planting certain perennials.
You can even keep records of the types of gloves you bought and how they lasted. Good records can also tell you what types of potting soil worked best or what brand of fertilizer works best for you.
Starting a garden diary is a good way to start off the New Year. You could begin by writing down your thoughts about what worked and what didn’t work in 2010. Come spring, you can use these thoughts to help guide you towards being a better gardener.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.