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Why keep a gardening diary?


On the face of it keeping a diary of your gardening activities may seem like an unnecessary and obsessive undertaking. However, if you want to improve the yields from your fruit and vegetables it is a very sensible and useful thing to do. Personally I think it is the single most important piece of gardening advice I was ever given.

Why bother - I have a good memory?

Many of the jobs you do in the garden are only done once per year, and that is more than enough time to forget details. In many circumstances, it may make little difference, but sometimes forgetting little things can predispose you to failure. As an example, one of my raised beds has shown signs of "onion white rot" this year. This fungal disease can persist in the soil for at least 15 years, and affects the whole allium family - onions, shallots, leeks, garlic etc. Whilst I'm sure I can remember that for next year, I'm equally certain that I would forget soon afterward if I hadn't written it down.


What do I put in my garden diary?

I started gardening in 2017 as a way of helping with my PTSD whilst getting some fresh air and exercise, and started keeping the diary from January the following year. I made a document in a word processor on the computer, and wrote down anything and everything relating to the garden - where I bought seeds and plants, how much they cost, what seeds I sowed, where I put them to germinate etc. etc. Part of this was to help me remember of course, but it also became a sort of checklist of things I had achieved that day, which was also an important step towards feeling I was making progress. As time has passed, I have written a bit less in the diary, but also taken more photographs to help remind me.

So, what should you write in your own garden diary?

That is entirely up to you, but you will forget a lot more than you think you will over time, and if you didn't make a note of it, that information is lost. Here are some suggestions:

Seeds & Plants supplier/brand, variety/cultivar, cost, shop or website where they were purchased,
  sowing date, germination date, germination rate, pricking out date, transplant date
Bushes & Trees pruning date, flowering date, fruiting date, netting against birds, moving tender plants indoors
Soil brand of compost, fertiliser brand and dates, preparation of the soil prior to planting, soil pH, other amendments
Crops cropping dates, weight produced, storing produce,
Problems any pests or diseases and treatments, watering issues, greenhouse overheating, applying weed-killer
Equipment supplier, cost, date purchased, dates of clearance sales
Weather rainfall, first and last frost dates, any exceptional weather events like storms or extreme heat
General activity a simple record of when you mowed the lawn, fixed the shed or painted the fence etc.
Failures seeds, crops or growing methods that didn't work for you

What use is it?

Even if you never look at it again, the act of writing something down helps you remember it for longer. However, you are building up a record which will become an invaluable reference, and if you make your diary as a computer document, it is very easy to search for key words and find the relevant information. Hopefully, your records will help you to find plant varieties that perform well in your climate and soil conditions, and avoid keep growing those which do poorly.

The diary can also aid in making a gardening calendar which is specific to your needs - much of gardening, especially growing seasonal vegetables, is about preparation. Your records will help to build a picture of the general climate and microclimate where you are growing. In turn, this will help you sow and plant out crops at the best times and extend the growing season. It should also allow you to take action before problems occur: adding protective netting over fruit crops at the right time, before the birds eat the ripe fruit, for example, or adding lime to raise the soil pH, which takes time to be effective.


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