Lowther: The paperwork of gardening

Gardening becomes more productive when we figure out what does and does not work in our own plots.

Gardening becomes more productive when we figure out what does and does not work in our own plots.

Having this information written down to refer to later is an invaluable tool, but how do we manage this?

Do we carry a notebook into the garden with our dirty gloves along with the hoe and shovel?

Do we stop every now and then, take off our gloves, find the notebook somewhere in the dirt or wheelbarrow and sit down to record observations? Is the job never over until the paperwork is done?

I asked eminent gardening author Steve Solomon how he records his gardening knowledge; does he take a notebook into the field and, if so, how does he keep it from getting wet, muddy and illegible? Does he use a recording device?

“No,” he replied, “I just remember everything and write it down when I get inside.”

I wonder how he does that. My day in the garden is generally interrupted by mundane distractions like laundry, food preparation and finding wherever David has lost his car keys, not to mention chasing jays away from freshly sown seed and dealing with phone calls from persons I have no desire to talk to.

Which raises the question: are telemarketers compostable?

But I digress.

The point is that by the time I have washed, made dinner, done the dishes and sat down to write, anything I did in the garden has been lost in a haze of multitasking. I am forced to assume that Steve has a spousal unit dedicated to preventing distraction.

My own spousal unit has a garden of his own and seems dedicated to distracting me so I take my smudged “to do” book into the garden. Over time I have refined my record keeping. As I do a task I don’t scratch it off like I used to. Now I put a checkmark beside it with the date and write any comments below.

Later that evening if I have the time and inclination I transfer this information into a three ring binder that’s divided into sections: garden planning, garden maps, fertilizing, pests and diseases, and sections for each vegetable and fruit.

I’ve tried storing the information in my agenda book or notebooks and finally settled on two three-ringed binders because it’s easier to juggle pages around and add other material.

Into this binder I store magazine articles and notes taken from gardening books as well as my notes.

When winter arrives there is time to catch up on these notes so that by the time the new catalogues hit the stands I am fully prepared. I hope.

I also keep a gardening agenda book that keeps me on track. I like the monthly planner that spreads the whole month on two pages, allows me to anticipate at a glance what needs to be done and has enough room on each date to record essentials.

These get transferred into my “to do” book as the seasons revolve.

Think of your garden as an experiment and yourself as a scientist.

Good record keeping leads to better results.

This can be as important to your crop as a truckload of equine fertilizer and is a lot easier to shovel.