Mary’s support staff checks her notes. (Mary Lowther photo)

Column Dig In: Creating a garden planning routine lets Mary revert to lazy

What good is having a mild winter if you can’t get into the garden?

By Mary Lowther

David and I have a visceral understanding that pressing our noses against the window pane, complaining bitterly because these monsoon rains keep us from the garden won’t make it go away.

What good is having a mild winter if you can’t get into the garden? Ah well, at least we can think about gardening and plan for next year just in case the rain stops at some point.

I’m looking forward to getting A Gardener’s Journal for Christmas because, if it’s anything like Master Gardener Linda Gilkeson says, it will help my garden planning. Presently I use my agenda book, a binder, a Duotang folder and an index card box to keep track of the garden. When I’ve finished using up the seeds in a packet, I staple the packet to an index card and write on the back pertinent information on how the variety performed. I file these cards alphabetically under the name of the vegetable in the index card holder.

My agenda book covers gardening timelines as well as everything else in my life so I don’t end up double-booking. When my youngest came home from school in Grade 5 with an agenda book I thought it was the most marvellous thing I’d ever seen to keep track of everything. They hadn’t hit the stores yet so for a few years I managed to buy one for myself from the school. Since then I’ve tried several types and found an 8.5 by 11 inch monthly planner that has each month spanning two pages works best. There’s enough room on each day to write down sowing, transplanting and other time-sensitive chores as well as my regular life appointments. I keep all my agenda books so if I need to go back and check something, it’s handy.

The binder contains my rotation plan for each bed according to the season and at this time of year I transfer next year’s rotation plan into a Duotang folder along with loose leaf paper to write down my “to do” list for each day. The binder is divided into sections for my two rotation plans, one for the sunny side and the other for the shady side, a section for seeds on hand and sections for each vegetable. In each vegetable section I include experiments I’ve done and how the vegetable performed each year, along with the weather report. Besides including the year’s garden plan and the ongoing “to do” list, I staple the year’s convenient planting guide from West Coast Seeds’ catalog into the inside cover, amended with planting dates I’ve kept track of for this locale. Their clever planting guide clearly marks out dates to sow, transplant and harvest and when to keep plants undercover.

This Duotang goes into the garden with me along with a pen, attached to a clipboard. Some folks can remember what they did and come back in after a few hours of gardening, but I need crutches. By fall my notes have gotten smudgy and messy, just in time for the new garden plan and fresh loose leaf paper.

Each day I check the agenda book and transfer what needs to be done that day into the Duotang. This way the items won’t be forgotten because they won’t be scratched off until they’re done. I love this Duotang because I get to put a line through each chore when I’ve done it and chores don’t get forgotten. I jot down ideas when they come to me in the garden, like “the onions look like they need weeding”, or “the potatoes aren’t growing so well this year, find out why”. When I’ve finished gardening for the day I look over these notes and act on them.

Like everything else, it took time to set up this routine, but once I got it going, my gardening productivity has skyrocketed and I don’t have to depend on my brain that’s already full to remember more stuff. I default to lazy, and this system fits right into my lifestyle because I don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time I garden.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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