Nancy Brachey

Tips for keeping a summer garden journal

Flower beds and vegetable gardens are at their summer best these days, and it is tempting to just sit and enjoy the rewards. That is a worthwhile thing to do, but it’s not the only pleasure for gardeners now.

It is time to take a critical look at what is doing well and what not so well this summer. This evaluation is most important because many of the flowers and vegetables we are growing are not permanent members of the garden. That is because they are annuals that are with us through the warm months, produce flowers and vegetables, then pass away.

Some have been so good that you will want them back next year. Others may have been just OK and you’re ready to decide they aren’t worth the space they require.

You could, of course, trust this knowledge to memory. That may be fine for some people, but not me. Next April is a long time off, and it will be hard to remember whether it was the Cherokee Purple or Better Boy tomato that was such a star this summer.

The only answer is to write it down. Some gardeners turn this idea of record keeping into a fairly complicated business with special notebooks or journals. For those who gain pleasure from this, go for it and enjoy.

But you don’t have to be gung-ho at journal keeping to maintain a simple record of your garden. The most important notes are your evaluation of this year’s plants. All that requires is writing down the names of the plants you grew and saying what you think about their performance, either as blooms or produce. In some cases, this can mean disappointment; in others, rejoicing at success. It is your judgment to make. If you think the crop was abundant, it is. If it didn’t live up to your expectations, say so.

There is also the taste test with vegetables. Did you like the taste of what you grew? Or was this something that you picked once, cooked once and never again? Make a note of it, because it is a bad memory that tends to fade.

A third important thing to note is pest problems. If a particular flower or vegetable has been plagued by a disease or insect, try to name it. Once you know the name, you can do some investigation about ways to reduce the damage next year, through crop rotation, different watering practices or resistant varieties. Assess this year’s damage: mild or severe?

These little notes can be all you need to make next year’s garden better. But they can also stimulate interest in going further and starting a year-round garden journal covering all facets of your landscape.

A journal can include the nitty-gritty of plant names, performance and problems.

But it can also appeal to a yen to make deeper observations about how gardens work and evolve over time.