Journal can help make you a better gardener

Published on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 23:22 - Written by By Keith Hansen Keeping It Green

For the gardener, winter is a time for reflection on the past year’s successes, failures and wished-for accomplishments. It is also when we look forward to the return of the balmy days of spring, whose arrival always stirs up a renewed interest in the gardens that surround us.

When thinking about things we did last year (or in previous years) in our yard or garden, our memory is often not the best record keeper. Exactly where did I plant that special variety of daffodils I bought at the bulb sale last year? Did I plant tomatoes in this same spot last year? And what was the name of the new coneflower I got last spring? If it was written down in a journal, your answer would be at your fingertips.

The Smith County Master Gardeners have combined the best of two worlds — their annual Calendar and Garden Guide for Northeast Texas has been reformatted into a useful garden journal and planning guide designed to be used in day-to-day gardening activities. Now the handy monthly what-to-do’s, interesting articles, links to useful websites, etc. are no longer hanging on the wall, but in a convenient book format, ready to be used as a reference, and taken into the garden during planting, harvesting and in between.

January is a perfect time to start a garden notebook where you can keep up with the entries throughout the year. In it you can note what, when and where you plant, where they were purchased, how much spent, etc. Then make notes on how they perform during the year. This is especially useful for vegetable and flower gardeners, but also helpful for those of you who try new perennials and shrubs or trees. A gardening diary or notebook will help prevent you from making the same gardening mistakes year after year, and you’ll more accurately remember which of those two carrot or tomato varieties tasted or yielded best.

In a journal you can record significant weather-related events, such as first and last freezes, dates of below-normal freezing temperatures, daily rainfall, etc. I like to remember and note the dates when different types of flowering plants bloom, and see how the dates vary from year to year. Do you recall when hummingbirds first appear every year? I must confess that I have not been very good in this respect, but the new Master Gardener calendar and journal will make recording such notes much more likely.

Make notes of when certain insects or diseases appear on your flowers, shrubs or vegetables, and what you did to try to control them. This will be helpful in following years as a reference to be ready in advance to deal with the potential return of the same pests. Early detection is crucial in keeping an upper hand over pests. A journal will be a great resource for the coming years when you need to refer back to previous year’s experiences, and learn from both your successes and mistakes.

Think you’re too busy to journal? How about the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, who for almost 60 years kept a detailed daily journal of activities and milestones at his home and farm in Monticello. He recorded many of the types of things discussed here. He even noted things such as the passing of geese in the fall. No doubt his journaling greatly contributed to his success at gardening and farming, for which he also is very well known.

The articles and monthly tips in the 2014 Calendar, Garden Journal and Planning Guide for Northeast Texas Guide are written specifically for this region, serving as a handy reminder of things to do for both those new to gardening and longtime green-thumbers.

If you have a gardener on your list for gift-giving this season, the Master Gardener Calendar, Garden Journal and Planning Guide make great and easy gifts, and fit well into stockings.

In Tyler, the guides are available at Breedlove’s Nursery, In the Wind, Petty’s, ETMC gift shop, Harris Nursery, Center Chemical, Chamblee Rose Nursery, Al Horaney’s, Potpourri House and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office in the Cotton Belt building.

In Lindale, you can get them at Cycles of Seasons and Flemings Farm Supply.

Other places include Blue Moon Nursery, Noonday Hardware, Noonday Hardware in Chandler, Rubicon (Wild Birds and More), Joe Smith Farms in Jacksonville, and Pandora’s Box in Frankston.

Mail orders are available from Pat Welch, 19461 Sand Hill Lane, Flint, 75762. Cost is $12.50 each. Make checks payable to Smith County Master Gardener Association.

Keith Hansen is Smith County horticulturist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. His web page is . His blog is .