Gardeners are forever trying to recall names they have forgotten or to find information they have scribbled on envelopes, then misplaced or lost; so the smart landscape/gardener organizes some system of notes and records. At the very least one notebook suitable to carry about should be part of every gardener’s equipment.
One avid gardener I know keeps all her garden notes in one small loose-leaf notebook. She lists her purchases, new varieties that appeal to her, plants she gives and receives in exchanges, dates of special meetings, titles of books she plans to read, and helpful garden hints she picks up. Her brief records are completely adequate for her.
Another gardener keeps only a notebook record of his planting with a charting of rows and borders on their separate pages. With the notebook he can locate every garden item and check the botanical and common name as well as where and when purchased. He always refers to this book when there are visitors in his garden.
If you are the type who keeps recipes in card files, you may find a card file your favorite method of keeping garden records. Even though I use a computer I still use a small notebook to write notes on and later update on computer. With a card for each variety, characteristics, where and when purchased, and the history in your garden can be listed.
Other cards can be listed the amounts of chemicals and powders required for sprays and dusts, and the amounts of different fertilizers to use. A card could furnish a chart for the depth of planting bulbs and another a calendar re- minding the gardener when important jobs should be done.
Garden club members especially need to have information where they can find it when called upon for programs and reports. It is simple to clip such material and file it in folders or use a spreadsheet.
If an article cannot be clipped, the title, author and where found should be recorded on the pages of a notebook. If you prefer to keep such clippings in a notebook, the three ring style is large enough to take most articles of this type easily. I scan them as PDF files myself. The pages may be cut out, holes punched and carefully reinforced, and the last part of the material pasted on the back of the first page.
Gardeners who specialize should know the value of records. But sad to report, there are some who have made successful crosses, then lost the names of the new flower. However, most fanciers go in for complete records, and when they become breeders, their studbooks are a maze of dates and crosses and numbers compiled each summer, to be studied throughout the winter months as the breeder plans more crosses and dreams of more miracles.
A blooming record makes interesting reading through the years and the information is sometimes useful, too. Suppose a group is planning a daffodil show or iris or mum its very first. At what date are these flowers at their best in the area? No source of information will be quite as reliable as the flowering records of the local gardeners. It will vary some with the years but will be a good average. Such records might well be encouraged by garden clubs.
It seems I cannot grow plants or garden without extensive records; so a combination of several methods has been put to use.
My most used notebook is on my computer and blackberry that fits in my pocket and goes to special meetings and shows, on tours and garden visits, and to my own garden club meetings. A similar book paper edition is where I scribble names, addresses, and garden notes are safe until copied where they will be most helpful. The book, soiled and worn, is always in the basket taken to the garden.
Also I like to use my digital camera to shoot pictures of things along the way to go along with the notes I’ve made.
My main “notebook” is a bit of garden history as each year I record what I plant and when, and roughly, where. When I tuck seeds and cuttings here and there, I’ll not forget them if I have written in my little book: “Caryopteris cuttings under the redbud tree” or “Anthemis seed planted west of the white althea.”
This valuable volume reminds me to move plants whose colors clash or that some plants should be moved back and lower ones forward. And in this book, always at hand, I can check the amounts of ingredients to use when reducing 50 gallons of spray to one gallon. I always doubt that home gardeners make 50 gallons of spray at one time, anyway.
For reference, the files of material are organized from “Annuals” to “Zinnias,” are in constant use. Such information, usually by specialists in the many fields, is complete and easily found. It has developed into a modest “‘lending” library.
Bulletins from the United States Department of Agriculture are filed also, as are publications from the extension divisions of our agricultural colleges. Every gardener should acquire a number of these bulletins as they give the latest scientific information on various subjects.
Iris happens to be a my specialty; so they rate a file in addition to space in the notebooks. On each card or Word document is a colored picture of the variety, its breeder and parentage, its characteristics, and its performance in my garden. Also included On the is the rating in the polls of the American Iris Society through the years. Old varieties are removed and filed away as they make way for new favorites. This file is especially useful during the months when visitors cannot see iris blooming. Studying the f cards generates pleasant talk.
My most cherished books, probably, are my garden scrapbooks filled with garden poems, essays, cartoons, and brief biographies with pictures assembled through the years. These treasurers will make precious reading when my days are not so full of active gardening. The old records will be read with interest, too, but for the present they are helpful, really essential, garden equipment. In fact, Roy E. Briles, wrote in his Book of Garden Magic: “No garden can be developed without records.” So, keep records you should, in your own way, but the sooner you begin, the better.