Posted in Behind the Scenes, Indoor Musings, Notes to Future Me

Why I like keeping garden records

Courtesy Notice: This is another of my long rambling posts.

The short answer: handy reference because my memory isn’t perfect.

The long one with history and how I arrived at my present record keeping status:
As I’ve mentioned before, last year was our first year here at Beebe, and I knew things would be a bit nuts.  (Beebe is what we call our house–it’s a beekeeper surname reference since we like bees even though we don’t have the name in our ancestry that we know of, and don’t actively keep them other than try to provide plenty of food to encourage them to be here.)

I know there are tales of folks who somehow manage to move into an old home and everything seems to be in working order straight off, including all the boxes unpacked with curtains in every window, landscape set up as desired, etc.  Yet I knew we are the types of folks where that wouldn’t be a reality even if the house had already been restored inside and out before we moved here.

I had/have mentioned some bits pertaining to the outer grounds on one old house forum I haunt, yet I knew that although I was once a faithful personal journal keeper, time would not allow a daily garden writing.  There was simply a lot inside and out to do on top of living life as we like when we can.

So on May 9th of last year, I started using our not so great $10 camera to at least take pictures with intent of documenting whatever I found.  (You may recall my original “Friends” pic was taken earlier that year in April, but it was the sole image I shot then.)  At that point we had no idea where any of better cameras were (some of which require film).   Whether it was straight up documentation of what I found, or my wanting to capture particular notions over time as part of a comparative series, I took pictures when I could.

I had already started folders within my “Pictures” default on my computer for our home, with subfolders for various rooms and one for the yard.  I started a “progress” subfolder and each day that I took images, would then create a new subfolder within progress with the date as the name, and dumped whatever pictures I took that day there.

My long term goal was and still is to start a brief entry daily garden journal as my maternal Nana did.  I continue to have no idea when that might happen, but some day it will.

When you have a property like we do with plantings of a largely unknown history before and since the home was built on it at the end of 1935, and also because we’re selectively allowing some to run wild as part of our backyard plan to be fairly naturalized, these shots have been and likely will continue to be valuable for knowledge of what is there or not.

Despite having Fine Art as one of my undergrad majors, I’m a dead slow artist so trying to even sketch some of what film has captured in seconds would have required a lot more time.  I’m also grateful that I’m living in a digital age because processing all these when film was the only option (slide or print) would have been prohibitively expensive!  Thinking about things like make me appreciate the folks who do record nature by hand with art supplies of various sorts even more beyond the art they create existing to inform and inspire.  Even if they are lightning fast, the talent and time it takes for such are not lost on me.

Since I also don’t know how much the former family allowed naturalization on their property, I don’t know what of what’s here is later volunteers or has been here for decades.  I’ve attempted to delve a bit with one of the granddaughters of the original owners that happens to live next door, but she really doesn’t know much since her generation largely grew up a few towns over where her parents lived.

We also don’t have a local garden club here of any sort.  So trying to find history that way has led to naught. The local library does have time set aside each week for delving into a special section that has some sort of historic information, but I haven’t had time to look into that yet just in case it’s more than genealogy or property records.

This year in late March when I started this site, it was another step in documentation, and a personal way of egging progress onward over time.  Even though I’m sharing more directly with whomever stumbles upon the site beyond the audience of the old house forum I started sharing with last year and still do though not as often directly there, both methods offer a wider audience than a kept in the house on the desk paper journal would be.  Even with the internet having many answers to those that seek them, since gardening can be very area specific, I figured anyone in my neck of the state might be helped in particular by what I share here.

So I document what I can when I can.  Some of that process is to help self encourage projects along, but mostly it’s because of my love of outdoors and ever growing knowledge and experience with garden tending myself after my long hiatus as “helper” to my maternal grandparents as a child.

I have found last year’s images invaluable this year to quick compare against how things developed this year.  For instance, I’ve been frustrated searching for Monarch eggs on our common milkweed.  When I quickly scanned through last year’s progress folders, then I realized that the only Monarch larvae I spotted last year I didn’t see until August!  I was so sure before then that I had seen one much sooner.  Knowing that won’t keep me from doing a quick daily check between now and August 7th of this year (the day I took images of the one I saw last year), but it did ease my mind a bit since I hadn’t even seen one Monarch butterfly yet either.

Sometimes posts I made on the District take a bit long to slog through to find what I’m looking for but they’ve also helped too.  I suspect next year I’ll be using this blog more since it’s easier to search for keywords here on my gardens specifically, so even if I didn’t have reason to take yet another image of a certain plant, or just didn’t quite get a shot of something I had wanted to, I’ll be able to find a time window.

I also realize that by next year, I may have outright forgotten some lessons learned this year.  Like starting as many seeds indoors as possible to deter the Acorn Bombers and other creatures from devouring them before they even have a chance to get going.  (Future me!  DO NOT FORGET.)

For me, keeping such records is also good because despite having grown up where my maternal grandparents had a large sized kitchen garden, it has been decades since then and I forgot pretty much anything I might have learned back then.  So next year, when I’m fretting over “where are the seedlings for x seed I planted?”, or wondering, “Didn’t we see the Admiral around this time last year?”, I’ll be able to go back through my images and posts to compare and decide if something might be awry, just different, or not quite time yet.

I do realize that others have better memories than I, or are also muscle memoried in a fashion as to what to do with certain garden bits (and possible even when).  I am not there yet.  Also, given my nearing (hopefully) middle age mark within a few years, I also realize that down the road I may lose some bits because that happens with age more often than not.  I may have some glory years in between then and now where I barely need to reference the past, but I’m sure I will be grateful for the records later as well.

Lastly, I want to mention one point about the data page I have here.  I know some folks might not inherently know that the Gardner in this site’s name is in MA, or even exactly where, so if they are curious about dead basic data on our zone, or our lot size and so on, it’s right there for them to figure how useful some info may or may not be for them.

Any readers keep records, whether online or off?  Feel free to share in the comments below.  You might be doing things in a way that works better for some folks than mine, and that’d sure be handy to know.

0 thoughts on “Why I like keeping garden records

  1. I keep detailed records now that I’m retired…much better than when I worked but even then they were pretty inclusive. I’m amazed at how often I refer to them (what variety was that plant that died? I certainly don’t want to buy another one!…or where in the heck did I plant that expensive peony… too many broccoli plants this year, so plant less…start the fava beans indoors earlier, etc. etc. etc.) and how valued they are, from the daily “life happening” journal to the “bloom records,” the “potager journal” and “indoor seeding diary. I think the photo idea is a good one.

    1. I’m hoping in time my record keeping habits grow so I can do as you do. Because of all I forgot from not gardening over the years, sometimes I find myself reaching for even the simplest word to use in a search either on the web or at our local library to try to expand my knowledge. This year in particular since I’m keeping track of more lived/died sorts of circumstances, I have a lot more respect both for my maternal grandparents that kept a kitchen garden along with other smaller scale family gardeners, as well as commercial level farmers everywhere that must be knowledgeable to keep their farms going. It has me thinking of how they figure out how many seeds to sow because experience tells them X of 10 will make it and so forth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chided myself for not weeding just because it’s lightly raining. It’s so much easier to make the excuse that I can spend the time reading up on things or working on things inside the house. Before when we only were mowing a lawn and tending a few flowers, skipping a day due to a little rain felt like a no brainer. Now it feels wasteful because of how much more work it means later catching up.

      Thank you for sharing your own methods. You’ve given me things to consider and aim for moving forward. I’m glad you like my photo idea. It has really saved my bacon this year and is part of why I’ve been still taking pictures with the bad camera because when it takes even a somewhat decent shot of something, it’s better than relying on memory alone (some would argue if I relied on my memory more, it might get better over time, though that’s a lot of little details to recall!). From the time lost trying to again ID things I forgot to note last year to the notes I neglected to make on plantings this year, that’s a lot of potential time lost recovering what could have been right at my fingertips.

Care to share thoughts on this?