By Karral Miller (SSAW committee member)
My most useful gardening tool is not a favourite trowel or that cunning little device for measuring soil pH but something more ephemeral – my gardening journal.
I began several years ago jotting down planting times and sketches of garden beds on various bits of paper but this soon became inefficient and unmanageable. I graduated to small dairies where I could write under the dates when I planted and harvested, weather conditions and garden events but I soon found there was insufficient space as I wanted to make comments and reflections.
My garden journals these days are written in blank paged books, sometimes an exercise book or, currently, a rather smart spiral bound notebook given to me as a gift. These are much better suited to my purpose as I certainly don’t write every day-sometimes weeks will pass without an entry- but when I do the entries tend to be long.
I record data on planting and harvesting, climate, successes and failures but many of my comments now are observational and reflective. Besides being an interesting read, I find it useful for future planning to look back at the comparison of seasons, hints for next time and identify patterns. For instance this year I have been despairing of my late tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers but when I consult my journals I find it has been the same for the past three years- a new trend for the changing climate? The blank pages allow for sketches of garden beds as I like to practice a rotational system for my vegies and these diagrams allow me to keep track of the plantings of crops and companion plants. I know I could set up a spreadsheet to do this efficiently, but I find it more convenient and time saving to take my journal into the garden to do my planning even if it does get a bit grimy around the edges.
If I had a creative bone in my body I would illustrate with artistic sketches of flowers, plants and insects as I know some other Seed Savers members do. I could be more technology minded and record my journal as a Word document or indeed even write a blog but I like the spontaneity of my handwritten entries and I prefer my musings to be for my eyes only.
In my wildest imagination, I see my descendants poring over my tattered collection of journals as an historical record of gardening and environmental issues but in the meantime, like Oscar Wilde, I enjoy having something sensational to read!