By Gord Langille
Pretty much anyone who has visited my garden or workshop knows I love to talk about tools and that I have a bit of a desire to add the latest and greatest tolls to my collection. Now I don’t just collect the tools, I make sure they get a good workout in either my garden or workshop. I have various woodworking, mechanical repair, and gardening tools that I consider very important, but you might be quite surprised to learn what my favorite tool in my entire collect happens to be. This wonderful tool can be used all year round and does not require much physical effort to utilize, only some initiative.
This tool, which I use almost everyday, is my garden journal. Everyday I record the weather conditions based on my observations throughout the day as well as consulting my min-max thermometer. So, you ask, “why is this so useful a tool”? Well, since I record pretty much everything I do each day in the garden, it gives me a record of when I perform certain tasks and the record remains there year after year for easy consultation. How many times have you asked yourself, “I wonder when I planted that tree, or when did I last fertilize the annuals?” A good record of your gardening activities will help you make good decisions about when to perform many of the routine garden tasks.
My garden journal will hold records for 10 years and is arranged such that the same day each year for 10 years can be viewed at the same time. In addition to the diary pages, which is the heart of my journal, there are special sections in my garden journal to make sketches of the garden layout, soil test records, planting, pruning and dividing records, perennial inventory, garden purchases, insect and disease control, and lets not forget the Garden Tool Inventory.
As I mentioned, the diary section is the heart of my journal, arranged for easy recording of the date, weather and temperatures. Each page is divided into 10 sections to record a decade of your garden history providing notes, observations, reminders, etc. for every day of the year. Most people probably may not want to be concerned with making an entry for every day, since it might be difficult to find something to enter on cold winter days, however, in my case, I can always find something to enter such as the any weather conditions, amount of snow fall, numbers and types of birds that visited my feeders, other wild life visitors to my garden, how much bird seed I used during the winter, etc.
Here is a typical entry from garden journal for March 29, 2005-
“Weather- Sunny with occasional cloudy periods- high of 14C and low of -1C.
Fed birds and squirrels, snow is melting very quickly in the garden, lots of bulbs coming up, many sedum plants starting to show signs of life, some plants in the scree bed are well advanced, built new composter platform and installed composters, ordered 4 yards of compost and 7 yards of composted bark mulch from Holland Valley Nurseries for delivery next Tuesday;.”
I was inspired to keep a garden journal by my uncle Harold in Victoria many years ago. I was impressed with volumes of notebooks he had amassed over the years on his garden and how he could call up the history of any of the plants in his garden. I did not design my own garden journal like my uncle however, choosing instead to buy one already laid out for the purpose. The journal I use is one that is available from Lee Valley Tools Ltd. Besides providing the well-designed diary pages, the Lee Valley journal comes loaded with lots of extras such as specially designed pages for making garden layouts, keeping plant records, inventories, reminders, and gardening tips. The journal is beautifully bound but rugged enough to take into the garden. During the gardening season I keep my journal in my gazebo so that I can update my records while I’m working in the garden. There are also some interesting garden facts and trivia in the record section of the journal and each page of the diary section serves as brief dictionary of the most common Latin names in gardening.
So it is little wonder that this is my most useful and favourite garden tool. During these long winter days, I consult my garden chronicles and start to plan for the coming gardening season and, with this record ( mine has over 15 years) I will know exactly when to start looking for things to happen and when to plan the garden activities. I would encourage my fellow gardeners to keep a garden journal, write in it often, about anything you see fit, read it often and you will be rewarded.