For those of us who garden in climates where winter is a long, cold, snowy season, we have to find other ways to satisfy our passion for gardening during this time of year. A few years ago I gave a talk to a local garden club called "Pursuits and Pleasures of the Winter Gardener." It was about all ways I stay engaged with my garden when I can't be outdoors actively working in it. I thought I would share a few of those ideas this week. They may be old hat to you or perhaps you may find something that will help you survive until you can see the first signs of Spring pushing up though winter's detritus.
Despite blogging for almost nine years, the garden records I turn to most often are all on paper. They are compiled for different reasons at different seasons all year long. Some are one time events like this topographical survey we did in 1995 to determine the slope of our property from the back lot line to the house before we dug the pond.
Some records cover one subject noted over the course of many years, like the first day each spring that our ducks arrive at our pond. We've been keeping track of that info since 1995 and we believe the same pair is still visiting our garden. I also note when the pond freezes, when it thaws and when the first snowdrop appears. My small nod to Aldo Leopold.
As you no doubt know, there are all kinds of garden calendars and pre-formatted journals where you can keep track of weather, bloom dates, whatever you want to remember. This is an old 4-year version that I used on and off from 1984 until 2000. I made a point of recording the weather on a few specific days each year like my birthday, 4th of July, and Christmas so I could compare from year to year. I do something similar online with linking what's noteworthy in my garden to Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up.
Even when I was recording info in the 4-year journal above, I was keeping more detailed notes, plans and plant lists in larger sketchbooks with unlined paper, and pages that I could tear out. I am currently on volume number 21. Over time I've recorded more than just garden info, but that's still my primary reason for journaling. I always put one of my photos on the cover of the journal depicting an event that will remind me of that year.
When the weather becomes newsworthy, I clip the stories and toss them into a file folder rather than trying to record a lot of detailed information myself. If you want to keep newspaper records longterm, you should photocopy them on rag paper. As a former newspaper person I know this is a critical step in conservation, but I rarely manage to do it myself.
Now and then the information I want to record is so memorable, that it requires more than one kind of notation. Madison got more than 100 inches of snow during the winter of 2007/08. Not only did I save the news stories in the current garden journal for that year . . .
but I made myself part of the story with a photo showing what that amount of snow looked like compared to someone 5'7'' tall. This is the end of our driveway.
The journals have been a great place to write down garden plans and design ideas and note what plants I moved during the gardening year. Now I've started keeping those kinds of practical notes in a three ring binder along with receipts for garden purchases. I am much more likely to take this "book" into the garden with me to write down garden tasks and cross off things as I accomplish them. Last year at the end of the season, I made a list of everything I would want to know before the 2017 garden season began. I still can't believe I really did anything that useful!