Hopefully a new garden season will start very soon. Most gardeners are already exploring seed and plant catalogs and making lists. Selection is enormous, and gardeners in general are an optimistic group prone to experimenting and challenge. They often can’t resist buying plants unsuitable for the growing local. Reading about gardening helps, but there is nothing like experience, especially in a personal garden site, which can differ dramatically from areas around it. Writing down what happens in a garden on a daily, weekly, or even a monthly basis, will help understand the garden site.

Most plants are selected by their climatic zone. This doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Michigan’s zone 4 garden is different from gardens in zone 4 in Vermont, Nebraska or Idaho. A continuous snow cover can insulate the soil allowing some plants to thrive when they wouldn’t survive a snow-free zone 4. The length of the growing season, the number of days of sun, the average rainfall, or local soil type and shade cover also determines what grows where. Only experience, and a journal to record that experience, will tell a particular garden’s potential.

Gardening can become expensive when high-priced plants die, and discouraging when plants fail to return the following spring. This is one area where journals can help. Keeping a list of what thrives in a certain location, what merely survives, and what never seems to stand a chance, provides insight into the garden’s climate and soil.

Journals also provide a time table and guide for planting. Records may show plants said to bloom in May consistently bloom in June. Plants chosen to bloom together, may bloom at completely different times, or grow to different heights from expectations. With this information, the garden can be rearranged to better suit each plant’s participation.

garden in bloom

Perennials selected to bloom together

Conditions within a garden can differ from everywhere around it. These ‘micro-climates’ are sites created by local terrain characteristics. Certain situations can create a more temperate, or a more severe climate, than surrounding areas. Slope of land, orientation to the sun, buildings, the amount of pavement, fences, or a line of trees can all create micro-climates. Finding these special places in a garden provides gardening opportunities. A journal recording plants that flourish or languish in a particular site within the garden is one way to recognize micro-climates.

An account of a garden gives gardeners knowledge about the particular growing conditions of their property. It allows them to experiment with marginally hardy plants more confidently and helps them keep damage to a minimum. Each garden has its strengths and weaknesses, recording its growth helps discover what those are. Keeping track of things like weather, when each type of plant starts spring growth, blooms, or dies, what you plant and where, dates of first and last frost, will eventually save you time, effort and money. Even with a journal’s added understanding, one season’s unusual weather might still kill a special plant. Optimistic gardeners write about it in their journal, then go out and try again.

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