Thursday, October 27, 2011

Google Garden Calendar

Some gardeners are excellent journal keepers.  I am not.  And I know my garden suffers because of it.  I’ve tried different techniques over the years.

In 1999, and probably a couple years since, I just made notes on a free calendar I devoted to the yard.  March 1999 reads as follows:

March 3: Hail!;  March 5: Planted pansies;  March 5 and 6: Cleaned daylily bed and composted.  On March 6, it also rained “(two heavy storms) and temperatures really dropped”.

March 7: In the 20s at night and 30s in day;  March 9 and 10: Couple inches of snow;  March 11 and 12: Windy and chilly.

March 13 and 14: Couple inches of snow and heavy rain!;  March 15: Mid-40s, lots of melt;  March 17: Pruned jasmine;  March 17 and 18: Very warm, in the 70s.  On March 18, I also “prepped entrance to rose garden, ordered New Dawn, Carefree Wonder and Johann Strauss” roses.  March 19: Moved magenta rose.  Met with landscape designer at 5:30.  I remember the designer had a lot to say about how much we had already done… incorrectly in his opinion.  He was then very skittish when Walter arrived home, which made me uneasy.  We didn’t take his advice.

March 21: First day of spring;  March 23: Laid gravel entrance path;  March 24: First daffodil blooms, lots of peonies coming up;  March 26: Cool in the 50s.  Planted 2 Carefree Wonders and Johann Strauss.  I double checked.  The New Dawn was delayed and we didn’t plant it until early April.

March 29-31: Very warm, 60s-70s.  Daffodils in full bloom.  Astilbes and bleeding hearts coming up.

It’s a rather charming narrative, especially since the garden was only two years old.  And it certainly confirms the temperamental nature of Virginia weather.  But it’s not especially helpful… unless I reread it annually.

For many, many years after, I kept a large three-ring binder with tags from every plant that ended up in the garden.  Dicentra eximia, Carex elata ‘Aurea’, Rosa ‘De Meaux’, Tricyrtis sinonome, Scabiosa ochroleuca.  It’s rather disheartening how many plants haven’t survived the years!  Itea ‘Little Henry’, Cyclamen persicum, Hosta x fortunei ‘Albo-picta’, Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Spotti’, Angelica gigas and Claytonia virginica.  The tags are useful because they often provide a picture and written description of the plant, plus light, soil and water requirements, and sometimes grower, seller and price.  But then I didn’t usually keep records of the actual care provided each plant, or the yard in general, to correspond with the plant tag collection.  It was far from a perfect system.
So in February, I added the garden to my Google calendars.  I had already been using Google calendar for personal appointments, important events at work and family and friend birthdays, so it was an easy addition.  The garden calendar is in a cheerful, bright lime green, and it’s a great way to jot down short notes on the garden’s progress:

February 2: Planted lettuce seeds in Wheelbarrow Man;
March 20: Moved nandina, daylilies and red hot poker;
April 3: Planted Sunshine Blue blueberries;
April 4: Planted Bountiful Blue blueberries;
May 29: Cut back daffodils;
June 12: Found dead squirrel near maple;
June 29: Cut back columbines and feverfew;
July 18: Someone drove into bushel planter near driveway;
August 19: Noticed significant dieback on Lo and Behold;
September 4 and 5: Weeded pink garden and cut pink garden lawn.
I also track rainfall and unusual weather.  I don’t worry about actual appointment times… like when I worked from 8 am until noon moving a small trellis.  Anything in the garden is listed as an “all-day” event, so it shows at the top of the day’s listings.  What’s really wonderful is that Google allows me to search my calendar for related events.  Say, I want to review what and when I fertilized.  And of course, I could potentially share my calendar with other people.

I want to be better about adding everything I do to the calendar, especially weeding and pruning.  It helps to know, year to year.  And I may want to track bloom times, lawn mowing and animal sightings, which I haven’t really been doing regularly.  But the goal is to keep it as short and simple, as well as informative, as possible.

I still keep every tag and seed packet from what I purchased this year for more in-depth plant information.  I’m just storing them in a big envelope and will create a new envelope for 2012.

To be honest, the garden calendar as worked so well, I think I will start one for the house.  We definitely used to be more diligent about recording home maintenance and, dare I say (?!), home disasters.  The information can get overwhelming:

When did we service the furnace last?;
When did we update the fire extinguishers?;
What about vacuuming around the refrigerator?; or cleaning out the dryer vent?
When did we flip the mattresses?

And the front exterior light bulbs are blown again, when were they last replaced?

It would be extremely beneficial to have a central location for all this information.  And we could include more major repairs like, replaced siding on two front dormers and unclogged air conditioner hose, and keep abreast of problems in the making: noticed crack in small hallway ceiling after earthquake and plaster disintegration in southwest corner of basement.

A little depressing I know.  But knowledge is power, right?  Especially when you’re trying to maintain an older house and hundreds of plants!

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