Garden Blitz

If you regularly keep notes about your garden as it grows, you’ll harvest a bounty of information you can use in planning, revising and maintaining your garden in the future. Or so I’m told. 

Patrice Peltier

When I planted my garden in Spring Green seven years ago, I diligently recorded the names of each plant as well as the number of each kind planted. I tried to map the location of the plants, but that proved beyond my graphic or technology skills. I kept notes on what flourished and what malingered, what was blooming when and areas that needed improvement.

I was inspired by Lark, a gardener I interviewed some years ago. Lark was an artistic, knowledgeable and disciplined gardener, and her gorgeous perennial gardens showed it. After her daily rounds in the garden, she made notes. She documented when plants bloomed, when she deadheaded or cut them back, insect or disease problems, additions, failures and things to try next year. She reviewed her notes each winter and actually implemented those ideas the following spring.

My goal was to be just like Lark. In year two of my Spring Green garden, I once again recorded my impressions. Unlike Lark, I never reviewed my notes or took advantage of the insights they contained. By year three, when I remembered, I kept the tags for the additions I planted, stuffing the tags into an envelope for future reference. That’s record-keeping, right? 

Fast forward to this spring. My neighbor, artist and fellow gardener Dave Chapman greeted me as I gazed in befuddlement at some bare spots in the garden. “I can’t remember what was here,” I confessed. “Did something die over the winter, or is this how much space the surrounding plants take up when they’re mature?” 

He kindly commiserated. There’s only so much time and energy for gardening, we agreed. We both tended to use it planting and weeding instead of record keeping. Ahh, validation.

Courtesy of Dayvid Schultz

The very next day, another friend, artist and gardener, Dayvid Schultz, shared a glorious, color layout of his elaborate vegetable garden (see above). It is a work of art AND a record of what he planted. Like Lark, he actually consults his garden records when planning future gardens. So much for validation.

Cari Stebbins is refurbishing a garden at American Players Theatre. She showed me the list of plants originally installed there some years ago. It was interesting to see which plants had flourished, which proved too aggressive and which had disappeared entirely. Cari will use this as a guide to what she plants next. Note to self: Look how smart it is to refer to one’s records.

Having information to help you maintain your garden and plan changes to it can be quite useful. Remembering to consult your own good information, well, that’s blitz.

Patrice Peltier lives in Spring Green and writes regularly for Wisconsin Gardening, Chicagoland Gardening and The Landscape Contractor magazines. Her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens and Midwest Living magazines.