5 Nov. 2014

As I pondered upon what my first post should be, the idea was almost literally dumped on my lap.

One of the most popular plants we’ve had this year at the garden center where I work is without a doubt Asclepias Tuberosa; Milkweed. There were a few weeks this summer that our vendors couldn’t keep up with the demand. Most recently customers have made the plea, “They [Monarch “cats”] are so hungry!” It doesn’t help that even for Southern California the Monarch caterpillars are appearing far longer than normal due to our extended warm season. It occurred to me that planning is the best topic with which to introduce myself to you.

To be exact, planning for next season.

6 Jul 2013 004 (c) glb

Although climate change and wacky weather cannot be planned for (Monarchs? In November??), thinking ahead is the best way we can plan our wildlife gardens for the next growing season. The best way to start is have a garden journal. If you did not keep one this past growing season, record NOW all the details you can remember.

  • What worked and what didn’t?
  • What did you plant?
  • What do you want to try next year?
  • What were the major problems?

Your garden journal itself can be as basic or detailed as you want. Pick up an inexpensive composition book at the dollar store, a hard cover blank-book, or a binder with loose leaf paper. A scientific journal needs to be kept in a book with the pages sewn in and all details written in ink; other forms of data keeping can be too easily changed or torn out. For most of us that isn’t necessary.   Whatever you use, it should either have a water and dirt proof cover – or you shouldn’t mind. When I had to keep a propagation journal during a college class I think my journal bore water stains and dirt rather proudly. J

At the bottom of this post are a few links to page templates for taking the guesswork out of what you should actually record. However you do it, whether loose-leaf notebook paper or a template, one thing you absolutely MUST record is the plants you use.

I can’t tell you how many times customers come in and ask “Would you help me find a plant?” Certainly, what is the name? “I don’t know, but it’s purple,” or “I don’t know; it was in another yard.” Do you have a picture or a sample? “No…..” Good grief. Writing names, taking pictures, and keeping plant tags are all essential to remembering what works and what doesn’t, or in looking for something you want to try.

Garden Journaling - include tags from plants (when they were planted, how well they did and when they faded, landscape drawings of your different beds, what was planted where, the weather, etc...  (image from Pinterest)

You might wonder what planning has to do with the demand we’ve had for Milkweed. Well, if planning was involved, I and others would have planned for possible extra demand by purchasing seed and planting immediately in pots for late season demand. And we would have started early with nectar plants to be ready as soon as butterflies come out of the chrysalis. Monarchs have been more plentiful this year due to the concern so many have had for their declining numbers. BAM – more plants were needed!

For me, next season goals include purchasing a grow light so I can grow them indoors protected during the shorter light and cooler days, and think I will ask my carpenter neighbor to help me build a mesh screen to put over the potted seedlings outdoors when it is warmer.

And I can’t wait to start my new garden journal next season! I’ll probably make it combination of printables and my own designed pages.

Next time I will talk about preparing your soil for next year.   Pssst . . . . don’t throw out those raked leaves. 😉   I hope you will visit me often here, and leave any comments or suggestions.