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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fall Garden and Garden Journaling

The summer garden was starting to look pretty bad-- we ripped out the squash a few weeks ago, then took out the corn and cukes this weekend.  It was definitely a little naked (although our tomatoes and basil are going strong!).  So  Mr. Great Indoors and I paid a visit to Lowe's to pick out our fall garden.  Last year we didn't plan ahead quite enough to make this happen, but I read a few weeks ago (in Better Homes and Gardens, maybe?) that July/August is the time to start thinking about fall crops. Let me tell you, it's hard to think about anything fall-related when we've been having 100° plus temperatures every day for weeks.

We found out our first frost date (October 15 for our zone, 7B) and counted backwards to figure out the best plants to sow for the fall.  We picked peas (63 days to maturity), "Petite 'n Sweet" carrots (65), "Neon Lights" Swiss chard (60), a squash medley of butterbush, acorn, and Lakota and vegetable spaghetti squashes (50), "salad bowl" lettuce (45), and cilantro (seedlings in 14-21 days).  Planting this past Sunday gave us 70 days before the first frost date.  Unfortunately, some cool-weather seeds we really wanted (like onions) take upwards of 120 days to yield anything, and we hadn't obviously planned that far in advance.  Seventy days might be cutting it close for a lot of the veggies we chose,  but hopefully Mr. Frost will hold off a little longer this year to give us a good fall crop.

Since February, I've religiously kept a garden journal to track weather and flora.  I just used a cheap-0 journal from Target (very gardeny, no?).  First I planned out how many pages I'd need, giving each date half a page.  Luckily I had enough for 365 days (February 28 and 29 share a line), plus a section at the back for garden layouts and extra notes.  Each day of the year has four years under it, and I separated each month with a small Post-It.  It definitely took some thinking ahead, but I'm loving my personalized journal!

Since each date has four years listed together, we can generally figure out what the weather was like for the garden in the previous years at about the same time.  I keep the journal on my dresser so I can just jot a few notes every morning about the previous day.  Something quick like, "Upper 90s, sunny; three tomatoes," is usually all it amounts to, unless there's a lot going on in our little gardening world.  I also make sure to notice what's blooming in our area so we know what to expect if we plant something specific in our yard.  Like on March 2 I noticed the saucer magnolias (some people call them tulip trees) around us were in full bloom.  Man, how I want one of those.  On months with an even number of days, I put a notes section where the 31st day would go, which is handy for recording general stuff about the garden.

The journal has been really helpful in tracking our yield this year, since I've noted every time we picked something.  So far, we've harvested:

      16 yellow squash
      20 zucchini
      27 cucumbers
      17 tomatoes (and still coming!)
      2 ears corn ... wop wop wop

As you can tell, the corn didn't do so well this year.  We ate those two ears of corn about two weeks before the seed packet actually said they'd be mature, and to say the corn was bland is an understatement.  Then I waited two weeks, and while the kernels seemed ready, they hadn't made it all the way up the ears.  Two weeks later, everything had shriveled up.  Valiant effort on our parts, but hopefully next year will be better.

P.S. I just updated the garden page for the first time in about a month, so check it out!  I added the garden layouts to that page so it's easier to tell what's what.
P.P.S.  The fonts I used for our garden layouts were Dear John 4 (from and Love Ya Like A... (from Picnik).

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