Surefire Way to Grow Better Produce

Reader Contribution by Greg Carbone and Backyard Farmer
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Many experts say keeping a journal is a great way to improve one’s life. You get to recap your days, learn from mistakes and save key experiences. And you can grow better produce.

Edible garden success rates can be improved by doing the exact same thing. Edible gardeners experience many ups and downs throughout the growing season. Some of these experiences are out of our control. After all, you cannot do much about a colder than normal spring filled with heavy rain. However, there are many experiences you can control and learn from. For example, this year we experimented with a few new varieties of heirloom tomatoes here at the DIY Backyard Farm. Some, like the Cherokee Purple and German Queen were spectacular! On the other hand, Mr. Stripey heirlooms did not live up to our expectations.

Do you think we would remember those heirloom tomato experiences in the spring of the following season? Doubtful. The long, cold winter and excitement of a new growing season usually dilute or eliminate such learning moments. This is precisely where gardening journals or notes can save the day. Take a look at the image below. It is a snapshot taken from a real page in the back of the DIY Backyard Farm Edible Garden Planning Guide. Those are the notes we have taken on our 2014 tomato garden. We now have a place to refer to when it comes time to plan our 2015 tomato gardens.  

2014 notes from the DIY Backyard Farm tomato garden

The children can get involved in this process, too. Our 6-year-old and 8-year-old Backyard Farmers each have their own 4-by-2-foot edible gardens to tend. We encourage them to spend time with us observing and noting the gardens on a regular basis. This is a great way to bring them closer to nature and teach them more about the origins of food. In the image below, our son is signifying that his Sweet 100 tomatoes were a big hit. He preferred them to the Husky Cherry tomatoes that he also grew. He already knows what tomatoes he’s growing next season!

Sweet 100 tomatoes were delicious and plentiful in 2014

As the old adage goes, “Do what you have always done; get what you have always gotten.” Taking detailed garden notes allows you to make sure what you have always done is working. Garden notes will also excite you to spend some time over the winter searching for better approaches or more appropriate plants for next season. For us those notes will mean more and better tomatoes for our summer-long BLT fest!

Fall is the perfect time to collect your thoughts, experiences and memories from the growing season. Write them down now while they are still fresh in your mind.

Sliced organic, heirloom tomato preparing to become a BLT

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