I photograph my garden throughout its growing season to help me remember where I planted things and how they grew. Months later, I can track the when of images because I've got the date set in my camera and it's saved with the digital files.
Those are the practical reasons why I photograph my garden. My true inspiration? Sometimes when I'm out gardening, a plant or a plant grouping exudes such vital life force and beauty, that I can't resist trying to capture it. In many ways, the relationship I have with my garden is one of the most intimate and satisfying I have each summer.
Over the course of the season, I jot notes on the garden map I created before planting about how different plantings worked out, along with suggestions for next year. I imagine many of you do the same. The next step in note taking is to keep a garden journal illustrated with images of your own garden community. That journal becomes an essential resource in planning for next year. Especially when you include information on each plant you grew, how the season unfolded, what you harvested, how you stored or preserved your harvest, as well as the recipes you discovered along the way.
There are several good options for creating a completely personal gardening journal that make use of your notes and your images. For those who like to research projects on the internet, type “garden journals” into a search engine. You'll discover several options, including online journals. You'll also find that some word processing programs offer downloads of templates for gardening journals.
For Mac users, Apple's Numbers offers a gardening journal in the template chooser. Each of the three pre-formatted pages includes sample entries to get you started and each allows you to insert your own digital images. The weather page is ready to help you track temperatures and rainfall, along with other weather observations. Another page is formatted for noting what you planted, when, where and how. Design and add your own pages as you want.
Here are some other things to include. Simplify record-keeping of what types of seeds you purchased by taking photos of the packets. Note how each seed type worked out. Did you make bare root purchases? What transplants did you purchase? How were they hardened? When and where did you plant them? Make sure to both make notes about and photograph each step of the way. Remember to take both vertical and horizontal pictures so you can use the one that best fits the layout of your journal.
Record flowering and harvest dates. Where did you plant fall radishes, spinach and other greens? What bulbs did you plant and when? When did a particular plant bloom? When did you pick your first peas? Remember, to set the correct date in your camera, before you photograph these events so you can verify when things happened using the information stored with your pictures, or metadata. If you don't know how to set the date in your camera, take it in to a full service photography store with knowledgeable staff and ask for help.
Note what challenges your garden faced from disease and pests and weather. Be sure to photograph all of the problems, not just the satisfying moments. With weather, note first and last frosts, how much did it rain and how much did you need to water, how windy was it? When was that hail storm that shredded leaves?
Include practical reminders, like a note to yourself about when you need to fertilize and with what.
When did you do the last deep watering of your deciduous trees before Fall settled in? Add notes on recipes you discovered for using your fresh produce from your garden, or recipes you created. Paste recipes from magazines like Zone 4 right in to your journal. Note both what you liked and didn't like.
If you keep a garden journal online, you'll need to type in notes as you go. When you print a journal, you can handwrite entries and save computer entry for Winter or skip the computer all together. To preserve your completed journal so you can browse back through and share it, take it to a printer or full service photography store and have it bound or put the pages in a photo album.
Keep your journal and your images as resources for a Garden Retrospect Photo book. Here are some ideas for photographs you may want to include in your garden book: past gardens or what your space looked like before it was a garden, weather events and creatures that thrive in your garden (including your cat curled up under the peonies). Photograph your own garden and those of friends, even the best of the ones you see around town or on your local summer garden tour.
Look for an article on how to organize a photo book in the winter issue of Zone 4. You'll need about 77 photos for a twenty page 8 ½ x 11 inch photo book or 140 for forty pages. Be sure to take both vertical and horizontal images throughout the gardening season so you have all the pictures you need when you make your book.
Whether you decide to create a photo book or not, the images you take and the journal you kept will allow you to relive the scents of summer in the long months of winter, when you yearn to have your hands in the dirt
Jenna Caplette is employed by F-11 Photographic Supplies, Bozeman, Montana.