My long time friend and reader, Patricia, emailed me today with the following question and statement:
Do you have a mental checklist that you go through as you do your daily garden maintenance tour? I would love to write that down and follow the same pattern as you.
Yes, I have a mental checklist that over the years has become so ingrained that it’s just part of what I do without giving it conscious thought.
Every gardener’s detailed checklist will be different depending on what their garden goals are, what they grow, how big their garden is, and what the season is.
But the foundation of your list for your daily garden maintenance tour is pretty basic. After you have that you can add from there depending on your goals and the amount of time you have each day. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.
Reasons to Check the Garden Each Day
As all of us know who have gardened even one year, our gardens are constantly changing – even from day to day. This is one reason our daily checks can be so important. We see what’s going on and if something is “going wrong” we can often be “on top of it”.
In addition, this is how we learn. Not only about the plants we grow and the creatures (good and bad) that visit the garden, but about your garden itself.
Believe it or not, in my 2500 sq. foot garden there are dozens of microclimates. Some sections for various reasons are much more productive than others. Over the 17 plus years we’ve been at this location, I’ve gotten to know every square foot up close and personal.
I know the spots that
- grow the best tomatoes
- where bind weed can be a problem if I let it
- where mache is likely to appear in the fall
- where I can’t plant potatoes if I don’t want scab on them
- what areas dry out more quickly than others
- what spots have sandy soil and
- what spots are “just right”
- what spots are better planted with cool weather crops rather than crops that go through the summer
Our brains are constantly collecting information with each visit IF we’re paying attention.
The Purpose of Your Daily Check is Your Starting Point or Foundation of Your Checklist
I can’t give you yours of course, but I’ll share mine with you and you can take it from there.
Hunger is what primarily drives me to the garden everyday. Unless ice and snow prevents it, I’m out there looking around for something I can eat for today or tomorrow. I’m also looking to see what’s growing enough to be available tomorrow and next week.
CHECKING THE OVERALL GARDEN
This purpose is accomplished as I move through the garden to harvest. Harvesting also takes care of the other purposes like pest control which I do as I go along.
Here’s what I look for:
- Does anything look like it’s having a problem.
- What’s doing particularly well.
- What’s doing poorly?
- What’s producing and what’s not?
- Pull a weed here and there. For example, nutsedge comes up in various spots, but is easy to pull out.
- Any bad bugs? (I look for and kill those as I go.)
- Any sign of voles?
- Collect seed for saving if it’s that time of year.
Checking the overall garden also takes care of planning what has to be done in the days and weeks ahead. I can make a note or two when I get back inside. Here are various examples of what I look for:
- What things are growing in the fence that I’ll need to cut and/or pull.
- Does my clover in garden paths need to be cut so I won’t trip?
- What beds need more mulch?
- Where will I plant my next cover crop?
- What beds will best be suited for winter rye; what beds will be better with oats? (That will depend on what I plan to plant there next year.)
- Where else can I plant garlic this fall?
Now you have the basis and know my starting points.
After I accomplish the basic stuff, I do at least one task that I have designated as a have-to-do-today task such as transplanting a container of lettuce seedlings or planting a cover crop in a bed.
Then I work 30 minutes (or longer if I want) on a major job that I’m trying to finish. Here are some examples of what they may be:
- start a lot of seed in flats or containers
- transplant or plant in the garden
- edge a section of the borders
- take Creeping Charlie out of various places
- take out a bush
- move loads of straw to the garden or borders
Important to My Well-Being
I have a certain amount of time I allot to outside tasks each day. On the worst day it’s 30 minutes and on the best day it can be 3 hours; possibly 4 hours on super-great day.
The average (and my goal) is 2 hours. Sometimes I split that into 1 hour in the AM and 1 hour in the PM.
Although I do some muscle strengthening exercises each morning for about 5 or 10 minutes, I’ve never been fond of or good at “work out” type exercises. But I can go outside and walk and/or work. Thus, another reason I consider my daily routine in the garden important is my physical and mental well being.
Everyone’s list will vary, but hopefully this post has given some basics that you (and Patricia) will find helpful.
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