Keeping a diary is often seen as the preserve of a teenage girl, a means to expunge all that angst. I had a diary when I was 13 but I was never very successful at maintaining the regular writing a diary demanded. I attempted it but I think I only managed to make it to March before it dwindled to nothing. The closest I’ve got to keeping a diary since is my blog. I started it just over four years ago. Keeping it going that long has been a feat in itself, but the writing doesn’t fit any regular pattern and I write it when work and life allow.
I do envy those who have the discipline to keep a gardening diary, one that records the weather, sowing times, germination and the maturity of plants. Every spring I think I’ll remember all of this but sitting here, at the start of the New Year, I can barely remember what the weather was like in November let alone a year ago. I’ve increasingly started to realise that all that information could be really useful. A friend of mine is a head gardener growing fruit and vegetables for a Michelin-starred restaurant. She really knows her onions, so to speak. I spent a day last summer working with her in the walled garden where she grows her crops. It was a fascinating insight into the world of someone who has to be a very organised grower in order to do her job well. She has large A4 notepads where she notes down the weather and temperature, she records what she sows and when, and when she harvests a crop she’ll weigh it and record that too. I’m convinced all this contributes to her being such a talented and knowledgeable gardener. My own growing is somewhat haphazard – seed sowing squeezed in between finishing work and cooking that evening’s food. It’s always been the case that making notes in a diary is just another thing to do.
Monty Don wrote in his book My Roots, a collection of his articles for the Observer, about his diary keeping. He could go back to 13 February 1998 and see what the weather was like, what he’d planted, and what was in flower or what he could pick from the vegetable garden. ‘Funnily enough I have no recollection of this day. Without the diary it would have been lost’, he writes. His tip is ‘get a page to page diary and treat it without deference, getting mud on the pages, using whatever writing tool is to hand, but above all using it’.
As a gardener I feel I should be much more in tune with the seasons, the weather and how our climate is changing. It’d be fascinating to look through previous years’ records to see when the first and last frosts occurred, whether there was snow or not, if the summer was a scorcher or a washout and how all this impacted on the plants I grew.
So the notepad is purchased and the first few days have been recorded, now I just have to keep it up. Hopefully it’ll make me a better gardener, and that’s one resolution I’d like to achieve.