Have you ever wondered why your landscape needs active management when wild plants live nicely in their natural environments? People ask me that question all the time. In answer, I often use dogs and wolves as an analogy. Wolves get along quite well in the wild, but dogs don’t. When we domesticated wolves, we agreed to care for them and they return the favor in the form of love, loyalty, protection, assistance and other benefits. When we domesticated trees, shrubs and other plants, we agreed to care for them in exchange for benefits they provide us.
While it is true that wild plants live nicely in their natural environments, your yard may not be a natural environment for many of the plants in your landscape. Some may be “introduced” plants from other places that have not had the time or ability to adapt to their new environment. Others may be planted in the wrong place on your property. One example that comes to mind is the rhododendron. These are acid loving plants and most of our soil is neutral to alkaline. Rhododendrons also are shade seeking, but may have been planted in full sun.
Enough pontificating as to why landscapes need management. Let’s get into how to manage your landscape. The first step is to begin documenting how your garden grows. That means keeping a journal with the history of every cultivated plant. On what date does it bloom and leaf out? When does it defoliate in fall? Make an entry when you fertilize or apply insect or disease treatment, prune or divide perennials.
A journal can be a valuable tool in the future for you to identify trends. Growing patterns will become apparent as you look back on your journal over the course of several years. While some variation from an established pattern may be normal or weather related, others may signal changes in the plant that need to be monitored.
How deeply you want to get into journaling is up to you. How you do it is also your decision. Some gardeners just use a three-ring binder or a spiral notebook with a page for each plant. They write in their entries by hand. Others have sophisticated programs on their computers or mobile devices. Google “How to make a garden journal” and you will get everything from a list of what should go into a garden journal to complete templates that let you journal electronically. I’m sure there are apps for your mobile devices, too.
Journaling may appear to be a lot of work, especially for the casual gardener. However, the information it yields can help you as you make future plans for your landscape.
If this sounds like something plant health care professionals do when they set up our Plant Health Care program for customers, it’s exactly what they do. They keep journals for each customer. This is how they can effectively treat pests using material and procedures that are most effective with minimal environmental impact.
Although some people enjoy keeping a garden journal, we think that most would prefer to leave that task to a professional. That’s why our Plant Health Care department is growing so fast.