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Getting Serious about Observing Observing Observing  RSS feed

 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Okay,

I'm a total slacker and haven't been taking serious notes the last few years as to things like sun/shade, rainfall, etc. I repent of my sins and promise to do much better....

What should I make notes of?

Weather: rainfall totals by event/week/month/year; patterns--major rain events especially; humidity??; ?
Sun: position of the sun on solistices and equinoxes....sun/shade patterns on those days HOW TO DO THIS--I need step by step please

what else?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Journal--daily temps and rainfall, wind, visible frost or dew. In a multi-year calendar, so you can easily see the trends.

For shade/sun--you can sketch the shadowlines per day (I would do every month and 3 times a day) on overhead pictures like a printout of google earth. Or you can put out a marker for the area of interest (like where you want to put the kitchen garden) and put on the journal when it gets shade.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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I'm pretty piss poor at keeping records also, but the things I watch for is how plants interact with each other, how they react differently in different places, and how they respond to treatment in different areas.

I noticed last year that my pumpkins always try to grow to the east to get the morning sun, they grew through corn rows to get it. This year I learned that if I want to grow summer fruits and vegetables with little watering I need to plant them in a place where the water is naturally fed. There's a lot of things here in Portland that I don't need to water at all, but tomatoes, cucumbers, melons and the like aren't among them.

Obviously, keeping meticulous records is a better plan than not, but even if you just meander around your stuff for a while most days and try to understand what they're doing you'll see patterns develop that will help you predict what's going to happen next.

My daughter planted some snap peas near our apple. The peas got hold of a low branch and pretty much ate it .

I had one artichoke of thirty survive an early transplant. It had good nutrients, but also had better afternoon sun and was shielded from evening wind by multiple blocks.

Stuff that volunteered from last year seems REALLY happy.

My cover crops are ferocious and will not accompany less ferocious crops unless they're nearly cleared before intercropping.

If I don't try to kill the stuff I don't want, the stuff I do want seems pretty eager to grow.

Most of my plants don't mind a little shade, so long as they're not completely shut out. One of my best tomatoes is growing from seeds in partial shade and I don't need to water it (yet).

These are just some of my observations from my gardening escapades since last spring. No record keeping required.

Edit: I'm noticing that most of my observation is geared toward putting a plant in the ground and then coming back later and eating it; in a perfect world there'd be no interaction beyond that. I also live on a very small piece of land. If you're looking for more intensive work/yields you may take a different approach than me .
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1014
Location: Northern Italy
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I made notes for 2 years, just general observations of plants, weather, what I needed to do, where water was pooling, where the shade was, whatever came to mind.

Then the notetaking became sort of ingrained in how I see the site and I take zero notes. I can just look around and see if things are 'in order' or if things are out of control, or if the soil getting better or if it's still like cement....

Thanks R Scott. My partner-in-crime should do that since she gets out of whack when the weather fluctuates.
William
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1379
Location: northern California
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One thing that hardly anyone ever thinks of, but which is so obvious and instructive, is to get on your rain gear and walk your land in a good solid downpour, one that has been going on long enough to soak the land to capacity and start running off. You will then see, plainly, how water moves across the landscape, where it accumulates, where erosion problems are starting or are likely to start, where you might, with least effort, divert runoff, place swales or ponds, and locate plants in moister or dryer niches. You will also get hints as to soil compaction, structure, and drainage. We used to give extra compliments to PDC students who thought of doing this before we would mention it!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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I like to take note of the dates that plants bloom, fruits ripen, frost kills, etc.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
Posts: 2392
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Charles Tarnard wrote:

Stuff that volunteered from last year seems REALLY happy.



THIS is what successful permaculture is about. Maybe I should repeat it.

Stuff that volunteered from last year seems REALLY happy.


I have a lot of things going to seed now, and my garden strategy is "how can I take these seed pods and disperse them so that I gets lots of volunteers in specific places?" I must look like the garden shaman, carefully divining a place and then shaking my piece of collard stalk with its dry seed pods so they will scatter to maximal effect. Fortunately, I remember where I did seed dances last year, with what seeds, so I can observe how successful they were.

Unfortunately, I haven't come up with a dance that causes weeds to NOT volunteer. I pull the bindweed and cudweed when I find it, but nothing that I shake at the ground seems to prevent them from coming up. I think what I am going to have to do is have more seed dances with species that I really want to volunteer, and maybe they will crowd out the annoying little weeds that aren't good for anything*.

*isn't good for anything = not even the chickens will eat it.
 
wayne fajkus
Posts: 743
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Im with alder on walking in a rain but will move on.

just observing how nature does its job is amazing. Then thinking how to replicate it.

If a log falls on the ground, sediment will form on the uphill side. Eventually it's covered with dirt. Then birds poop from the tree it fell from and blackberry plants grow. And the log holds moisture. The plants thrive.

That sums up hugelkuture, but the birds are basically doing what we do with clay seed balls.thats two things we mimic. Mulch, compost and Water flow are more examples.
 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1014
Location: Northern Italy
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Observing nearby natural polycultures and wracking your brain to figure out how you can mimic them to maximum efficiency.

For me it's
-black locust (there's a thornless variety but I don't really mind the tree generally)
-blackberry (ditto, hate the wild version, great for building good soil)
-wild plum (grafted, grows well in our inundated soil)
-hazelnut (yummy)
-pokeweed (taproots)

to name a few. I have this exact polyculture growing on the edge of the land. It took me a while to even SEE this natural polyculture! The black locusts are moving into the land. Now I'm figuring out how to get that into my system and build onto it in an effective way. That is what will show up if I do nothing, and I can be most effective if I work with that as opposed to against it.

William
 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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This is all good stuff! Keep it coming!
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
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In the winter, snow gives lots of opportunities. Animal tracks, wind patterns.

I familiarize myself with each plant in all its stages of growth and its different parts above and below ground. I smell the roots and bend them to feel the strength. I watch how different methods of control affect each weed. I look to see what pollinators go to which flowers. I poke my fingers into the soil and poke under mulch to see moisture patterns, both after rains and during dry spells.
 
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