It has been a weird spring of snow, sun, wind, hail, and rain. I have tried to reflect this in my garden journal.
This is my favorite two-page spread, with April 10 showing the garden as it was that day, and the dramatic change wrought by the overnight snowfall. As my accuracy improves, I am capturing the details better.
Illustrating transparent containers is hard, but they have been an important part of this spring’s garden, sheltering my sprouts from two inches of historic April snow. The bits of sunshine during the day allowed the soil to capture some heat.
And now that the freezing temperatures seem to be gone, we have rain and more rain. I am hoping for resilient sprouts and just a few peeks of sun for the next week.
Last year I kept a garden journal, partly to take notes about the garden’s progress, and partly to have fun making art about the garden. I have found it very useful to look back at last year’s journal to inform this year’s garden.
Last year I didn’t pay enough attention to how much sun each part of my plot got, and ended up stunting my tomatoes in the shade while baking my lettuce in full sun. This year I have corrected these mistakes.
I have also gotten my plants in more than a month earlier than last year, since I ran out of season with so many veggies still on the vines. These insights were all possible because of my Journal.
I am working in my journal already this year, recording the locations of my terraces and tomato cages, noting what I planted and when. Since I don’t like painting or drawing while perched on a stool or sitting on the wet ground, I do my journal pictures from photos I take.
That means that every time I go to the garden and take a picture of something new, I can paint a new picture in my garden journal. For example, today’s picture of my garden Guardian, Mlesi, perched on my cucumber trellis. I am trying to get more accurate in turning photos into watercolors, but it is a slow process.
We go through a few wine corks here, and it has always been a bit of an issue for me. I hate throwing things out, but aside from Auntie Bridgett making some really cool miniature tikis a few years back, we haven’t made use of them.
This problem found (one) solution the other day, as I was flipping through the Garden Journal I made for the second half of the summer. Auntie Bridgett looked over my shoulder and said, “You need to put some bees into all those hexagons!” I knew I could draw bees, or paint them. But wouldn’t it be cooler….
So I grabbed some of the corks and the Exacto-o blade and had at it. I started with a few bees (only one turned out) and played with them on the hexagon page. I learned a few things right away. First, ink is better than acrylics (which I should have known), and second, the ink I have isn’t totally waterproof. Also, a tiny bit of yellow paint really makes a difference.
So I kept playing, creating a love note to our favorite pollinators.
Then I cut two more stamps, a rectangle and a “O”, and played with them. For a moment, I forgot I was in my garden journal, and had to do some quick finagling to make the stamps “garden-Ish”.
Then I trimmed up the rectangle so it was thinner and pointy, and I liked it better. I had another page that needed a picture on it, layered some acrylics and then used the stamps to make a flower from the shapes.
I still have no idea where this is all going, but just being on the road is pretty neat!
Last year, my friend Ruth Inman taught me how to make art journals from scratch, out of boxes and glue and scraps. She was so enthusiastic and clear in her directions, and the the supplies so cheap, I couldn’t NOT do it.
So I made one. A saltine cracker box, some art papers from Auntie Bridgett, and voila, a journal. I decided to use it to write (and maybe even paint) about our new garden plot.
And I have been working in it ever since. Some days I just write what’s happening, but I usually will go back and add some water color, to make it prettier. It also lets me show the weather and plants better.
And I have really enjoyed it. Since the Journal is not for anyone but me, I am not intimidated about not being perfect. I work in pencil from my photos of the things in the garden, Watercolor, then ink with a waterproof Micron pen.
As it turns out, this is going to be an accurate record of my garden! It will be useful next year, when I am deciding what to plant and where to put it. It will remind me of the little details that are easily forgotten. And I will get to enjoy my pictures, as well!
Things keep coming up in our community garden plot. The zucchini sprouts have secondary leaves now, and I’ll need to move them apart a bit so they can have room to spread out.
I’ve moved some parsley that was in our sunny window into the plot, so we could use that window as a nursery for re-starts of pumpkins and cucumbers, the seed of which have apparently died in the ground.
Our house faces north, and we only have the one really bright window. New tomato starts have shot up there! I’ve started calling it “la fenetre magique”, which means magic window. When the tomatoes are a few inches tall, I’ll put them out in the plot, too.
I put a few sunflower seeds into the plot, as well, fitting them in between the currently tomato-less tomato cages. I’m keeping them wet and hoping for the best.
I stopped by the garden plot yesterday, to pull tiny weeds and remove the camellia blossoms. I noticed that some of the radishes were looking weird… the soil around the leaves was lumpy and tilted.
And then I saw why!! Some of them have actual radishes below the leaves. Taking a clue from my friend Shawn Quione in Salinas, I chose the biggest ones to thin out, so the others would have more room. Each one was about the size of the end of my thumb.
Once I got them home, I washed them gently and put them away like fine jewelry, to have with supper. And while I was waiting for Auntie Bridgett to get home, I celebrated with a portrait of the harvest. It is my favorite page in my garden journal so far.
I know it is only May, and summer goes until September, but I don’t know if I will be as excited about anything I pull from my dirt as I am about these four radishes. The newness of this sort of creation is just wonderful.
I feel like I have been waiting FOREVER for my garden to really take off. The radishes, lettuces and carrots have finally poked their tiny green heads above ground, but the cool cloudy weather, along with some shade from a nearby camellia bush, isn’t giving them any inspiration to really GROW.
Frankly, I’m getting just the tiniest bit impatient….
And then, making a stop by on the way to the grocery store, I saw this. This intrepid, stalwart zucchini sprout, lifting his little green towards our lukewarm sun.
I also noticed my itty bitty lavender plant has sent up some buds. They are getting blue and smell great! Maybe we are gonna see some growth after all.
Come on, sunshine! Gimme an “S”! Gimme a “U”! Gimme an “N”!