I hope I’m not the only person who still occasionally ventures out without my phone. I always said I’d never take a job where I was on call and that extends to my personal life. I spend so much time in front of a computer screen, the last thing I want is to be shackled by a mobile device.
Although I rarely make calls with my phone, I am finding I use it more and more in my garden. Yes, there are many wonderful apps that are an enormous help identifying pests and problems. There will be a future blog post on those, soon. But I find apps very distracting, with one discovery leading to a new question or discovery… and a quick answer easily turns into 20 minutes exploration that leaves me forgetting why I went looking for an answer the first place.
What I do love about my phone is the convenience of having a camera with me, for those serendipitous moments. My DSLR can get very heavy to lug around. My iPhone is not always turned on, but I can access the camera in seconds and I often do.
Besides being able to chronicle the seasons, with a record of what bloomed a mere swipe of the finger away, here are 3 more reasons I consider my phone a garden tool.
Spotting Design Triumphs and Flaws
One old trick I use regularly is to view photos of my borders in black and white. Color is often the first and more predominant thing we see in ornamental gardens. How many times have you bought a plant merely because you loved the flower color? Most of us eventually manage to create gardens that evolve into our favorite palette, but color alone is not enough to make a garden cohesive. You can have a closet full of blue and white clothes and still not have 2 pieces that go together. (But that’s a story for another day.)
Looking at your garden in B&W lets you focus on the shape and texture of your plants. You’ll be surprised what a difference this makes. Your eye will immediately hone in on what area looks messy and what the focal point is… and it may not be where you intended.
If you’re like me, you have definite preferences in plant shapes and textures, too. It seems I cannot get enough wispy plants with delicate, fern-like foliage. One of my favorite Jane Austen quotes is “…with some pleasures, a little goes a long way.” That’s advise I should consider the next time I’m tempted to buy yet another Coreopsis.
While wispy foliage is lovely, too much is simply disarray bordering on dishevelment. Not adjectives I want used to describe my garden. That’s why the plants in the above photo look so cluttered. Without the color, you can barely pick out the flowers. They are engulfed in leaves. The same problem occurs with gardeners who love tall, broad leaved plants or spherical flowers or variegated leaves… Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, even in the garden.
The border below has more diversity of shapes… the wide Hosta leaves, the spiky iris, the open Artemisia, and of course, the large rounded yew.
Every now and then, throughout the growing season, filter your photos to B&W and take a look at how things are filling out.
And don’t skim past the color photos, either. Next winter, when the seed catalogs start filling up your mailbox, pull out those photos and look for gaps in the season, where little was in bloom or maybe the there was too much yellow and not enough purple. You know how desperately we need that mid-winter lift and there’s no better way to plan next year’s garden than with photos of what you already have to work with.
And on the triumphant side, don’t forget to take photos of plant combinations you loved and want to repeat or expand on. Whether you are planning containers or filling in holes in the garden itself, a picture is so much more of a memory jog than a note scribbled on a pad of paper you will probably misplace.
Documenting the Harvest
This is about more than just bragging rights, although who doesn’t love bragging rights? I’ve always kept notes in my datebook on when I planted succession crops, like lettuce, beans, and beets. Well, not always. I tend to start the season conscientiously and then lose steam, as I get busy. With my camera at hand, and the date associated with each photo, I can keep track of not only when I planted, but how quickly they grew and when I started harvesting. That’s how I know that the peas I started early in March started producing only 3 days before the peas I seeded in mid-April.
It was also a photo that told me when the potato beetle larvae could be expected. Which brings me to the third way a camera is such a good tool in the garden.
Tracking and Predicting Problems
Some garden pests and diseases are annual events. There’s not much we can do to control the humidity that exacerbates black spot and powdery mildew, but it helps to know approximately when to expect them, so you can do a little pro-active fungicide spraying.
Insect pests are even more predictable. Sure, you could write on your calendar that Four-lined Plant Bugs are active for about a month in late spring, but a photo of their damage will not only alert you to be on guard, but also remind you that even though it looks like a leaf-spot disease, it’s really just those annoying pests who feed on your mint family leaves (and daisies, and viburnum…) and then disappear until next season.
I may not answer my phone, but I sure like having it with me in the garden.