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Is it time to wrap up the summer gardening season? It’s hard to believe the season’s over and cold weather is on its way.

If your summer gardening season is coming to an end, here are four end-of-summer tips you should do right now to help you become a better organic gardener:

1. Keep a garden journal (or google doc)

Keeping a garden journal is incredibly helpful. The value will quickly become evident to you from season to season and year to year.

Last summer, we forgot to grow chamomile, which is one of our absolute favorite medicinal teas (it tastes like a combination of pineapple and apples). We made sure to note that we needed to grow it this summer, and are now enjoying picking handfuls of chamomile flowers each night, to be dried for later use as tea.

Last summer, we forgot to grow chamomile, which is one of our absolute favorite medicinal teas (it tastes like a combination of pineapple and apples). We made sure to note that we needed to grow it this summer, and are now enjoying picking handfuls of chamomile flowers each night, to be dried for later use as tea

You can keep a paper garden journal or simply use an online Google doc. The benefit of using Google docs for your journal is you can’t lose them or spill tea on them, and you can easily search them for certain words (such as plant varieties, months, etc).

Things to include in your garden journal when you’re wrapping up your summer gardening season:

  • What did you like most about your summer garden? What didn’t you like? This could be a new seed variety you loved, certain plant placement, garden design features, etc..
  • What do you want to do differently next summer? What do you want to make sure to do/grow again next summer?
  • What do you want to research or learn more about before the next summer rolls around? Organic methods for preventing or stopping plant diseases? Tomato growing tricks? DIY indoor grow lights? Something else? Write it down and make sure you’ve learned what you need to before it comes time to put that new knowledge to work.

2. Take Photos of Your Garden

We ALWAYS take tons of photos of our garden each season. Why? Because our memories aren’t perfect.

Did we have kale or peas on the front of that bed last year? How did it do? Garden pictures help you remember.

Did we have kale or peas on the front of that bed last year? How did it do? Garden pictures help you remember.

The question, “What did I plant there last summer?” becomes increasingly difficult to answer after you’ve been gardening in the same spot for many years.

By regularly taking photos throughout the seasons, you can easily refer back to see what you grew where, how it looked, how it performed, etc..

Nope, you don’t have to get a fancy camera. A phone camera works perfectly fine, and you can easily organize your garden photos into albums by season & year to make them even easier to locate.

3. Save Your Best/Favorite Seeds

We LOVE seed saving and recommend that every gardener start saving their seeds as soon as possible.

These beautiful Magpie beans caught our eye this summer. We grow lots of dry beans in the summer for winter soups. We'll be saving our biggest Magpie beans from our healthiest plants to grow next summer.

These beautiful Magpie beans caught our eye this summer. We grow lots of dry beans in the summer for winter soups. We’ll be saving our biggest Magpie beans from our healthiest plants to grow next summer.

Why save your own seeds? Three good reasons:

a. Grow better seeds for your specific environment.

If you become good at seed saving, each new generation of seeds produces plants that are better adapted to your particular growing conditions (soil type, humidity, temperatures, pests & diseases, etc).

b. Create original varieties (for advanced gardeners).

Where do you think all those old amazing heirloom seeds came from? Answer: most of them were bred from gardeners and small farmers who developed and shared their own unique varieties.

You can also breed your own unique varieties if you’d like to.

c. Save your favorites, save money.

You can produce more of your favorite seed varieties rather than having to buy them again. Every seed variety requires somewhat unique seed-saving methods, isolation distance, etc.

Some plants are easy to save seeds from while having them grow true to the parent (examples: peas, beans, and tomatoes). Others require a little more care to make sure they don’t cross-pollinate with nearby relatives (examples: squash, kale, and chicory).

Once you know the basics, seed-saving is surprisingly easy.

4. Start Your First Fall Gardening

In the not-so-distant future, cool weather will be here. Sigh. Or yay! Depends on your perspective…

Personally, we love fall and winter gardening and grow food year round. Most people living in the US can do the same with minimal effort and with no additional resources required.

Nothing adds color to a cold, dreary fall or winter day like a pile of fresh organic produce from the garden!

Nothing adds color to a cold, dreary fall or winter day like a pile of fresh organic produce from the garden!

Garden-ripe organic kale, lettuce, kohlrabi, broccoli, cabbage, winter pea shoots, chicory, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, broccoli… There are as many delicious cool weather crops as there are warm weather crops.

Cool weather also has other benefits: reduced irrigation needs and almost no plant pests and diseases are active. Woohoo!

If you’ve never tried fall or winter gardening before, here are FIVE GrowJourney articles that will help you get growing:

  1. When to start your fall garden seeds
  2. Succession planting in your fall and winter garden for continual harvests
  3. Why, how, and when to use cold frames
  4. Winter gardening with low tunnels (*we love low tunnels – they’re our key to getting harvests on winter days when it’s snowing or in single digit temps)
  5. Winter gardening tips from Master Gardener and Permaculturist, Eliza Holcombe

We hope these tips were helpful! Enjoy the last weeks of summer and all the garden goodies that come with it.

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