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Garden Tool: The Camera

Photos of this year's flowers and vegetables can help you plan for next season.

Taking PicturesNo doubt your gardens are at their best now, full to bursting with plants and vegetables, draped with flowers and struggling ahead of the coming frosts to seed and put on growth. Come the dead of winter, we love to recall them this way, in all their green glory. And often, as we plan our next garden, we struggle to remember the details of their opulence after the garden has been put to bed and mulch and snow cover everything. Just where did we plant that row of peas?

We’ve often promoted keeping a record — a garden journal — that records weather conditions on a semi-daily basis as well as documenting the growth and harvest success of various vegetable plants and landscape shrubs, flowers, and ground covers. Do as we say. But if you’re like us and end up doing what we do — in other words, not keeping our journal as current and as detailed as we should — there may be a simpler solution. Take pictures of this year’s garden with a camera.

Photos of your garden, especially when compared to that fine garden plan you sketched out last winter (you did make a garden plan, on graph paper, last winter, didn’t you?) can suggest what next year’s garden will look like. It’s a convenient way to plan crop rotation, how much space to give different varieties of vegetables (resolved: we plant more onions next year), whether or not your ground cover covers, and if you’ve spaced certain flowering annuals too close together or too far apart. Take pictures of all facets of your garden, the beautiful as well as the dutiful. Panoramas of your garden space need to be tight enough so that you can identify everything growing there. If you have a large garden, several photos may be necessary. But try, too, to pull back and get a single shot of your garden in its glory. Stand on a ladder if you have to or get up on a roof (please; take all precautions if you do). Labeling is important. Use the time signature feature on your garden camera and caption the photos on your computer (or write on back of the prints) so that you know exactly when the picture was taken and what it depicts.

Cameras are also good for other uses. If you’re having problems with a particular pest, take photos of it and the damage it causes to show to your local gardening expert or extension agent. Weeds? Same deal; a photo will help you get them identified and on the way to the best organic solution. And gardeners are starting to use critter cams to catch images of those unwelcome visitors who unknowingly trip the shutter.

No matter how you use your camera in the garden, you will be rewarded. There’s nothing like sitting down on a cold winter’s day and enjoying the fruits of your labors all over again. And garden photography is something of an art. Capturing in full frame that one brilliant yellow squash blossom turning its face to the sun and you have a treasure as beautiful as any master painting.