Friday, 2 March 2012

a gardening journal is a study in phenology

Recently I decided to keep a journal of events in my garden, so I'll know in future years when to expect plants to bloom or fruit, and how quickly seeds might sprout. One of the precipitating factors was my decision to pick all the apples to stop the rats, possums and birds pinching them all. When I took the apples inside I discovered they weren't ripe enough to eat, so I had to cook them. (I decided they weren't fully ripe because I noticed the seeds hadn't turned black.) I know my memory isn't good enough to remember what date I picked them, so I bought a book and started my journal.

Since then I've noted each time I put seeds in the ground, and when the first little leaves pushed up through the soil. Very exciting. I'm also going to note how long it takes my compost to 'cook' in my tumbler - I'm trying out the recipe for Fast Compost in The Compost Book by David Taylor. It will supposedly be ready in only fourteen days, if I've followed the recipe correctly.

It was only when I was reading the gorgeously illustrated book, Harvest, by Meredith Kirton, that I came across the word phenology. She writes:
This is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena, such as the dates when leaves or flowers emerge, even when insects emerge from their cocoons or migratory birds make their first flight. The founder of this science was Robert Marsham (1708 - 1797).
So, when I write in my new book, I'll think of myself as a phenologist.

Project Budburst says:
The word phenology comes from the Greek words “phaino” (to show or appear) and “logos” (to study). Phenology is one of the oldest branches of environmental science, dating back thousands of years. Observations of phenological events have provided indications of the progress of the natural calendar – when seasons begin and change – since pre-agricultural times...
In Europe, the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) systematically recorded flowering times for 18 locations in Sweden over many years. His meticulous notes also recorded the exact climatic conditions when flowering occurred. Linnaeus, and a British landowner, Robert Marsham, share the honor of being considered the ‘fathers’ of modern plant phenology.
Marsham could be considered one of the first citizen scientists in modern times. He was a wealthy landowner who kept systematic records of "Indications of spring" on his estate in England. Marsham’s observations were in the form of dates of the first occurrence of events such as flowering, bud burst, and emergence or flight of an insect. For generations, Marsham’s family maintained records of phenological events over exceptionally long periods of time, eventually ending with the death of Mary Marsham in 1958. The records of the Marsham family showed trends that were observed and related to long-term climate records.
If I lived in the US, I'd have loved to participate in Project Budburst, which is a community of people collecting and recording information about these types of phenomena.

I wonder if we have something similar in Australia.


proud womon said...

fascinating... thank you for the post parlance...

parlance said...

proud womon, I guess if we do stop to take note of what is happening around us, we might recover our awareness of our own small part in the mighty system that is our Earth.

proud womon said...

so right parlance... and being open to undeniable truths is part of that recovery... we're heading in the right direction - but it's so frustratingly slow!