from the forum: how do you keep garden records?

IT’S A QUESTION I DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER FOR, but maybe you can help: What’s the best way to keep track of gardening records—a format or tactic that can grow with the garden? Is it index cards; spreadsheets on the computer; a series of actual journals, such as the popular moleskine notebooks? Forum member KK asked the other day, and maybe you have the secret to record-keeping success. (Mine apparently was to start a garden blog—since A Way to Garden represents the first time in my garden career I have ever actually recorded things in any sustained fashion, truth be told.) Tell us here, or better yet, in this thread in the Urgent Garden Question Forum.

  1. Katie Pence says:

    I’ve kept moleskin diary’s for years,starting in 1988 .I kept good enough notes to write a maintenance manual for a 100acre garden I was then tending,building.

    Then another with a map, color coded and bed areas named for ease of reference.Then areas divided into a graph designed to touch each area on a certain schedule depending on need. Some weekly; annual beds, pots,lawns. bi-monthly.Others every three months certain remote areas.This is a ten acre garden with one full time gardener only.But this helps to track and to do a weekly to do list using the graph plus good judgment .Making sure I regularly touch all areas.

    This summer we relied instead on my memory , kind of a built in time clock and intuition about what areas need to be tended.But I notice the are areas were forgetting to look at…
    Katie Pence

  2. Bobster says:

    LOVED reading everyone’s comments on how they track and organize their gardens from year to year! Spreadsheets weren’t the answer that I thought they’d be. And I know I’m not disciplined enough to keep a daily journal…but I still long for the idea of it. The digital camera has been a godsend! I always see things in a photo that weren’t observed in the moment. Always a great visual of what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s missing.

    I’ve also been an obsessive plant tag hoarder. I try not to keep duplicates, just one of anything, um everything I’ve purchased. Having started a few different gardens now, it’s nice to come across a reminder of something that worked in a previous garden that I loved and might work now. Also a reminder of what didn’t work. Just came across the tag for a beautiful dark purple Rhodie that I loved, but had forgotten the name to. Just what I needed and when I needed it!

    I also always start with a colored pencil diagram of what I’m planning (as the budget never ever allows for everything to be installed all at once). The diagram has a plant key of planned plants. Usually a list of well regarded, well performing plants, but more important than variety it’s what I’m looking for in color, texture, and seasonal interest. The diagram absolutely evolves, but it keeps me from buying on impulse when I see something new and shiny in the nursery. Having a map, it forces me to weigh whether I like the potential purchase more than what I have mapped. When I’m shopping, if it’s on the list it’s a ‘YES’!! If not, what I will do is snap a photo of the desired new & shiny plant (and said plant’s tag) with my phone camera and research when I get home. If it stands up I’ll either make the trip or find a mail source. It’s saved me from many a shortsighted plant binge.

    Still have dreams of a beautiful moleskin journal, dutifully attended to daily. Until I get there, My map, garden pics and Margaret’s monthly list of chores usually prods me on what I’ve forgotten to do. :-)

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Katie. TEN acres? ONE HUNDRED acres? Oh my oh my. I feel faint at the very thought! But yes, the scheduling of a regular rotation idea is key, otherwise it gets overwhelming what to do when. I have areas that get weekly care, others that get monthly, some distant areas that get maybe two times a season only.

      Welcome, VP. Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is the place I always mean to be but never get to — kind of like some of the chores around here. :) Thanks for the reminder that I can share with others.

      Welcome, Christopher. Yes, where were we all before digital cameras? I have thousands of pix, but I wish I had them better organized/edited (need to take time to delete the bad ones, label the best ones, etc. — right now all I do is select the ones for the blog and the rest are in my computer in chronological order hoping I come visit them some day).

      See you all soon again, I hope.

  3. Ingrid says:

    I use an old-fashioned notebook and myfolia.com. Together they give a fairly complete picture. I like the notebook because can I sketch out crop rotation plans and I like myfolia because it emails me my weekly task list, with weather forecasts and notes about what’s going on with other gardeners in my region.

  4. Les says:

    I grow both vegetable (131 varieties) and flower (225 varieties) plants from seed. I started keeping records by using spreadsheets and computer journal software. None of them proved satisfactory, and I always wanted more information and a way of getting to it quicker. Now I use my PC, loaded with a terrific gardening software program from IdeasGenie of the UK. I can do all the gardening procedures that all of you have mentioned, and quite a few more. For instance, the seed packets that I purchase are printed on the front with a full size color photo of the plant, the back of the packet has detailed growing instructions. By going to the website of the seed packager, and making a few clicks with my mouse I can copy/paste the photo and instructions to the proper module in my computer. No endless, boring keystrokes. I garden in the Pacific NW corner of the US, state of Washington, near city of Seattle. This software was mentioned in a Seattle newspaper, by a gardening Q&A columnist. I checked out the their webstie; http://www.flowergenie.co.uk, made a purchase of Flower Genie, and have been elated since. I am now using the advanced version, IdeasGenie Pro. You can, and do get help, quickly and politely, by none other that the software developer/programmer, himself a keen gardener. Go slow with Flower Genie, and follow the instructions. If you do that, you will come up with the most amazing piece of gardening software you have ever seen or used. I have never used a smartphone or a laptop out in my garden, for fear that my muddy, gloved hands would not be suitable for handling that particular hardware. I do have this vision for the future though; I will communicate with my PC and IdeasGenie Pro (located in my home office) with voice recognition software and a bluetooth mike dictating reminders to myself, while I continue on with my seed sowing, planting, pruning or whatever task. Oh, and by the way, I can generate labels for my potstics to mark my seedlings, by using previously entered data, edit it if I choose, and print only as many as I will need. So take a look at the Ideas Genie website, and wander through it, make your purchase if you are so moved, and you are on your way. I’m sure happy I did! And yes, you can link your digital photos (more than just one, too) to your plant data. I’m a retired ‘Senior’ type person M, consider myself an amateur gardener, have 2,000 sq. ft. of vegetable garden (which I share), and English Cottage gardens around my home. I use this software continuously.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Les. Who knew? Thanks for the tip about Flower Genie software. Fascinating how many possibilities there are today, isn’t it? See you soon again, I hope.

  5. Eric Rocco says:

    I use photos and save the seed packs / plastic name tags. As for perennials and shrubs / trees I use an excel sheet so I can keep track on how much I’ve spent over the years. When I moved here there was a burning bush, some daisies and a few spring bulb plants. Now a LOT more (and the burning bush has been retired.)

  6. KathyJ says:

    I use PlantStep software for daylilies. Also when removing plant tags from pots, I use a $1 paper punch to make holes and put tags on a 4″ round key rings. I keep a seperate rings for shrubs.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, KathyJ. I have to go investigate PlantStep software more thoroughly. Thanks for the tip! I hate all the big plastic tags these days so I don’t want them in the garden, but haven’t really even caught up with my labeling here, naughty me. So maybe I should just give in and do what you do!

  7. Kathy says:

    I use the garden scribe plant organizer to store my plant tags and photos. I use spiral notebooks when I want to write a lot of notes, and I use yearly calendars to keep track of the exact dates that I do things in the garden like fertilizing and pruning.

    1. Margaret says:

      Thanks, Kathy. I am still all over the place with my record-keeping, but I guess you could call the blog my journal. :)

  8. Hassan Butt says:

    Keeping garden records can be done in a variety of ways, depending on your preferences and the level of detail you want to track. Some common methods include:

    1:Keeping a physical notebook or journal: This can be a simple notebook or a dedicated garden journal, where you can record information such as when you planted certain seeds or seedlings, how they grew, and when you harvested your produce.

    2:Using a spreadsheet or gardening app: This can be a great way to track detailed information about your garden, such as specific plant varieties, soil conditions, and weather data.

    3:Taking photos or videos: You can use a camera or smartphone to take photos or videos of your garden, which can be a great way to document its progress over time.

    4:Keeping a calendar or planner: This can be a simple way to keep track of when you need to water your plants, fertilize them, or perform other tasks.

    5:Talking to other gardeners: Joining a gardening club or online community can be a great way to share information and learn from others’ experience.

    Ultimately, the key is to find a method that works for you and that you will actually stick with. The more detailed your records, the more helpful they will be in helping you improve your gardening skills over time.

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