Do you organize your gardening paperwork? Keep track of what you grew and when? What you’d like to grow again? It is possible to garden without keeping any records. People do it all the time. But there are some very good reasons to keep at least some records, especially with regards to the organic vegetable garden and for me I’ve found keeping basic information from year-to-year to be incredibly helpful.
The essential gardening paperwork to keep are:
- Crop rotation records. A basic tenant of organic gardening is to rotate crops to help ward off diseases.
- Previous year’s seed orders. Makes it easy to refer to when ordering new seeds.
- Planting guide for the season. So you know where to plant the current year’s crop to maximize your planting area.
- General guide to planting dates for your region.
Non-essential, but nice to keep included:
- Magazine/newspaper articles relating to specific gardening interests
- Plant tags and records of trees, shrubs, and flowers planted
- An overall garden plan
Some people keep beautiful and detailed journals of what they’ve planted, how they thrived (or didn’t), how they were cared for, pounds of harvest each year and the like. And that’s great for those that enjoy it, but that’s not me. I like to keep it simple, remember?
So my system consists of this very basic thrift store binder. Looking at this picture I sorta wish I had a more attractive binder. But, hey, it’s easy to keep clean. You know…being vinyl and all. OK, it’s not a thing of beauty, but it has been with me for about 15 years now so it’s obviously doing it’s job. And it’s only a 1-inch binder because I just keep what I need to (sometimes I wish I remembered a certain plant and how it performed, but never enough to spend the time writing it all down). Inside the binder are two pockets and 5 dividers.
Here’s what’s inside the gardening binder:
- First inner pocket: The current plan for the vegetable garden, kept in a plastic page protector. This yearly dated plan makes it easy to rotate the crops through the raised beds so that the same crop is not in a bed two years in a row.
Why a page protector? This is the most important thing in my binder. I use it to know how many tomatoes, peppers, and such I need to start indoors from seed, and I take it with me outside to know where to put the the seeds I sow directly in the garden, as well as transplants. Without the page protector it gets wet, crumpled, and even carried away by the wind. Yeah, I know this very well. It actually took me awhile to figure out to keep it in a page protector. I should also mention here that this is not written in stone and there are many times I may change little things, like where the peas or basil end up. But the important rotations like tomatoes, peppers, and cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) do not change from this plan.
- First divider: overall garden plan. I created this to guide us as we were building raised beds and planting permanent varieties like fruit trees and asparagus. I find it helpful to see the big picture plan and to be able to update it as things change (plants die, something didn’t work like I thought, a new bed is added…).
- All the previous years’ vegetable bed plans. To be able to see crop rotation past varieties I’ve grown. This is where to make notes of what grew well or didn’t or that you never want to plant again (say no to lemon balm…).
- The second divider holds last year’s Organic Vegetable Garden Checklist. (Click for a free download!) The checklist for the current year hangs on the side of the refrigerator so I can refer to it often. Keeping the lists from year to year, like the vegetable bed plans, helps to remember things like the weather (knowing the average frost date and what actually happens in your garden) and when exactly the vegetables were planted.
Umm…that would be because I very rarely plant when I’m supposed to. My intentions are great, though. That’s probably one of the things I like about vegetable gardening- each year is basically a start-over and a chance that I will finally get it right…
- The third section is for seed order records. It’s helpful to see what was ordered and spent each year to refer to when ordering for a new season.
- The last two sections: Vegetable and flower information to be able to refer to, like dates for seed starting and fall and winter vegetable dates, varieties that grow well in our area and other plant guides that may be important. Most of the time you will be able to find time lines of what to accomplish each month in the garden as well as recommendations as to the varieties of plants that do well in your area.
So this little binder is my super-basic tool for keeping the paperwork I find most necessary to gardening. I used to have a lot more about flowers in here (bed plans, favorite combos, tags from plants I’ve planted, etc.), but I found I didn’t refer to them as much, so I moved them to files in a file cabinet and this binder became mostly about vegetables.
How do you keep track of your garden? What do you think is important to keep from year to year?