Use this simple plan for organizing garden papers, making plans and dreams, and recording what did and didn’t work. Plus download a free printable notebook to help you put it into practice for garden success!
Do you keep garden papers and records or are you like, “Uh, what garden papers?” 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 when growing an organic vegetable garden. These include:
- Keeping track of what you grew and when.
- Recording what worked and what you’d like to grow again.
- Planning crop rotation to keep pests and diseases at bay for organic gardens.
- Dreaming and mapping out the garden plan.
- A record for plants and seeds you’ve bought.
I’ve found keeping basic information from year-to-year to be incredibly helpful. 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 more.
That’s great for those that enjoy it, but that’s not me -I like to keep it simple (as you may already have guessed). I’ve found that the essential gardening paperwork to keep are:
- Planting guide for the season. So you know where to plant the current year’s crop to maximize your planting area.
- Crop rotation records (can be a part of the seasonal planting guide). Crop rotation is one of the basic principles of organic gardening to help ward off diseases and pests that may live in the soil.
- Previous year’s seed orders. Makes it easy to refer to when ordering new seeds and serves as a record of varieties tried.
- General guide to planting dates for your region.
Non-essential, but nice to keep include:
- An overall garden plan
- Magazine/newspaper articles relating to specific gardening interests
- Plant tags and records of trees, shrubs, and flowers planted
Simple System for Organizing Garden Papers
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- Basic 3-ring binder. A 1 to 1.5-inch size is fine – anything smaller and it is too hard to turn pages, going bigger just incites you to keep too much. It’s nice to have inside pockets, but if yours doesn’t, you can add pocket dividers. Here’s a cute floral binder or a bright one wth daisies.
- 5 dividers. Use a set of dividers like these or use cardstock and attach the tabs included in the free printable garden success plan notebook download.
- Page protectors.
- NEW! Garden Success Plan Notebook free download. I’ve updated this organizing garden papers article to include 10 downloadable pages to make your organizing even easier! Scroll down to see more details or click the button below to go straight to the sign-up form:
Setting up the garden success plan binder:
Note: the photos in this section are of my garden notebook from the original article published in 2010. I plan to update my own notebook with the printable garden success plan pages, too, in the same order as you see here.
First inner pocket (binder flap or pocket on first divider).
-The current plan for the vegetable garden 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.
The plan is not written in stone since there are many times I may change a few things, like where the peas or basil end up. But the important crop rotation information like where the tomatoes, peppers, and cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) are to be planted do not change.
Why keep in a page protector? This plan is the most important thing in the binder. Use it to know how many tomatoes, peppers, etc. you need to start indoors from seed or buy, and take it with you outside to know where to plant the the direct-sow seeds and transplants.
Without the page protector the plan gets wet, crumpled, and even carried away by the wind – something I know about very well. It actually took me awhile to figure out to keep it in a page protector!
First divider: Garden Plans
-Overall garden plan: My whole-garden plan actually includes our whole property on a number of pages. The main vegetable garden shown above was created to guide us as we were building the raised beds and planting permanent plants like fruit trees and asparagus.
I really like to visualize 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…). I know this is overwhelming for some, so it’s an optional part of the system. I do encourage, however even rough basic sketches as a way to guide and DIY work you want to do in your yard.
-Individual vegetable bed plans: A record of the crop rotation and past varieties grown.
This is where to make notes of what grew well or didn’t or that you never want to plant again (for me, it’s just say no to lemon balm…). It’s an easy way to keep record, right on the plan you also used for a planting guide.
The second divider: Garden Guide & Record
This section holds the Organic Vegetable Garden Checklist or other yearly guide you have for your garden. This year-around garden checklist has been updated since this photo (it’s easier to read and use!) and is also found in the AOC Subscriber Freebie Library– if you’re a subscriber, you already have access to this and the garden success plan notebook!
Keeping these lists from year to year, like the vegetable bed plans, is another easy way 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. I just jot notes down as I think about it, which is a no-brainer way to record for me.
The third divider: Seed & Plant Orders.
Keep a copy of your catalog seed orders as well as your handwritten list of seeds you have and seeds & plants you need to buy from each year (see how I store seeds and organize seed orders here). Included in the gardening success plan notebook is a page for you to list all the seeds you have and then what you need to purchase in another column.
It’s helpful to see what was ordered and spent each year to refer to when ordering for a new season, and provides a good place to record your thoughts on the varieties.
The forth section: Favorite Varieties.
This is where you can list the plant names and varieties you love so you can know what you want to purchase again. It’s also a place where you can list the plants you have bought and added to your landscape, so you can always be able to answer someone who asks, “what plant is that?”
The fifth section: Vegetable and flower growing information.
This section includes things you’ll want to refer to often (versus looking up online) like:
- dates for seed starting
- fall and winter vegetable planting dates
- varieties that grow well in your area
- monthly garden to-do lists like these.
This little garden success plan binder is my super-basic tool for organizing garden paperwork that are the most necessary to gardening. Be sure to grab the free downloadable notebook to make yours even easier!
The 10-page notebook file is free with a subscription to the weekly AOC newsletter and access to a growing library of printables, eBooks, and checklists. Once the file is downloaded to your computer, it’s simply a matter of printing all the pages you’ll need.
There are grid pages for planning, lined pages for records, and tabs to create your own dividers. There’s also a coordinating blank lined page that you can print out as many times as you’d like for other things you’d like to keep track of. I hope you enjoy this freebie from AOC – let me know what you think and if you find it useful!
Remember, if you’re already an AOC VIP subscriber, you can download this printable by using your exclusive subscriber password located at the bottom of every email you receive from An Oregon Cottage.
How do you keep track of your garden? What do you think is important to keep from year to year?
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