Use these simple tips and steps for organizing garden paperwork, making plans and dreams, and recording what did and didn't work. Includes how to download a free printable garden notebook journal to help you put it into practice for your own successful garden!
Do you keep your garden papers and track records year to year 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. I've seen some beautiful and detailed journals of other gardeners, complete with drawings of the flowers or produce or even photos added to the pages. That's great for those who enjoy it, but that's not me - I'm all about simple (as you may already have guessed).
I've found that the essentials for organizing garden paperwork are:
- Planting plan for the current season. So you know where to plant the current year's crop to maximize your planting area.
- Crop rotation records (part of the seasonal planting plan). 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. (Here's one you can grab, print, and keep in your notebook.)
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
- Chores lists (like the monthly chores-task lists here.)
Simple Tips 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 some cute floral binders or this set of colorful clear-view binders where you can use the printable cover, spine, and back pages from the garden notebook printable.
- 5 dividers. Use a set of dividers like these or use cardstock to print out the Garden Success Notebook title pages and attach the tabs included!
- Page protectors.
- Garden Success Plan Notebook FREE Download. Includes 16 cute and useful downloadable pages to make your organizing even easier! Go here for more details or fill out the form below to grab yours:
Tips for Organizing Garden Paperwork in a Binder Notebook
Note: the photos in this section are of my basic garden notebook from an original article published in 2010. I've since updated my notebook with the printable garden success plan pages, too, just in the same order as you see here.
Most Important: Current year plan for the vegetable garden in a plastic page protector.
- Keep in the first inner pocket if your binder has one, or keep as the first page in the 3-ring section.
- This yearly dated plan makes it easy to rotate the crops through the 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 change 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 this in a page protector?
This plan is the most important thing in the binder and this is my biggest tip. You will use this plan to know how many tomatoes, peppers, etc. you need to start indoors from seed or buy. You'll also take it with you outside to know where to direct-sow seeds and plant 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 Section: Garden Plans
- Overall garden plan: My whole-garden plan 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 also have plans for the front yard landscaping and the back yard which helped guide our backyard makeover.
- I find it useful 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 may be 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 NOT optional for vegetables and I'd really encourage this for small flower beds, too.
- 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.
Second Section: 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.
Third Section: Seed & Plant Needs & 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.
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?"
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 organizing garden papers 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. Fill out the form below and you'll be on your way!
How do you keep track of your garden? What do you think is important to keep from year to year?
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Make This Year's Garden A Success!