I have been feeling for a while that the next frontiers in gardening for me are record keeping and planning. I feel like better planning will allow me to make better use of the space I have to grow. Better record keeping will help me make better improvements year over year as I will more easily recognize wins and losses in the garden. What varieties worked well? How did things go when I plant earlier or later? Sure, over the years I remember as much as I can, but records will remind me of things that I would never remember.
The basic thing that has kept me from keeping good records in the past has been time. I haven’t had a good quick system for keeping track of what I did and when and how it did. Same thing about planning. I have played with various apps and websites, but haven’t been really happy with any of them.
I know myself well enough to know that if anything is too time consuming, I won’t do it. If I have time to dedicate to my garden, I want to actually be working my garden, not doing bookwork.
All difficulties aside, planning and record keeping are clearly the next frontier in my gardening adventure. So, I have to figure it out. Toward that end, I started thinking about what information I need out of a record keeping/planning system. I think basically I need to be able to look up either a specific crop or a given period of time to see what has happened in the past so that I can make decisions about what to do in the future.
So, I started with the best thing I could think of. A spreadsheet. I am a big fan of Google Drive because I want to be able to access information from anywhere.
On the first tab of the spreadsheet I made a plant list. I listed every crop I’ve grown or that I would like to grow. Then, based on the frost dates in my area, I’ve indicated the dates to sow indoors, or outdoors, and the how long it takes from planting to harvest.
Then on another tab, I’ve made a column of each planting area I have available to me. Then across the top, the first row indicates a date range. I made two week chunks. Column 1 is Jan 1, column 2 is Jan 15 and so forth. Then, informed by the dates on the first tab, I made an initial plan for the garden for the year. This chart tells me what plants will “live” in which areas of the garden throughout the year.
One of the rows is called “Seed Starting”. This row will tell me when different seeds need to be started.
I’m thinking as the year goes on I’ll start a third tab where I will list which crop, variety, when it went in, how it did and when I pulled the plant.
I would love to hear how you do your record keeping!