Recordkeeping for the garden

notebook and pen
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Before you prepare your spring garden, plan to keep records of what varieties you plant, how you plant them and what you’re learning as you garden. In later years, you can look back at your garden records and decide what to change or keep the same.

Garden recordkeeping can include sketches of your garden space, lists of plant varieties to grow in the future and notes of your plants’ progress throughout the growing season.

Types of recordkeeping

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North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension – Guilford County offers some questions to help you determine your style of recordkeeping. If you like to keep things in order, a calendar may work best. A digital garden file would make organizing records simple and efficient. If chronological order doesn’t matter much to you, a notebook or binder of looseleaf paper will work well. Using graph paper is a good idea to help with drawing diagrams.

Related: 3 ways to plan your garden: paper, virtual or template

It’s up to you to decide how much or how little detail you want to keep about your garden. Think about your gardening goals to help guide your records. Are you using your garden as a learning experience for children? Do you want to can tomatoes at the end of the season? Asking yourself questions like these can help you determine what kind of gardening space and layout you need, as well as what you need to keep track of throughout the year.

Getting started

The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offers one method of garden recordkeeping. The method breaks records into four categories: garden/landscape design; preparing and treating your garden; planting schedule; and growth and harvest chart. The following are the details to include:

Garden/landscape design

garden fenceBefore you begin gardening, you need to map out your space. Determine the dimensions of your garden plot. If you’re growing in containers, determine container sizes and how many you want or need.

Sketch your garden by hand. Use graph paper and denote the scale (how many feet are represented by one square). The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension includes all landscape and property features in its sketch, including the house, garage, driveway and flowerbeds. Remember to account for any sprinklers or utility lines that are on your property.

You can also use online tools to sketch your garden. Zukeeni (formerly Smart Gardener) and Garden Planner are websites that allow growers to map out their garden spaces with potential plants. Some features must be purchased. All Things Plants offers gardeners a quick guide for when to begin sowing seeds indoors, when to transplant seeds and when to directly sow seeds in the garden. All that is required is the grower’s zip code. Bear in mind that the dates are approximate; gardeners must still pay attention to weather conditions like frost.

Preparing and treating your garden

Preparing and treating your garden deals with soil testing, problems, amending and pest management. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offers an example chart to keep track of these areas. You may also want to record your soil type and notes about planting in that particular soil type.

Planting schedule

seedlings in traysAnother imperative aspect of your recordkeeping is the planting schedule. While you’ll more than likely mark the various plants in your garden, you’ll also want a separate record of when you planted, how many seeds or seedlings you planted, how much space was used to plant and spacing between plants. A sample planting schedule is included in the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s publication.

Other important items you’ll want to include in your records are dates for watering, tilling, fertilizer application and mulching. You can record the types and amounts of fertilizer and mulch you use, as well as watering amounts and methods (drip irrigation, hose, sprinklers, hand watering). Crop rotation is another factor to incorporate into your garden records, according to Oregon State University Extension Service.

Growth and harvest chart

Lastly, your garden records will include growth and harvest data. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension recommends measuring plants periodically during the growing season to determine if management practices are working or if they need to be changed. A sample chart is included in the organization’s publication.

When you harvest your plants, keep track of the size of the harvest and record it, along with the dates.

Weed problems are an additional aspect you may want to keep track of in your records. Include treatments — hand pulling, cultivating, spraying or other remedies — and their effectiveness over time.

Additional recordkeeping

If you want to keep your garden on a budget, you can record all expenses for seeds, fertilizer and any weed, insect or pest control used throughout the year, plus the cost of new tools and equipment.

Do you keep records for your garden? Tell us about them in the comments below.

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