The key to successful gardening of any kind is good record keeping.
You may remember where you planted your tomatoes last year but will you remember that you decided to only grow a bush variety? When the seed catalogues arrive with 50 different and very appealing staking varieties that you just have to try. You will remember though as you begin all that hammering in of stakes and tying up each branch before the hot wind blows your crop all over the pathway.
However, if you had written down the problems you had last year and you went back and read that entry before the seed catalogue arrived maybe you would have thought twice about which type to grow.
How you keep your records will also develop over time.
Diary or Journal
A diary with ‘a day to a page’ is helpful even an old one. You may choose to use just an exercise or note book or a folder to keep your notes in.
There are programmes available for purchase which include record keeping on your computer.
Some people use spreadsheets and databases or even just writing the notes up in a word processor.
Just write them down somehow and do it regularly.
This free online garden journal to download as a pdf may not suit your needs but can give you some ideas of what sort of information to include in your own journal.
Or look at these pages for ideas of what sort of data to keep.
These versions are for printing out and using. I prefer to keep my records on the computer.
I just use a word processor document with a layout I have chosen to include temperature and any rain. These I obtain from the Bureau Of Meteorology site.
Climate charts for your region also available at the BOM site. By keeping your own rainfall records you can work out your yearly rainfall. A rain gauge is useful. This need not be an expensive one.
I also keep a daily record of eggs the chooks lay and make note of Moon Planting days because these things are important to ME. You may not even have chickens or choose not to plant by the moon.
In these notes I record all planting information including where the seed came from. The containers the seeds were planted in and where they were kept be it hot house, shade house or straight into the soil. I include germination rates and yes, failures as well.
That way I can determine the best sources for my seed purchases.
I have recently started keeping this blog in which I include many photos which make it fun to look back on to see changes.
Just keeping an organised photo record is great. Especially early photos to really see the changes all your work is achieving.
Digital cameras cannot be beaten for this as many photos can be taken and instantly viewed and more taken if they are not clear enough.
Day to Day and To Do Lists
Day to day notes of things to do can be kept on a calendar. There are software programmes such as appointment calendars or Personal Information Managers (PIMs) that can be set to open as the computer loads. These are great for keeping track of day to day and to do lists.
If you choose to plant ‘by the moon’, charts are helpful for this. There are several books, charts/calendars and on-line charts available and using these can help you plan your time in the garden.
Linda Woodrow calls this “Lunatic Gardening” in her Permaculture Home Garden Book. Maybe she’s got a point but I like it. It helps me plan my time in the garden.
The Cosmic Garden Blog has more Moon Planting information.
More information on this post too.
What records you choose to keep will be up to you and no doubt will change over time. However make sure they are clear and accessible because it may be a few months before you need them.
Keep copies of information gained during initial planning for future reference.
Keep copies of your hand drawn garden plans. You can create garden plans on your computer either using commercially available software or created in publishing type programmes:
Also any results of any tests that were carried out on your soil. Write down and keep results of any pH tests you do.
I hope this has been helpful to you. Just remember to keep as much or as little information as you’re comfortable with.
Follow the link back to Part one if you wish to review any information.
Or check out Part 6 Getting Your Seeds To Grow.