What Records Would You Want For Your Garden?

David Trammel's picture

One of my resolutions for the new place and new garden is to finally get off my butt and keep good records. I know a few of you do so, and probably quite a few more would like to. I am going to make up some general forms which I'll put up for download. I need some input as to what you'd like to see.

Rough ideas are:

1) General bed layout: A grid square paper that you can draw the size of a bed, and list the type of plants and where on the bed you plant it. Also any preparations you do to it before planting, like fertilizer or compose.

2) A plant manifest: To go with the general bed layout, a form to list each type of plant, the variety, the date you plant it and any other info. This might include growth observations through the year, and harvest information. Pest information maybe, or would that be better as an additional form to add to this one?

3) Seasonal weather calendar: General form that you can date for month and day, and list the weather that happens. Would this be better as a weekly or daily form?

What other forms might be helpful

Personally, when I harvest from the garden I record the date, quantity (for things that are easily countable like pineapples or sweet potatoes), and weight. I have a separate pages for each species, but I suppose if I ever got into raising a lot of different cultivars of a single species I might subdivide it further.

I don't know if my setup is typical or not, but it works for me!

David Trammel's picture

Do you have a separate recording page with all your harvests, or do you put that information with the earlier stuff?

I'm thinking of creating generic forms with this, that can be put up here for download and printing, as well as can be included in the future Green Wizard books to be copied as needed.

So I was thinking here, that there would be a single form for a plant and that would be for each variety, or even for each patch of veggies, if you are like me and have plants in each raised bed.

It would have:

1) Name of plant and variety.
2) Source of seeds and estimated age

3) Germination and Seed Starting Information
3a) Date started, time to germination, percentage of seeds germinating, method of germination.
3b) ?

4) Transplanting into the Garden
4a) Date transplanted, Hardening (yes/no) and method, percent of seedlings culled, soil amendments if any, weather problems
4b) ?

5) First 30 days
5a) Pests or illnesses, weather issues, any soil or mineral amendments
5b) ?

6) 30 days to Date of Harvest
6a) When harvested, type of harvest (continuous/lump harvest), yield, fruit issues, weather issues
6b) ?

7) After Harvest Information

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Anything in addition to these?

I focus a lot on perennials and trees, and we rarely frost here (*knock on wood* since it's a near catastrophe for the garden if we do get one), so the exact planting time is less important. If I do record it, it usually ends up being in the section of things organized by date, not by plant. Maybe my system isn't a great one to use as a template, in retrospect, since it evolved pretty haphazardly over time.

kma's picture

Hi David,
I also hear the siren song of garden organization! I was just prepping an almanac post for GW for the new year and fell into a Pinterest trap looking at garden organization printables. There are many free ones there or some for a few dollars on Etsy. If you're busy, it will save you from reinventing the wheel.

Every year I draw a map of each garden area and the beds in them. Then my garden buddy, Peggy and I decide what to plant where largely based on what was grown in a bed the previous year. We try to rotate all of our garden beds.

We have never kept track by weight or number the amount of food we grow, but this year we were rather careful to record how much food we preserved, canned or froze, or put up for storage (dry beans mostly). This gives us a rough idea of how much we should plant of any one crop and how much each family will need in a year.

This isn't a perfect plan as most years there is a crop failure of one kind or another and we always seem to put up a surplus amount anyway (30 gallons of dill pickles for Peggy year before last) so unless we wanted to be even more rigorous with our record keeping, we don't really know what we use in a year outside of a very rough idea.

This year Peggy wanted to think in two year storage cycles. In other words, we should try to have two years of canned or frozen goods on hand so that we can better endure crop failures or loss of some garden beds. My plan for the last couple of years is to figure out how much area we need and what varieties of beans we need for a years supply of protein crops. We are getting better at cultivation to get the most out of our bean varieties, but if we had to give up frozen meat (locally raised) due to electrical failures, we still don't grow enough beans. I think we figured out that we had grown enough beans for each of us to make a monthly pot of beans and ham, but not more.

I guess what I am trying to get at is record keeping for determining what amount of garden space is needed to get a year or two years worth of a particular preserved food. I don't have any ideas in mind, but would welcome ideas from others, yourself included David. So far we are getting something of an intuitive sense of how many cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, etc. we need, but nothing you could point at to show that x amount space will yield x amount of preserved food. Perhaps it isn't possible either except in a very general way due to the vagaries of each season. But it must have been something people learned in order to have enough food to make it through the year.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

I think I missed this thread. Your system sounds very detailed, Tatorman and judging by the picture of your sweet potato harvest you shared earlier this year, very successful. I am not so disciplined unfortunately, but I am willing to give something like this a try. Would you be willing to take a picture of a page or two of your journal and post it here? Thanks

David Trammel's picture

so I guess I'm covered.

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I actually decided to start an almanac of my garden this year. I have not gotten very far, but found a Word template from Microsoft that numbered the pages with chapter-page number (so chapter one's pages are 1-1, 1-2, etc; chapter two's are 2-1, 2-2), so I can add info and print things out, without the page numbers being wrong if I add a page to a previous chapter.

My current plan is to have a chapter for each month with a to-do list, a chapter with info about my plants (I might do a chapter for perennials separate from annuals), including the type of info listed by David in a previous comment. I might add folklore for each plant, too. I can also add notes to my month chapters (maybe include tables to record rainfall or temperatures, etc... I'll come back to this post to get ideas on how to format that!). Eventually I'll add a chapter with a garden map.

If you would like the Word document (with the months and page numbering set up), I have uploaded it to Google Drive here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1soa93LY2S1hICClee6t6A1Y-JCZDsBU0/edi.... There isn't any content yet (though I did leave Microsoft's instructions on how to add more chapters at the end of Chapter 13).

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Per request. Page on right specific to sweetpotato harvest, page on left typical of daily freeform entries.

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Sweet Tatorman's picture

Page typical of preformatted type, in this case emergence data on planted seed.

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Sweet Tatorman's picture

Better view of right page in earlier posting.

add photo: 

Very detailed. I think I will give your example a try. Thanks for sharing.

David Trammel's picture

I like how you put the notes in a general table then reference them via the number. Saves space/

ClareBroommaker's picture

https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/copy-of-sweet-potato-varieties-2 These growers lost ALL stock of several varieties of sweet potatoes in a storm. Violetta is one they lost and they are looking for new stock....Just in case you would like to do a good deed.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Thanks for the heads up on this. Just now I sent them an email. The Violetta I have has been continuously propagated from some slips I got from them back in 2008 which is something I can only know as a consequence of record keeping.

Out of curiosity, how do you generally use your records year to year when you garden.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Your question begs a longer answer than I have the energy for at the moment. I do find that that I refer to prior years entries often for various reasons such as replicating what works and avoiding repeating mistakes. Since I have all the area I care to use I find that records are useful in optimizing how much of what to plant or put up. Citing an example from the left hand page upthread where I note I am done with canning okra pickles at 69 pints. Why this number which is more than I have ever done previously? It turns out that I use cuke and okra pickles pretty much interchangeably. The prior year I put up ~40 pints of each and that amount last lasted to within a week of picking the first of this years cukes. This year my cukes died back before I had even 20 pints canned so I knew that I would need to compensate with putting up more pints of okra if I wished for the cuke/okra pickles to last until next Summers harvest.

Thanks for this answer. Your response tied in very well with my garden concerns, but certainly your system provides more detail that would seem to give you insight to what needs to happen year to year. My friend Peggy and I have noticed that we often don't remember the mistakes from the previous year, so naturally, we repeat them. Usually takes a couple of years to "remember" not to do something that didn't work.

I will give your system a try this year and do my best not to get bogged down in detail (a personal bete noir). Perhaps when you find the energy, you would write an essay for the site here about your system and how you use it.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Firmly in the geriatric class of gardener as I am I find that the act of recording helps with later remembering. I may only remember later that I earlier recorded some observation so I am able to go see what I had to say if so motivated to search. Also knowing that I may record a sentence or two each morning tends to focus my observational faculties. It is probably good advice to not take on more than you are willing to keep up with.

I am also a geriatric gardener, going slow and not over burdening myself is very good advice. I like the idea of line or two every day as a way to keep it simple yet useful. I suspect that I will discover which of your categories work for me and which don't and that makes this an evolutionary kind of project.

Thrifty1's picture

Oh my word, you're all so much more organised than I am! I do keep a record of what's in my allotment beds, year on year, so I can at least try not to exhaust any given bed by planting the same crop in it too often, but otherwise most of it is in my head! I kept a record of my raspberry crop this year; it was a bumper year for them & they're quite expensive to buy, though not much work, so when my Other Half came up with his usual "Is it really worth the plot rental?" question I could point out that we'd had brought home, eaten & preserved more than 5Kg of raspberries alone, which would have cost considerably more than the rent if bought from a supermarket. Plus, of course, they're grown without chemical inputs. Sweetcorn, beans & potatoes also did well and chard, kale & leeks are keeping us in a little bit of home-grown produce even now.

One reason why I don't keep detailed records (apart from the fact I'd probably lose them) is that there are so many factors involved - amount of sunshine, availability of water, whether or not I've mulched the bed and if so, what with, variety, the presence or absence of diseases/pests & predators, what neighbouring plotholders & the management are doing, such as spraying RoundUp - grrr - some of which can't be quantified. Many years of observing the fruit trees in our garden have shown me that if something bears an outstanding crop one year (apples, quinces, plums) it'll probably take a bit of a rest the next year - feed it and plan accordingly! If I ever get to grow stuff in the way I want to, I probably will keep better records so I can work out what really does work & more importantly, what doesn't. But for now, just doing the best I can (which sometimes feels like gardening with one hand tied behind my back, in two different locations, one of which is not entirely within my control) I'll keep on muddling through.