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Garden planning system for remembering everything?

I'm enjoying a relatively successful first year garden. It's small and conservatively planted, but I'm pretty darn happy with it! As we move into the exciting part of the season (several baby tomatoes have come to roost! and teeny tiny green beans! and carrot tops! and....) I'm already looking ahead.

Is anyone willing to share their Time Tested Garden Planning System for keeping track of what was planted where and what did well? Other factors I should consider/record? My planning this year mostly boiled down to what had the prettiest pictures at the local nursery. I'm guessing there's a better way.

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  1. I made a garden journal using expandable post binding to make it easy to add pages and record everything in one place. The first section has pages by month for noting weather, rainfall, unusual occurrences, whatever I think might be useful to see looking back over the years. I keep all months together, over the years, so it's easy to compare May 2009 to May a couple years ago. I just add more pages on top as needed.

    The next section is for planning, with graph paper pages printed with my garden layout on the right hand side, faced with a notes page on the left hand side. I use fold-out pages so I can make the diagrams large enough to easily make notations. Here I note what's planted where, planting dates, anticipated harvest date, and actual date of first and last harvest. The planning layout allows me to compare actual time to harvest with what's noted on plant/seed packet labels, and try to achieve crop rotation. Here I'd also note any sun/shade/water conditions that weren't what I thought and whether plants should be moved or planted elsewhere next time. I also note what did and didn't do well for future planning. Each season would have a new page and a new diagram.

    The next section is for planting information and notes from other sources, like planting charts and most successful varieties in my area (downloaded from univ extension service), and any other plant research I've done. I also included a couple of folder pages here to hold papers that I couldn't or didn't wish to bind into the book, and folders to hold empty seed packets.

    The next section is for garden photographs.

    The final section includes blank pages and folders, to hold pages I may wish to insert elsewhere, or for additional information that doesn't fit in my other tabbed sections.

    The beauty of post binding is that it is infinitely expandable. My garden journal is handmade, but post-bound journals can be purchased at office supply, craft and stationery stores.

    1. I have an 8 x 10 graph paper pad on which I lay out the garden design and planting dates. I leave plenty of room for notes . This way I have a record of where I planted what so I can rotate the crops. A garden diary, so to speak. Simple but effective.... I keep notes on what did well and what weather conditions affected what plants. I also make notes of what I would like to do different next year. When the season is over I put my little notebook with all my garden books and dream of next year.

      1. Both calliopethree and janniecooks have valuable advice for keeping track of what you plant, etc. I'm hugely impressed, actually daunted, by their thorough planning and execution.

        While I always have the best intentions, follow-through is often lacking. I glued the seed packets to pieces of paper and put them in clear plastic sleeves in a notebook with pencilled notes about planting date, garden placement and success/failure of each crop. Taking this out to the garden with me resulted in mud smudges and some incomprehensible notes but added to the charm of my remembrances.

        If I used starter plants from my small gardening center, I glued the identifying stake tags on a piece of paper with my notes.

        Second year, I remembered to record the year of this information and keep better track of actual planting dates, harvest, etc. This was especially important since I was gardening in a new area and completely unfamiliar with the planting schedule. I had moved from the MD-VA area to AZ where we plant tomatoes in the autumn because it is too hot to grow them in the summer here.

        1. My I am lazy. I keep a folder on the computer. In the folder I have a document with info on companion planting and what veggies hate each other. Another one with what I can grow and the time tables. And another couple making general notes about the garden like how long things really took to get to harvest versus what they say, what was planted to early or went to seed, notes on organic seeds. I also have a folder of various pics from that year at different times. Usually I make it a point to take a pic of a new seedling. Why? Because although I swear I will remember what it looks like the following year - I never do and I always say to myself "is that a weed or a brussel sprout? Then I have a document where I have what I planted in which bed and the location in the bed. I do that so I can rotate things around year to year. If something did not do well in a spot (like I have one bed that gets a little more shade so sometimes plants fail to thrive. Lettuce likes it though.) I note it.

          I do not have to update some of the docs. But I am faithful about the crop rotation doc. I have a memory like a sieve.

          1. Wow! These are great suggestions. I love the idea of taking photos (especially because that doesn't rely on a dubious "artists" rendering of what was planted where. I also think an expandable notebook is a great idea. It might just be a 3 ring binder in my case. Month by month notes? Genius! Any bits of info you WISH you'd remembered to put down...or that I might not think to record but will wish I had next spring?

            3 Replies
            1. re: jlgarret

              A couple of other things I note: on the planting diagram, if I'm planting seeds that need thinning I'll write down when the seedlings should be thinned and to what distance, e.g. thin when two inches tall to a distance of one foot. That way I have it all in one place and don't have to find the seed packets for that info.

              Each year I also like to write down in the monthly diary pages the dates of the full moon and new moon, in a usually-in-vain attempt to plant by the phases of the moon. Depending on where you live you might note first and last frost dates as they occur each year.

              1. re: janniecooks

                I wholeheartedly second the thinning and distance notes. I started doing that last year in order to force me to be a better thinner. I HATE to thin and sometimes end up with plants just being too close to make the best possible veggies. Maybe it is veggie greed.. I don't know. Anyway, I now note the distance each plant needs between the other and when it seemed best to thin round one and round two. I do two rounds to hedge my bets in case one cacks. It is part of my veggie greed sickness.

                - One more note. I also make notes about what gardening things worked best. Like what tomato cakes worked best or whether I had any luck hemming in a squash plant with a trellis or a very ugly twine/nylon/rebar contraption I made and what I might do next year. I also sketch and scan cold frames, ways to keep chickens out of the seedlings...

                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                  I'm into any cold frame advice - I want to try that either this fall and/or next spring.

                  And - I'm so with you about thinning. I'm starting to get better but still know that I flaw.