The seed catalogs have arrived and as you recover from the holidays you are getting excited about this year’s garden. I always have the best garden in January—meaning the one I plan in January. Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s to be expected. There are lots of garden books on your bookshelves, the library and the bookstore to guide you, but did you ever wish there was a garden book written just for you? It would be specific to your garden with your own crops, varieties, planting times and records of yields. Although it will take a little work on your part, you can have exactly that.
Fortunately for you, now is the best time to start writing that book. Actually it is a notebook you will be putting together, unless you prefer to put everything on the computer. I prefer pencil and paper myself and a book that I can hold in my hands (while sitting in a comfortable chair, possibly beside the wood stove). I do have some things on the computer, but they are printed off to go into my garden notebook. If you missed the back-to-school sales to stock up on 3-ring binders, paper, dividers, file folders, etc, these things are on sale again as people organize their financial affairs for taxes. The file folders are for your previous years’ records. Store those in your file cabinet or a cardboard file box that you can pick up while you are at the office supply store.
In my garden plan video I show you how to put together a complete garden plan using worksheets that are on the CD that comes with the DVD. On the resource page of my website you will find a list of the sections suggested for your notebook. You might have ideas for additional sections. You will need to make an inventory of the seeds you already have before you order new ones. Put that in the seed section of your notebook. You will need to know what crops you are planting and where, so you will need a garden map. After consulting your seed inventory and garden map, make a list of your crops and what needs to be ordered. Before you send off your seed order you need to figure how many seeds you need. One of the worksheets on the CD helps you do that.
Knowing when to plant and when to expect a harvest is essential to be efficient at growing your food. The CD has a worksheet to help you determine those dates. Once you have the dates you can record them on the Plant / Harvest Schedule, also a worksheet on the CD and available as a free PDF on my website. Ideally you will fill out a copy of that schedule as you plan it and an extra copy to fill in as the season goes along. It is always good to know what actually happened. Make notes that will be useful later.
If you are serious about feeding yourself from your garden, you should know how much you are producing. At first it just might be that you know how much you planted and if it was enough or not enough. Make a note of that. If you are canning, freezing, or drying, you could write down how many pints or quarts of everything you put up. Even a notation on your calendar would do. At the end of the season you could total everything up and the calendar provides your beginning and ending harvest dates.
However, I want to encourage everyone to eat as much as they can out of their garden all year long. As good as it is to know how much is coming out of your garden, it’s not fun to count or weigh everything. So don’t. You could only keep more detailed records on the crops that you are studying. Or, just weigh out the harvest on a portion of your crop, and since you know the area you have planted, it is easy to estimate your total harvest.
You can keep track of the climate in your garden by having temperature and precipitation records for the year. That is really handy to refer to in later years when you remember something doing particularly good (or bad) in a previous year and you think it might have been weather related. There are worksheets for that on the CD, also. In the weather section of my notebook, I like to include news reports of abnormal weather events to remind me of what was going on.
What varieties of each crop you grow could make a difference, so make sure to include that in your notes. If you can bear to cut up your seed catalogs (or better yet, cut up last year’s seed catalogs) you can cut out the information and pictures of the crops you chose and include them in your notebook. Highlight what it was that made you choose those varieties. It is easy to forget. You will, no doubt, see things in magazines or on the internet that you would like to try in your garden or ideas will pop into your head. Put that in your notebook in the Ideas! section.
Take photographs and put them in your garden notebook or an album devoted to your garden. I don’t mean keep them on your phone or in a digital file on your computer—actually have prints made. Remember, you are putting together a book here. Make sure there is a picture of you in there. You will be surprised how fast things change and it is nice to have a visual record. You might even write a summary of your garden experiences for the year and include it with your photos. In the summary include some yield figures of the things you are paying particular attention to, lessons you’ve learned (both good and bad), and anything else that you think is a highlight.