Howdy Grow Appalachia family! Holly, HQ AmeriCorps VISTA, and I can’t believe it’s July!! I’m sure a lot of you feel the exact same way…
We’re talking about record-keeping this week. It may seem a little archaic or mundane, but it’s something that’s often overlooked, especially when working for a program such as ours. Plus, good record-keeping is a beneficial practice that will prevent headaches and save you considerable time in the future.
It’s one of Grow’s required workshops, so obviously we’ve given some thought to this planning process. Many who are just starting a garden are often eager to rush out to the store, buy some seeds, and plant the day away! While we’re not going to dismiss your enthusiasm, we recommend planning, simply because you want a garden that you can manage, and you want to grow food that you’ll actually eat. For example, I live with my sister, so that’s two people; we wouldn’t need a garden size to feed a family of four. We both work during the day, so we would need to plan watering to occur in the evening. We both dislike sweet potatoes and okra, so we’re obviously not going to plant those, but you’d more than likely find kale, tomatoes, and lettuce in our garden…and maybe some catnip for my four-legged children. Do you see where I’m going with this?
There are a plethora of resources available to help you plan your perfect garden. Of course, you can always resort to good old-fashioned pencil and paper, which many still prefer, but there is garden planning software available to download online, as well as free online templates you can use- you can find both through a quick Google search. Lastly, you guessed it- “There’s an app for that.” Yep, for you smartphone, laptop or tablet users, you can download the GrowVeg Garden Planning app. I’ll let the link do the explaining, but you can sign up for a 30 day free trial; after that it’s $25 for an annual subscription. This is also a great resource if you are looking to save paper.
Here also are some garden apps for iPad users. Prices range from $2.99- $14.99. You can always search for free garden apps as well.
If any of you use garden planning software, templates, or even apps, let us know! Here’s another from the Old Farmer’s Almanac website.
2. What to record
Although this seems self-explanatory, there’s always the possibility that something can be overlooked. Some things to record (You don’t have to note all of these):
-A drawn garden map or plan, to scale
-Any crop rotations you use
-What you currently have planted in your garden, or what you would like to plant
-Germination dates, pruning dates, flowering dates (for crops like squash)
-Both first and last harvest dates
-Pest information: location, control methods and their successes or failures, etc
-Weather-related information (temperatures, rain, frost dates, wind, etc)
-Mulching information: dates applied, materials used
-When seeds are started, and when they are transplanted, if applicable
-Any “jobs” you’ve partaken in (weeding, watering, applying fertilizer, etc)
What do you keep track of in your garden?
By now you’re probably peeking out your window to your garden, wondering what you did with that legal pad and a pencil. Stop for a second- who says you have to go old school? (Although we’re totally not against that!) Gardens are viewed by some as creative outlets, works of art, even, and why not try that approach with something like record keeping? Here are a few ideas to make this process…fun!
-Take pictures! Because they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Plus, it’s fun to actually see the progress of your plants as they continue to grow. You can also keep them to look back on over the years. For an extra dose of fun, take a video of your garden- your own virtual garden tour!
-Make a garden journal. Don’t be shy with this! You can go all in or only as far as you wish, but journaling is a great way to not only chronicle the goings on in your green space, but it could also turn into an avenue for some quiet time for you! (Because, let’s face it, we all need some of that). Again, you can go online with this, but I don’t know…something about sitting outside among your carrots and corn and just absorbing all that Mother Nature has to offer…well, somebody go get me a notebook! Here’s a blog from a master gardener about garden journaling. You can also put together a three-ring binder, with different sections for notes, pictures, seed packets, weather data, harvest dates and crops, and so on. Make it about you and your space, regardless of what you choose!
-If you are a bit of an artist, try purchasing an inexpensive sketchbook and keep track of your garden that way. Hand-drawn sketches of your vegetables add a personal touch. (Maybe they’ll even make it into the next edition of Pollen..)
-Keep this in mind if you find yourself a bit overwhelmed with “something else you have to do”: Think of record-keeping, in whatever form or fashion you choose, as part of the gardening process. Chances are, if you are involved with Grow Appalachia, be it as a site coordinator or a participant, you either enjoy gardening or are far enough into the gardening aspect that you’re starting to enjoy it. You want all parts of the process to be enjoyable, right? I think so! Life’s too short to be bogged down with obligation. All right…I’m getting a little philosophical here…
One last thing to take note of: My state office VISTA leader often encourages us VISTAs to think about sustainability; that is, compiling our resources and documentation in a format that will cause a seamless transition for whoever our successor will be. When putting together your garden records, make sure that you not only understand the information you are recording and saving, but that someone else understands it as well. It might help to have someone else look over your records, so all the I’s are dotted and all the T’s are crossed.
How do you keep track of your garden? Share your ideas and pictures with us, and happy recording!
Feature image c/o Hobby Farms