The Importance of Keeping Records

posted in: Organizing | 4

by Janice Ammundsen

Editor’s Note: Gardeners on Quadra have been very busy planting over the past few months. Figuring out where to put what can be a real conundrum. Relying on memory to tell us what we did last year, or what advice so and so gave about what to do differently, is not always the best strategy. Many people on Quadra have great systems for keeping track of their garden. But Janice Ammundsen is THE most organized person I know. I knew this was the case the first year I started my own tomatoes and asked her what varieties she liked. She sent me an Excel spreadsheet that listed every variety she had ever planted on Quadra, where it was from, when she seeded it, when she transplanted it, and how it did. I was amazed! For this blog I decided to ask her for advice on record keeping. Janice and her husband Gerald started with raw land, so they planted every fruit tree, every berry bush, ever perennial, and every annual their garden and orchard contain. And Janice has a record of all of it.

Record keeping when farming or gardening is always important and often imperative. It’s also seasonal.

Starting in the late winter we have spreadsheets for due dates for our pregnant goats based on their breeding dates. In the early spring I have spreadsheets for what plants to start under the grow lights and a map for my trays of pots. In the summer I rely on spreadsheets to determine what varieties of vegetables to grow based on our previous experiences and when to plant them. In the fall there are spreadsheets to track our processing (canning/dehydrating) so we can see what we need to do more of, what we don’t tend to use. or what we use or use a lot of. Also what recipes we have used and an inventory of what we have on hand.

Seed boxes sorted alphabetically

But my favourite spreadsheet of all is done in the winter. This is approached with much pomp and circumstance. I pick a particularly inclement day. I get comfortable with the fire crackling in the wood stove, an aromatic cup of tea steeped to perfection, and my seed catalogues arrayed in front of me. I also pull out my boxes of seeds that are sorted by type alphabetically.

First, I carefully go through the seeds and update my spreadsheet to indicate what we have on hand. While doing this I tick off any varieties that we especially like that might be missing from our inventory. Then I linger over the catalogues, making lists of what to reorder and then adding in any new varieties that might have been suggested by other gardeners or seem particularly enticing.

We also have a hand-written journal to make notes whilst in the garden. We have diagrams of fruit trees and their varieties in this book. This is especially helpful with grafted varieties as the tags have long since gone missing, but we can still identify which variety is produced on which branch from our detailed journal. We know which types of blueberries, raspberries, tayberries and blackberries we have from the information found in this book.

A Few of Janice’s Garden Journal Entries

It’s often difficult to remember, year to year, all of the subtle details of managing a garden and farm. So the spreadsheets and journals take some of the guesswork and stress out of this process. As we have a lot of farm and garden balls in the air, the spreadsheets are so important. But for a smaller growing situation, a journal is not only helpful but also so much fun to look back on over the seasons as your garden matures.

Do you have any tips for keeping records of your garden?  Please scroll to the bottom of the page and leave us a comment or suggestion.

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