Record Keeping and What I Have Learned From It

>> Thursday, October 28, 2010

I have been gardening of and on for many years…going back too far to contemplate (is that a sign that I’m getting up there in years?) Throughout my lifetime I have lived in six states that have ranged in growing zones 5 through 9. The house I currently occupy had only a couple of rose bushes, a few (dying) cedar shrubs and five fruit trees when we moved in but has expanded to 10 beds growing everything from herbs and veggies to perennials and annuals. In the six years I have lived here I have only kept records over the past four and have learned some interesting things…like there are microclimates…that only support certain plants…that do not do so well in other parts of the yard.

I had heard of micro climates but until I saw the effects on actual plantings…I did not pay it much attention.

I have learned that there are temperature fluctuations…not just overall day-to-day flucs…but in different parts of the yard…record keeping has identified these for me.

I use a spreadsheet to record when a plant/seed was purchased and from whom. In that spreadsheet…I record the plants lifespan…from planting to harvest production…covering everything from pruning, feeding, seed collecting, flower blooming, etc along with the date and current temperature. With so few years already recorded I have not really been able to learn a great deal but I can see trends. Soon, I should be able to know when to expect blooming, visits from pests, when to prune, etc. I also know if particular plant will not survive in a certain area…just in case I decide to purchase a plant that had died here in the past.

Additionally, I am able to leave notes to myself about what will be needed to be done in the future…such as if a plant will need to be divided, or transplanted and for what reason.

Photos, of course, are an indispensable tool for record keeping. Once a month I take general, wide area shots of each bed. Photos of individual plants are taken more frequently depending on their first bloom, pest damage, after pruning, or if they are dying out. These I store by name, date and what bed they are in and then place the identifying data in the spreadsheet along with each plant.

I also draw a map in a spiral art book of what is where…and it needs to be updated fairly often. Drawing the maps has helped me get back into drawing/sketching…a love I have not visited in several years.

I find it interesting to be able to go back over the photos and drawings to see how it all looked before I dug the first shovel full.

Oh, on top of all of this…I keep a Plant Master List that gives a description of each plant including where the plant originated, how it has been used over the years, it genus/species name, etc. this is for those of us who are a bit too OCD…but, it just has to be done, I tell you. :)

I have learned so much from what appears to be a lot of work…but when you are retired…you can make it work. :)

What works for you? I would love to hear from you.


Kate November 10, 2010 at 2:44 AM  

Hi Greg, Long time no see. I am so glad you are still writing as I have noticed "Are we Green Yet?" has not been added to for ages. So interesting to read about your record keeping.

Greg W November 11, 2010 at 9:22 AM  

Hi Kate, I have been 'otherwise occupied' as they say, but it is good to be back in front of the computer and catching up on everyone's wonderful blog postings I have so terribly missed.

"Are We Green Yet?" has been on my mind a lot and I'm going to attempt to get it back up to date soon, thanks for inquiring.

Sometimes I feel a bit over-extended in trying to keep up on my record keeping but I found that it holds rewards once I do get to go over them later. I have learned many things that were not apparent at first. Anything I can do to help prevent past mistakes is always welcome. :)

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