Well, I have gotten through deciding which seeds to order, and what the main objectives for my garden are this year. My next step? Making a gardening binder. I know that a lot of gardeners keep great track of weather patterns and which seeds they are planting, how they grow each season. I have never done this before. And I figure that if I am going to be serious about gardening, and actually produce a large majority of our own vegetable needs, then I should get organized.
The first step is not really included in the binder, but I figure I should let everyone know. You need to figure out how much food you eat. It is a bit of a daunting task. Most people wouldn't actually sit down and say "I use 3 onions per week." That is what I need to do. I am slowly trying to compile a list of how much of each vegetable we eat. Where I can increase production of a vegetable in place of something else, and how I can then preserve the extra for winter. I typically keep an inventory of what I preserve from the summer, and when that has run out. That helps when I am trying to figure out how many jars of
Once you know how much you are going to, or plan to, eat; it will be a little easier to figure out how many seedlings you are going to need, how many seeds you need to plant. The first section of my binder is my seed list. I like to type it up in Excel and then I have the name of the seed, where I purchased the seed from, if you plant it directly, or if I need to start it indoors, and how many days until the vegetable grows.
My next section is a calendar. I put down when all the seeds need to be started, so each week I can just glance at the calendar to see which ones should be started. It makes it easier on me to spend a couple hours putting all this data into a calendar, and on a spreadsheet, and then be able to easily glance at it when the time comes. Because we all know once spring comes, the amount of time one has to peruse papers, and look at the info on the seed packets, there just is no time!
Then I have a paper with everything I actually end up planting. I know that there will be some seeds that don't germinate, no space for another squash variety, extra tomatoes picked up at the greenhouse. I need a place where all of that is put in. In this section I also have a place to put how much I get from the plants. This will help me in deciding whether or not to plant it again.
At this point, I put in some loose leaf lined paper. I would like to try and take "garden notes." When the last frost was, when I plant the peas, if there is a particularly long wet period. It all goes on this paper, and at the end of the growing season I can look over these notes and know where I need to make improvements for the following year. Well, that is at least the plan. I haven't actually kept any garden notes before. :-)
After the lined paper, I have some graph paper. This is where I try and map out where I am going to put things. I am not so good at space requirements, and tend to plant similar to the square foot gardening method...although not in nice neat little 4x4 foot plots :-) I am sure that my plan, and how it turns out will be different, but having the plan is the first step.
At the back of the binder, I try to keep a list of inventory - pots, potting soil, seed starting flats. This helps when I am going to pick up more supplies and I think "do I have enough potting soil? maybe I should pick up another bag" just to end up with extra everything. Good quality food is not the only objective in growing my own food, saving money is also in there as well. If I am buying extra that I don't need...is that really helping me out?! You may be saying "don't you make a list before you go?" Well, yes, but inevitably I forget to put something on my list, or something really interesting catches my eye, and before I know it, I have fallen victim to buying too much...again.
I also like to keep a list of what vegetables should be planted close together, and which ones should be far apart. As well as keeping a paper about rotating. You shouldn't plant x the year after y. Most of this information is easily accessible on the internet, but I find it nice to have the info at my fingertips, instead of running in with dirty hands to the computer to find what I am looking for.
Finally, the last section is my preservation inventory. In this section I make a list of everything I have frozen/canned/fermented/dried/stored. Once I put the garden to bed, I take this and put it in my family binder. This helps in my menu planning. It helps me to use up what I have before running out to the grocery store to pick something up for dinner. And it definitely shows me where I need to fill in gaps. Take this year for instance. I am down to 1 jar of crushed tomatoes left. And I have been using them sparingly. I have 2 jars of tomato sauce left, and have been buying pizza sauce so that I can save my own canned goods for special occasions. Now I know that in order to can enough tomatoes for my family, I need to have around 5000 lbs of tomatoes. Probably a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture.
Do you keep a gardening notebook? Is it something you have thought about but haven't been sure of where to start? Am I missing something that you would put in?
I am linking up at the Barn Hop again this week. There are always some amazing posts available!
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