Looking Forward, Looking Back

Reader Contribution by Laura Damron

They’re heeeere…

The first seed catalogs have shown up in my mailbox! Like the first robin, these little books (or not so little, thank you Baker Creek!) herald the beginning of a new season – garden planning! Not to be confused with planting season, planning season is the time where I look back at the previous year’s garden in order to make choices for the upcoming year. It’s just way too easy to get ahead of myself – lost in pretty photos and prosy descriptions – if I’m not careful.

You can make garden planning as complicated or as easy as you like, from a little notebook to computer programs with diagrams and everything in between. At our old house, I used a sketchbook and simply taped the plant markers inside. They were easy to remove if a plant failed, and there was plenty of space for notes if needed. Last year, I used an online garden planner and that was really cool. (If you’re interested, you can check out a demo at KGI Garden Planner or at GRIT’s Food Garden Planner.) Index cards are also a great way to go. Notes on empty seed packets also work, but they can get a little grubby and hard to keep organized.

Whichever method I happen to be using at the time, the data remains the same. (Bear with me, I know “data” makes it sound crazy official. It’s not, really.) In no particular order, I want to know:

  1. The name of the plant. Different varieties behave differently, so don’t just write “cabbage” and assume you’ll remember that it was a Danish Ballhead or whatever. You won’t… believe me.
  2. Where it was. My garden is a 50×20 rectangle that faces south-ish. One side is much drier than the other, even though it’s not a huge area, so I can have plants do well on one side of the garden and not the other. Also, crop rotation helps keep certain pests and problems to a minimum, making location pretty important to me.
  3. How many. How many of these did I plant? Was it too many or just enough?
  4. Seed or Start. Did I buy transplants or start from seed? If I started from seed, were they direct sown, or did I start them indoors?
  5. Origin. Seed company, catalog, or local garden store.
  6. Yield. Is this plant worth growing again? In the same quantity?
  7. Items of note. Anything you want to remember in the future, like “don’t rototill unless you’re totally sure all of the potatoes have been dug.” Not that you’d ever do that – or forget that little tidbit, if you did.

That’s about it. Nothing too awful, really. You can add any other criteria that you find useful. Just keep it simple enough so that it’s convenient to use. If you’re even marginally organized (like me) you can keep track of your last garden, and make good decisions for the coming year.

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