Garden Recordkeeping: Make a Map of Your Garden

Garden Planning

Garden recordkeeping helps you become a better gardener over time.  You train yourself to pay attention to what is happening in the garden and that knowledge assists your learning and skill building.

Recordkeeping  also reduces the guesswork from year to year.  After awhile, the gardening seasons begin to run together in our memories.  How many basil plants did you plant last year and in what bed?  What about two years ago?  Three years ago?

What variety of tomato was that orange one in the corner of the garden?  It was delicious, but you can’t for the life of you remember its name.  Too bad, you’d like to grow it again if you knew what it was…

I believe that keeping records is an essential part of gardening, especially if you don’t want to make the same mistakes from year to year. And, I’m a big proponent of simplicity in the garden. Keeping things quick and easy increases the chance that you’ll stick with them.

One of the easiest ways to start garden recordkeeping is to create a map of your garden. In this post I’ll share how to draw one and the important information you need to record on it!When I drew my first garden map I stood at the foot of my garden and drew a quick outline of each of the beds.  Last year, I updated several of my maps, and this time I brought out the measuring tape so that I could record the length and width of each bed.  When I create maps for clients, I use graph paper so that I can draw the garden to scale.  Having a scaled drawing of your garden allows you to plan your garden in advance.  You can calculate how many plants or feet of each crop you’ll be able to fit in your garden and plan the whole year out if that is something that excites you.

Vegetable Garden Map

The map of my front yard garden – ready to be planted!

Once you complete the final version of your garden map, make a handful of xerox copies or scan it into your computer so you don’t have to redraw it each year.  Keep your master copy on file so that you can change it if needed.  At the beginning of each season, pull out a fresh copy of the map and start recording.  Maps are great for recording planting dates, keeping track of the numbers and varieties of each crop, noting which beds had compost or manure added to them, and any other information that is important to you.

In the past I used to label each tomato plant in the garden.  Invariably the tags would often disappear or fade and then I wouldn’t know which plant was which variety.  With a map, I know that I have a back-up record of everything, and in fact, I have stopped labeling things in the garden because consulting the map is much easier.  Each year when you set out to plant your kale or broccoli or basil, instead of thinking about how much you should plant, you’ll be able to take a look at last year’s map, total up how many were planted, and then make your decision of whether to plant more, less or the same amount.  No more guesswork!  You are making your gardening decisions based on data from previous years.

Vegetable Garden Planning

Rotation is also an important part of organic gardening.  With recordkeeping, you’ll be able to lay out the last few years of maps and plan where to plant each crop so that you are rotating everything in the garden each season.

Keeping simple records on a garden map can be simple and fun, and (promise!) it will pay off in the long term.  If you read the seed starting record keeping post from several weeks ago about starting your gardening binder, then you can now put your garden map as your second page!

Do you keep records of your garden each year?  If so, what methods have worked for you in the past and what important things have your learned?  Leave a note in the comments below.

 

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