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I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

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I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  boffer on 10/6/2010, 10:07 pm

Accumulating and organizing gardening data is a personal preference. All year long I've been reading about how everyone does it. It's been spreadsheet this and spreadsheet that. This post is for those of us who don't keep many records, and why you shouldn't feel guilty about doing so, if you are so inclined.

My opinions are about outdoor backyard gardening-the kind most of us do. They do not apply to greenhouses or commercial operations.

The three major influences on my garden are the weather, MM, and water.

Weather

How does knowing the weather a year ago today help me in my garden today? There's nothing I can do about it so why keep track of details-anything I want to know can be found online. Last frost dates and first frost dates are good to know, but knowing the exact date that I planted my broccoli transplants last year isn't going to help me this year. Typically, I do the first planting of cool crops around Valentine's Day. I do it again around Leap Day along with some peas, and repeat on the Ides of March. On April Fools Day, more cool crops, and maybe some beans. Tax day, potatoes go in along with more beans. Give or take a week or two depending on the weather and my attitude, that's close enough. Pick general dates for your climate that you can remember-that's good enough. Weather is a major influence on our success-it is what it is.

Mel's Mix

Your plants' food source. Actually, the very process of SFG makes year to year comparisons difficult. Every time we re-plant we add a few handfuls of MM to the square. Some squares are planted once, some twice, some three times in season. It doesn't take long before each square is a different mix. Do that for a couple years, and you'll have no way of being able to track and compare plant growth based on your MM content. You could make a biiiiiig pile of 5 way compost to last for years...that would help to make comparisons from year to year a little more realistic. But I know that it wouldn't be practical for me. My 5 way compost is always different. Stuff grows in it-that's all I care about.

Water

Water can be a big influence: too much, too little, rain, or the garden hose. The one thing almost no one does is measure how much water each square gets. Yet water is so important, how can we make fair comparisons to other years if we don't measure?

If I measured my harvest and know that I got 47 ounces of broccoli out of square 2B in box 3 this year, how is that going to help me next year? Next year, the weather will be different, the make up of the MM will be different, and the square will get a different amount of water.

I keep notes on plant markers, seed packages, and a spiral notebook. I should have bought a smaller notebook because I use about 1/2 page per year!

My point is, it's nearly impossible in SFG to accumulate the proper data with which to make valid comparisons from year to year in order to adjust our gardening practices in order to grow bigger harvests.

Each year we tend to get rid of the seeds we don't like, plant more of the stuff we do like, and find something else new to try. That's what it's all about. Eating good and having fun and not working too hard at it. Isn't it great that our survival and livelihood don't depend on our harvests?

If you've made it this far, and still don't agree me, then you haven't been humbled in the garden yet. It's not a matter of if you ever will be; it's a matter of when. And when you are, you will understand why all those charts and graphs and spreadsheepts really aren't much help! Wink But, if you like playing with numbers.....

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Chopper on 10/6/2010, 10:20 pm

Thank heaven. I was feeling like I had dropped the ball. And although some would call me pessimistic, I am the exact opposite in the garden. I had things that did not work and I forgot about them - I only look back on what did. And doing so makes me happy.

I have lived in this house for 5 years. Each year the weather has been radically different within the area's range of tolerance. A couple of hugely wet winters (like the one before we had any vegetation in the backyard and it was a huge quicksand pit) and almost completely dry winters. Cold springs and warm springs. And blistering summers and , like this year, unusually cool summers.

I had already thrown out getting used to what I experienced this year because the summer was so cool that I figured I can't count on the same thing next year.

So, thank you boffer. I feel better. Whenever I can rationalize my weaknesses as a good thing (lack of detailed observation) I am happy. We will call it, accepting what is within a wide tolerance of possibilities. Very Happy

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  pattipan on 10/6/2010, 10:49 pm

I do make a diagram of my SFG and keep a few notes, but no spreadsheet. :-) I did keep track of how much I canned and froze this year. It let's me know if I need to plant more next year!

I'll be posting my "canning tally" in my regional update soon.

pattipan





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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Old Hippie on 10/6/2010, 11:14 pm

Boffer, I love you!!! LOL! I am the Procrastination QUEEN! I always feel a bit guilty for not keeping track of things. You have just made my day! Why bother to write down what I can't do anything about.

Thank you!!

Gk

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Not keeping records is great!

Post  GloriaG on 10/6/2010, 11:52 pm

Boffer, I applaud you, Chopper, Pattipan, Old Hippie and all the others who can do this without any records. You have no idea how much I long to be in your category.

But - I strongly suspect that the key point here is "experience"! All of you are experienced SFG'rs. You plant at certain times because it worked for you in the past. And you know if you've had a good year, because you've had other years to look back on and say "gee - we got a lot of tomatoes this year!"

As a newbie, that 's not the case. I don't know what makes up a "good year" or if it's better to plant peas in Texas on Feb 15th or April 23rd when the package says "early spring".

Keeping some type of records is a great way to "jump-start" the learning curve. It gives you a benchmark from which to build. And it's faster and less costly than pure trial and error. I'll guarantee that next year, since I've only done this once, it's going to be hard to remember everything that worked/didn't work this year. Having a "cheat sheet" should improve my chances.

I really feel that the goal here is to learn all these things. But until I have enough experience to be able to look at a yellow leaf and say - ah ha, magnesium deficiency! Keeping records isn't such a bad thing. Very Happy

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Wyldflower on 10/7/2010, 12:06 am

I'm a newbie gardener... and I ~tried~ to keep records but it just isn't in my nature. Maybe I would have done better if I had. But the most record keeping I want to do is knowing what I planted in which square, so I know what to look for as things sprout, grow and ripen.

I'll probably make another attempt at keeping records, but truthfully, I doubt it'll 'take'

So thanks to all of you non-record-keepers, for letting us know that it's okay!

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  middlemamma on 10/7/2010, 12:13 am

I don't think a person "should" do anything. If you don't want or like a garden journal..COOL! And don't let anyone desparage you.

I just like to see things on paper. I think it will be cool to see on a good year how many days faster things were ready or whatever. I like to organize things and daydream and reorganize it again. And I guarentee you this wiinter I am going to fall asleep with my seed list, my wanted seeds list, my dream garden diagram and my bakers creek seed catalog in my hands more than once. drooling

I just like writing stuff down and making notes....shrug...

I totally get what Boffer is saying and it did need to be said so others here didnt think it was "wrong" not to keep notes, or spreadsheets, or journals.

And its probably a good thing everyone out there isnt killing trees with their garden notes...or dang we'd kinda be counter productive, eh? LMBO!

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record keeping

Post  ander217 on 10/7/2010, 12:55 am

I don't usually keep records either - I try to plant lettuce and onions on Valentine's Day, potatoes on St. Pat's Day, all cool crops by mid-April and the main plantings of summer crops before Memorial Day.

This was my first year of SFG, so I am keeping a diagram of what I planted where because I plan to rotate my crops and I won't remember by next spring. I think once I get all my boxes and beds made and stop changing the garden layout I'll be able to remember without bothering with a diagram.

I'm also recording the dates of my fall planting this year for the first time because the season seems to be unseasonably warm for this late in the year. I don't know if a new weather trend is developing or if it's just a fluke, but I planted some things much later than the recommendations for this area and so far it seems to be working fine. I'd like to keep fall-planting date records for the next few years to see what happens if I continue to go against the CW.

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  boffer on 10/7/2010, 12:59 am

I've wanted to write this post for a long time. I wrote it today because there were four posters today that guiltily said: 'I know I should keep better notes'.

Everyone should keep the notes that makes them comfortable and that they'll use. I acknowledge that it's a Catch 22 situation in one's first year because you don't know what is important and what isn't. I kept detailed, organized notes my first year, and what I found was that 99% of the details were of no use the next year. If you're slack about note taking, don't worry about it. A mistake in the garden here and there means nothing in the long run.

The topic title should probably be 'I keep minimal notes in the garden'. I'm finding that what helps me the most is taking pictures. It's an easy way to keep track of what I've done in previous years.

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  LaFee on 10/7/2010, 1:58 am

I'm not a note-taker of any kind. The baby book only goes up to about 6 months, my blog hasn't been updated in almost two years (the last post is the New Year's post about keeping it updated...Ha!) and not a single diary I received as a young girl had more than an entry or two.

So I didn't even buy a notebook, because I've finally gotten to know myself well enough to realize that all those garden journals are so pretty and well-organized...and I'll never write in any of them.

I did a layout in Excel so I could get my thoughts together (good thing - I transposed two of my boxes yesterday)...but since my garden is for fun and the bonus of good things on the table...and for all the reasons Boffer lists...I'm perfectly happy to just putter. If I have a good harvest, great, if not -- tant pis (oh well).




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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Chopper on 10/7/2010, 4:48 am

@GloriaG wrote:Boffer, I applaud you, Chopper, Pattipan, Old Hippie and all the others who can do this without any records. You have no idea how much I long to be in your category.

But - I strongly suspect that the key point here is "experience"! All of you are experienced SFG'rs. You plant at certain times because it worked for you in the past. And you know if you've had a good year, because you've had other years to look back on and say "gee - we got a lot of tomatoes this year!"

I can't speak for anyone else but I can assure you that in my case it is not the case. Although I have gardened before this is my first year with SFG and the first year I had ANY real success with vegetables. So that was easy to remember. I do keep a grid and write down what I planted in which square when it is fresh in my mind or I would forget if and what I planted (same reason I use garden markers). I actually had a few things go belly up but once I pulled them out I forgot about them and will likely plant again and again until it finally sinks in that they do not work.

When I decided to do this I did look up planting times specific to my area and then made a chart of them that I refer to every month, since I plant every month. That is my saving grace. And then I cheat based on my mood.

So I keep a record of what I planted, but no other info - weather, etc. And I NEVER go back to read my notes except to see what I planted when two weeks later nothing has shown itself, so it wouldn't matter what notes I took. LOL.
Laughing

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  GloriaG on 10/7/2010, 9:39 am

Chopper,

Touche - I give up.
Keeping records is bad!
Gloria

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Odd Duck on 10/7/2010, 11:54 am

I was out in the garden, doing the usual kind of messing about, pinching basil, restraining melon and Malabar spinach vines, etc, and random thoughts run around up there. I realized that while part of me wants to be very organized (I do love to research and read up on stuff), part of me rebels against it. My work requires me to be very precise, thorough, document very carefully, etc. I decided that I just didn't need more of that in my garden. I want my garden to where I can go to relax, not add more stress or work to my life.

I do make a plan ahead of time, but I don't always stick to it exactly. My original plan was that I would do a journal, good notes, etc, but I found I'm more relaxed if I don't get hung up on taking extensive notes during the season. I did decide that I really needed to use more garden markers and I do try to make notes of what I actually plant on a drawing of my beds, but other than that, I don't keep notes as I go along.

I'm in the "crazy weather changes from year to year" group and decided it wouldn't really help that much to have weather notes. I also just found I didn't really WANT to take extensive notes. I wanted to learn how to be more relaxed about some things and let some things just happen.

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  martha on 10/7/2010, 11:56 am



I was going to also thank Boffer, and echo what several people above said - I, too, am one who has felt guilty for not keeping notes, never mind more thorough ones.

Gloria, seems to me that Boffer et al were taking great care to be clear - this thread was intended to remove guilt in those who think they "should" be taking better notes, not to chastise or in any way belittle those who do.


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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Chopper on 10/7/2010, 12:41 pm

@GloriaG wrote:Chopper,

Touche - I give up.
Keeping records is bad!
Gloria

LOL! Sorry! Just saying that for me it is a lot more looking through rose colored glasses than experience. Or what in the scientific world is called confirmation bias. I got to eat some veggies therefore I must have done well!

I almost envy those who can and do keep meticulous records but it ain't me and I am grateful to boffer for letting me off the hook! No one is right or wrong - it is YOUR garden. flower

I think we each do whatever helps us to feel safe. For me it's the markers and planting grid. After that I go with the flow and don't sweat it (or remember) what went wrong. Too many variables for me to try to analyze it.

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  sfg4uKim on 10/7/2010, 2:02 pm

Gardening records? What are these gardening records of which you speak? Giggle

I DID end up purchasing the Garden Tracker app for my iPhone that was recommended on the SFG web site.

You can set your garden for SFG: # of rows # of columns and it shows you a box with a grid. You can then label each box and click on what you've planted in each square - don't do this until the time you plant because it will estimate the time to harvest. It asks if you're going from seed or transplant.

You can tap on the "table" icon in the middle of the tool bar for for estimated days until harvest and for taking notes.

For instance when I selected Broccoli (from seedlings) it said it needs full sun, medium water , shows mature height (also suggests spacing & pH). Under "harvesting" it said it would mature in 70-80 days. It recommends I plant in spring or fall and recommended varieties for my area.

THIS I can handle. BUT I'm not sure if I'll even keep up with this. Only time will tell.

Kim


Last edited by ksroman on 10/7/2010, 2:04 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : misspelling)

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  boffer on 10/7/2010, 2:33 pm

I bought a book 6-7 years ago. I would take a picture to show you, but it's looking rather tired. Here's the ad for the book, which is still in print.

look here:
That's all some us need. I don't have any problems with folks who want to take computers into the garden. I'm just speaking up for those of us who are happiest when our data collection is a note here and a note there. In the above mentioned book, there is a section that covers data management. This is it, in its entirety:

In the "All New SFG" page 177, Mel wrote:
Take Notes
The only thing you might want to do is record in a notebook or journal some of the highlights of this past year-notes for improvements, special varieties of plants, and tips for next year.
I thought it was time for some support for the less-is-more crowd. It's time for us to come out of the closet, unite in our idleness, and stand up to the busy bees. tongue It's time to show them why the most important thing in a SFG is a chair.


chicken dance

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  martha on 10/7/2010, 3:18 pm

and sometimes on a bulletin board, where words are imperfect, the most important piece of equipment is also a chair.....



hiding happy2

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  acara on 10/7/2010, 5:53 pm

Ohhh ...don't be a hater Smile

I'm as proud of the dirt between my laptop keys, as I am of the dirt under my fingernails.

Technophiles are people too ...and some of them even garden ...LOL

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  CarolynPhillips on 10/7/2010, 8:44 pm

rofl



I keep track on paper---and in my books. I could never sell a book cause it has
notes all through it. When I die---they will have to throw the book away.

speaking of notes----I have to start over on writing notes in my books cause I lost most of them in a fire---------I just received new ones plus new ones I never had before.
They are the best notebooks ever printed. They never get lost (unless you have a fire)
and it is always filed correctly.

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  martha on 10/8/2010, 5:40 pm

I wasn't trying to be a hater!

My words were imperfect - I was trying to be funny/kind. Oops!

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  acara on 10/8/2010, 8:17 pm

Not you ..just my sense of humor.

I probably need to use a few more smileys in my post.


IM TYPING WITH A BIG GRIN

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  martha on 10/8/2010, 9:56 pm

BIG hug

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  happyfrog on 12/12/2010, 10:18 am

this thread is so funny!

i must admit, first year, i kept awesome records. and this past year, i started out with good records.

then life got in the way - computer issues, kid illnesses, me illness/out of remission issues, etc. and my records suffered.

i had many a square that i had to play guessign games on what the heck i might have planted there. lol

the onthe thing i do keep up with pretty well is my spreadsheet info on seed packets and planting instructions that come with various seeds. THAT has been invaluable. i have that mostly up to date along wtih auto formatting programmed - so if plant a seed on one day, i have fields that auto fill in on when to expect germination range - that has been very helpful - esp since i slacked off on my actual record keeping of my boxes.

i did learn thru this haphazard approach this summer though that carrot seeds - even several plantings previous, can decide to sprout much much much later.

we were pulling baby carrots out around tomato plants when i pulled all the plants out - we were very surprised (and it was happy surprise!) to find these greens under there. some had very funny shapes because they grew in and around the tomato roots.

so as a result of this past year, i know i will be both more detailed and yet less ocd about the record keeping - but basics are useful. i don't need to know what exact variety of a plant i have in the ground - but at least knowing if it's a broccoli or a rutabaga or carrot or whatever is very helpful. *grin*

now that it's getting to be the time of year one spends more of inside, i know i'll be updating my seed packet spreadsheet and making plans for what i want to plant come spring, then tentatively figuring out summer planting schedule - because i need to have a plan in order to know how many seeds to start and of which variety come january, feb and even some late seed starting in march - depending on germination patterns.

so record keeping is good but not the end all. and as i'm sure many folks have discovered, one can look in publications - i LOVE mel's planting schedule of seeds/transplants, etc that helps me immensely!!! (and note to self - i need that book back from my friend!) so i can get moving forward - i have notes in the margins on thsoe pages because the germination isn't always right on the money for my area - some plants take a week or three longer - like brassicas - if i remember correctly . . . so startinig them sooner is better for me.


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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

Post  Odd Duck on 12/12/2010, 12:02 pm

I've found that plant labels are sufficient for me. Keeps me (usually) from planting something in a seed bed that hasn't yet sprouted. I don't need variety on the label, just "carrot", "lettuce", etc. I re-use the write on plastic labels and am perfectly happy.

I do write on the variety of basil - lime, lemon, etc, since those are harder to tell apart visibly. I make the label when I plant the seed, then if I take a pinch to bring it in for the winter, I've got a label ready. My basil has never made it all the way through to spring in good shape (doesn't get enough light, I think), but I'm trying again this year. I'm hoping it's enough to keep me in fresh herbs for cooking and maybe it will give me a jump next spring (at least, that's my goal).

Odd Duck

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Re: I keep lousy gardening records on purpose.

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