No matter how good you are at keeping track of things in your head, it’s always a good idea to keep records of your gardening efforts. I didn’t do much in my first few years, and I really wish I had – I know there were a lot of interesting things that happened, but I can’t remember all of them!
At the most basic level, pen & paper is all you really need. It’s always “online”, and you can format your notes any way you like. As well, you don’t need to worry about it dissapearing in to the mists of the internet. The big downsides are that it is a LOT harder to share your experiences with the wider world, and it’s not easy to search if you want to go back to a particular bit of information.
A very handy tool, no matter how you plan on writing down information, is a digital camera. You don’t need anything fancy, just something to take pictures of sprouts, plants, and the final products of those plants. A camera can be invaluable in figuring out what went right (and wrong) with a plant, especially if you’re soliciting help from someone.
If you want to get a bit fancier, there are lots of ways you can leverage computers to help enhance your garden. Spreadsheets have quickly become a gardener’s friend, especially when trying to figure out planting dates and crunching various bits of data like harvest volumes. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my seed purchase wishlist, so that I can break down the costs (and in most cases, trim my order so I don’t spend too much on seeds). Blogs are a great way to share what you are doing (and what you are learning) with friends, family and even total strangers. They’re nearly as flexible as pen & paper, but of course it’s a bit daunting to haul a computer or tablet out to the garden when your plan is to play in the dirt.
Going a bit further with the online tools, there are a couple of excellent, more specialized tools that are available. The first is one I’ve used for 3 years now, and have found it invaluable for both the features and the community. The site is www.myfolia.com, and you can use it to track the progress of your gardens, as well as your seed “stash” and the results of your hard work. Registration is free, and all the essential functionality is there. If you get a “Supporter” account (which has varying costs, depending on what you feel is the right amount to pay), you gain access to extra features, as well as sneak peeks in to new features coming out. As I said earlier, the community there is great – people from all around the world share information about their plants, as well as tips and tricks, and even organize seed swaps! Another tool that I have used previously is at www.growveg.com. It’s a tool for visually plotting out and planning your garden. I haven’t used it in a couple years, since I tend to wing it a bit when it comes to planting, but it definitely has value for those who want to do a bit more planning. Access to the online program is free for 30 days, and $25 USD after that.
Ultimately, how you keep track of your gardens should be what works for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong – as long as you find it helpful and/or useful, keep it up!