Keep a vegetable garden calendar and map. Use the calendar to record when you start seeds, when you plant in the garden, and when you expect to harvest each crop. Use the garden map to record where you plant each crop or plan to plant later in the season. Keeping track of the garden in your head is next to impossible.
A large calendar with extra space each day for record keeping is ideal. Keep the calendar in the garden shed or next to the door that leads to the garden. Take a couple of minutes after each visit to the garden to jot down what you’ve attended to. The few minutes you take each day will pay off when harvest time or the next growing season roll around.
In addition to a calendar, a vegetable garden map will help you keep track of where each crop is planted. A simple drawing on graph paper is all you really need. Lay out rows and beds and note important details such as shade from nearby buildings or trees, breezy areas, and extra wet or dry spots in the garden. You can use trace paper set over your map to plan out succession crops and crop rotations. Your garden map and overlays should note early, midseason, and late plantings–the rows and beds.
Here are some important items to keep track of:
• Seed sown and transplants planted. Also note varieties and quantities. Note the rows on your garden map. Your record can include where and when you bought seeds and starts and how much they cost.
• Expected harvest times: Count ahead the days to maturity for each crop and note on the calendar the anticipated harvest time for each crop sown today. This will help you harvest your crops at the peak of maturity.
• Planting preparation: soil tilling or digging, amendments added to the garden, mulching, and staking.
• Watering and rainfall: note irrigation and rainfall so that you don’t over or under water. Keep track of rainfall–note the extent of storms and the number of inches of rain on the garden.
• Feeding and fertilizing: note the type of fertilizer used and the amount.
• Weeding: which weeds grew in the garden and when. How did you get rid of them?
• Pest and disease control; pests and diseases found in the garden and how you dealt with them. Note biological controls–beneficial insects–and garden practices that have worked in the garden. Pests and diseases often come in cycles–a calendar can help you anticipate future problems.
• Weather and temperature. Noting the weather and temperature regularly may help answer questions that come up later in the season. (Rainy or cold weather at flowering time can impact pollination and harvest.)
• Harvest notes: which crops performed well and which didn’t. How much did each crop produce–the yield. Note the amounts used for canning and freezing–the pints and quarts yield. Note varieties to plant again in coming seasons.
• Crop placement and rotation: use your garden map along side your calendar to plan ahead. Planning succession crops throughout the season–which crops are short-staying and which are long-staying–will help you get the most out of your garden.
• Soil records: note the pH in differing areas around the garden and what amendments you’ve added to the soil.
• Frost and freeze dates and season extension efforts. When did the cold weather begin and end? When did you use plastic tunnels or row covers to protect the crops.
• Garden cleanup: when did crops come out of the garden and what extra effort was made to end the season or prepare for next season. Was compost or manure added to the garden? Were cover crops planted?
A garden calendar and map are useful tools. But there are other ways to keep track of the garden. A spiral notebook or file cards may work just as well. The important thing is to keep track of the garden and to note your efforts and successes.