The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Garden notes facilitate rotation

Garden map
Unless you have a stellar memory, garden rotation depends on good notes.  You may eventually decide to come up with your own method for recording garden information, but for now I recommend you combine a garden map with a spreadsheet.

If you haven't already mapped your garden, the first step in this week's exercise is to head out into the garden with pen and paper.  It's not really necessary to pace off boundaries and draw your garden to scale --- the idea is simply to mark down the main features.

Those of you who have permanent beds can sketch your garden once, scan your drawing into the computer or make several photocopies, then never have to repeat the drafting work.  If that applies to you, I recommend giving each garden bed a label so that you can quickly and easily refer to it in your notes.  I find it helpful to use a number and letter combo to distinguish a bed, so the first row of beds in my garden is labeled "A1", "A2", "A3", etc., the second row of beds is labeled "B1", "B2", and so forth.

If you till up your garden and create new rows every year, your garden map will be a bit fuzzier.  (See the May volume of Weekend Homesteader for an explanation of why permanent garden beds are better for your soil.)  But you can get the same general information across by listing your tomatoes as grown in the southwest quadrant.  You'll probably want to draw a map each year showing the location of each type of vegetable.


Weekend Homesteader paperbackEither way, I recommend coupling your garden map with a spreadsheet (or at least a notebook if you're technophobic.)  You can download my garden spreadsheet from 2011 to use as a template.  Every time I plant a bed, I note down the date, the vegetable variety, the seed source, and the bed number.  In some cases, I'll also record the portion of the bed planted (if I'm combining more than one vegetable species or variety in the same bed), soil amendments I used, harvest information, and disease and insect problems.  You can put all of the same information in a notebook, but using a spreadsheet makes it much easier to search through your notes.

This week's lunchtime series includes one of the four projects from Weekend Homesteader: November.  Stay tuned for the rest of the series, or check out the 99 cent ebook for more information on how to store drinking water for use during power outages, to put an entire chicken to use in the kitchen, and to bring in cash without going to the office.

This post is part of our Garden Rotation lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Holy smokes, I count almost 60 garden beds! That's mighty impressive. :)

Sarah in Boulder Creek CA

Comment by Sarah Wed Nov 2 12:21:46 2011

First off, 60 beds is pretty impressive.

I do the notebook thing at this time. Not because of technophobia, but of Excel-abhobia. I don't do excel very well. I guess it is time to get over that and get my notebook put into a spreadsheet. Thanks for sharing yours, I will be using that as a template.

You said you indicate the part of the bed. Do you do this in the bed column or in a different column?

Comment by Fritz Wed Nov 2 12:37:32 2011

Now that I've actually looked over your spreadsheet, I see you have a sub bed column.

I do have another question about the varieties. Are these ones that you have worked out over a couple years that you like? I notice there isn't much in the notes section. I would think this would be the place to put your info about liking or disliking anything.

And that's a lot of oats.

Comment by Fritz Wed Nov 2 12:43:13 2011

For a spreadsheet, the free and open source spreadsheet gnumeric works just as well.

Of course libreoffice has a spreadsheet as well.

Comment by Roland_Smith Wed Nov 2 15:22:36 2011

Sarah --- I figure I grow about 150 "beds" but some of my larger beds count as two, three, or four. We eat a lot of vegetables.

Fritz --- Spreadsheets really aren't that tough once you get used to the. If you can make a webpage, chances are, you can make a spreadsheet. (Or, rather, delete all of the rows out of mine except the top one and just fill it in. :-) )

About the varieties --- Some are new trials and some are old standbys. I tend to keep notes on the blog instead of the spreadsheet, which is why the notes field is usually empty. If you search for a specific variety using the search box on the sidebar, you might find more information on whichever ones you're looking for.

Roland --- Yup, gnumeric is the program pictured in the post. I just put the file in excel format since that's the most widespread format. Free software is awesome. :-)

Comment by anna Wed Nov 2 15:36:21 2011

I have worked with spreadsheets. I just worry that I'm going to miss something. I will be creating my spreadsheet soon. I have 2 years worth of data to input.

As for Gnumeric, I'm a big fan. I've used OpenOffice for years. The only reason I have MS Office at home is I got it for $20 through my company. And I do need to use it for work sometimes.

Comment by Fritz Wed Nov 2 20:01:19 2011
Fritz --- I see what you mean. It's always a pain to convert from one format to another. I tend to just start fresh and use two formats at once for a few years until the old data is used so seldom it can just gather dust on a back shelf.
Comment by anna Thu Nov 3 11:10:48 2011

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