Tips for Garden Planning

Learn how to keep track of soil responses to different crops, food preservation, good varieties and their sources, timing, crop rotation, succession planting, fertilizer records, garden areas, costs and techniques.

| January/February 1986

Our farming grandparents knew that a record of growing experiences kept over the years would show patterns and reveal truths unique to one growing area. In fact, people used to pass on such information from one generation to the next to help weed out mistakes and perpetuate successes.

Record keeping can help you discover what works and what doesn't. For instance, most of us gardeners get so carried away by the sheer joy of spring planting that we seriously oversow. As a result, we end up with zucchini sprawled all over the pathways, unharvested beets that have turned into woody baseballs and scads of spinach that's bolted to seed. But if your garden records make you stare your past overindulgences in the face, you may well sober up and learn to plant a more realistically sized plot the next year.

But you have to keep your record-keeping system simple, because if you don't, you won't stick to it.

Unfortunately, there is no standard form (that we could tidily reproduce on this magazine page) for keeping records because of this basic premise: What you record should depend on what you want to learn. Your record-keeping system will be a lot more useful (and less work to maintain) if you first decide what you're trying to find out.

For instance, Mr. A. Count may want only to keep track of his expenses through a year to see if he's getting his produce for less than he'd pay at the grocery store. Ms. X. Tinct, on the other hand, is trying to help save 50 heirloom plants and wants to master their specific cultivation needs. Both gardeners will need records, but completely different kinds of records.

Your own evaluation goals may depend upon one or more of the following purposes:

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