Organize Yourself: Build a Garden
"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that
they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied.
They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done
before." -- Vita Sackville West
In order to progress, we need to know what needs to be done when, and to
learn from the past. We also need inspiration to feed the soul, and a
personalized source for our own garden conditions. That is the purpose
of this notebook.
Because of the ease of finding paper of the same size and of adding more
pages, I use a loose-leaf binder and thick pages with tabs attached to
them - these come packaged at office supply stores. I have found the
following breakdown useful:
Section 1: Overall garden plan and graphs of individual areas
– these can be photocopied or scanned for planning purposes. Put
these master pages in sheet protectors – use the ones that do not stick
out beyond everything else – looks a lot neater.
Section 2: Inspiration. Plans for future
implementation, goals being worked toward, ideas for things to do, pictures
of gardens visited, and photocopied pictures of ideas in books and magazines.
Paste pictures and descriptions from catalogs of plants, supplies,
ornaments and ideas you would like to use or buy in the future. Quotes for
inspiration or garden decoration.
Section 3: Gardening calendar. I print a page
showing what needs to be done in my area that month (I keep a file in
Microsoft Word for this) and punch the holes so this sheet will be on the
left side when the notebook is open. Then I print one-page monthly calendars
from Microsoft Outlook and punch the holes so that will be on the right.
This right-hand page will be used for planning exactly what I will do
when. (If you want to get fancy, you can print the to do list for the
following month on the back of the calendar page, but this does not leave
room for adding extra pages for that month if needed. I print a
1/4" graph on the back of each calendar page instead – see note
below. If the to do list for the month is longer than a page, just
print it all in as few pages as possible, and punch holes and put them in the
notebook the usual way before the calendar page.) Check off tasks
completed. If you do not have a calendar program, try using this Word document to print a monthly page.
You can write the month, year, and dates on it yourself. It helps also
to have a yearly page at the beginning of this section that charts the months,
just so you can see how the days of the week fall each month. I also
keep observations on weather patterns with the monthly information.
Note: If I am out of graph paper, I print my own by using a Microsoft
Word document with a 1/4" graph in
light teal printed on the front and back of a blank sheet of paper.
This is light enough so you can see the lines, but they will not
interfere with readability when you draw and write across boxes. The
lines may not show up on a photocopy. Click
here for a 1/8" graph if you need one for larger areas.
The measurement is not quite exact, but it's good enough for the
Section 4: Ornamentals planning. Lined pages for
writing what was actually done by date, charts of what was planted in seed
flats or small pots and what was transplanted into pots, what was bought and
from where. Use graph paper to chart what was planted in the garden and
where. Chart of colorful plants
(flowers, fruit or foliage), broken down by season - just put a check in the
correct seasonal box. Chart not only the plants in your garden, but
those around town as well.
Section 5: Edibles planning. Lined pages for writing what
was actually done by date, charts of what was planted in seed flats or small
pots and what was transplanted into pots, what was bought and from
where. Use graph paper to chart what was planted in garden and
where. Chart of planting dates, projected germination dates, and
projected harvest dates. Click here for a helpful
article on this by Susan Glease in Mother Earth News magazine.
Click here for a Crop Chart based
on that article in Microsoft Excel format. Note that the header
contains the year or season. Since our season starts in fall, I noted
this season as 2004-2005 on my chart. A printout of the South Florida Vegetable Planting Guide is also
in this section.
Section 6: Projects. Each project undertaken gets its own
page(s) with the plan (overall, then what to do when), what was done, what
was bought, and the expenses incurred.
Section 7: Individual plants, broken down into areas of the
garden or types of plant (whatever is more useful to you). Use one page
(or more) for each type of plant. Paste or print pictures and a
description from the catalog (or your own pictures and descriptions if bought
or already in the garden) for each plant. Don't forget pictures of the
seedling stage if applicable. List care instructions, when each was
planted and where, and what worked and didn’t work. If planting
from seed, list the time expected from seed to germination, then harvest, and
how long it actually took. Note the expected and actual yield for
vegetables. List good companions for that plant, either for the health
of one or both plants, or for good looks. Glean information and ideas
of what to do with this type of plant in the future (see Grow note below).
Section 8: Weeds and insect pests. One page for each
type, with pictures, including seedling (or larval) stage and mature
stage. Note how it grows (or develops), the conditions under which it
thrives, the time of year it appears, and strategies for prevention.
Section 9: Season extension, fertilizing, watering, composting
and other general care instructions for the entire garden. I
also put my detailed garden diary here, along with an overview chart for the year
where I sum up what was done on each date in a few words. This makes it
much easier to find when a specific thing happened or was done, rather than
having to look through the details in the diary. The chart has seven
columns, for the days of the week, and fifty-three rows, for the weeks of the
year. I label the first day of each month (I start with August) and the
number of each daye thereafter. That way, the chart can be started in any
month and used for any year. Ideas that come up when writing in the
diary can be transferred right to the approptraite month in the calendar
section, or to the inspiration section. That way, they don't get lost.
I have come up with a way to print myself nice pages for the garden
diary. I made a Microsoft
Word document with a table of two columns and one row. The left
column is set to 1.5" width. In the right column, I made another
table and used it to make lines for writing on. Green or brown lines
look nicer than black. In Adobe Photoshop Lite, I made copies of
several nice flower pictures snagged from the Internet. Some are
relatively small and square or are vertical rectangles. These are good
for the left column. In the program, I made all of these 1.25"
wide (the pictures are adjusted proportionately). Then I inserted these
small pictures into the left column until the page was filled and went on to
the next page. I used the Header function in Word to add the year and
page number - each page is a different document because I flipped the columns on the
even-numbered pages so the pictures would be on the right side. This
way, you don't see the pictures through the page when you are writing and the
picture on the backside doesn't interfere with visibility of the writing you
do. The pictures are left or right justified to ensure a margin before
the lines begin. Some pictures are larger and more complicated and are
horizontal rectangles. These I made 2.5" tall and used at the top
of a page formatted
differently - the picture is inserted at the top, and the lines are
Section 10: Sources for seeds and supplies, broken down into useful
categories if needed.
Grow sections 2 and 7-10 by taking notes from books, magazines and the
After referring to older journal pages and charts showing what was done in
past years, these can eventually be moved to another binder. Sections 7
and 9 may also end up growing large enough to start filling other binders,
but having most everything in one place is very convenient, so try to avoid
excessive note-taking - try to have a one to three page section on each type
of plant, and perhaps a little more for each cultural technique, then use
additional binders to house extra information you can refer to for specifics.
Remember, this main binder is for the purpose of organizing your planning
and your efforts in the garden. This will help you stay focused, and
reading through your personalized notebook should help you learn from what
has come before.
I also noticed that when I just kept a garden journal, my thoughts on what to
do next time sometimes got lost. You may want to keep a general journal
that would hold the story of your garden and artwork and quotes and thoughts,
and put things like what to do next year or next season in your garden
planner so they are not forgotten.
Home ** What's New? ** How It All Started
* Garden Update October 2004 * Garden
Diary 2008 * Garden Diary 2009 * Garden Diary 2010 * Garden
Diary 2011 ** New! Garden Diary 2012
** Rose and Perennial Court * Rose Update Feb 2003 * Front Garden Update 2008-9 * Behind the Wall * Herb Circle * Tropical Edibles
Area ** New! Growing
Dinner: Visit to a Homegarden ** Potager
* Potager 2004-5 * Potager Plan
2008-9 * Edibles 2008-9 * Crop Chart
2008-9 * Edibles
Planting Schedule * Warm Season Planting 2005 * Succulent Beds * Wild Edibles *
Caterpillars to Butterflies * Building Healthy Soil
* Ecological Gardening
* Index of Plants and Techniques Featured * Annual Vegetable Chart * Long Lasting Markers: Jewelry for Your Plants * Build a Gardening Notebook