The organized gardener

I’ll never forget the first time I talked with a long-time gardener who was able to tell me how different varieties of tomatoes and peppers had performed for him the year before – and even five years earlier.

He also knew how much rain had actually fallen on his yard (not at the official weather station) the previous week – and each of the past 10 years.

He wasn’t one of those people with a phenomenal memory who’ve been in the news lately. He wrote things down in a garden notebook. As I recall, it was a looseleaf notebook so he could just keep adding pages as the data accumulated.

Here’s one that’s free for the downloading. offers free printable pages to help you get started. Or, if you’re the crafty type, make one.

The type of notebook doesn’t matter nearly as much as having the information all in one place .

I like to keep track of the plants I buy each year and how well they grew and bloomed – or didn’t. That saves me from trying the same wonderful-sounding plant twice because I’d forgotten I’d already given in a whirl and it was a dud.

I like to know when my various hydrangeas and other shrubs bloomed each year, when we ate the first tomato of the season, and whether a particular cultivar of cucumber was a heavy producer or not – and for how long.

A garden notebook can also remind me of plants that I really liked and want more of. I always save the label and paste it to the page or put it in a special plastic bag that holds all the labels for a particular year. I never ceased to be surprised at how often I refer back to these.

I’m a bit of a weather junkie so I like to record the weather’s ups and downs, lows and highs, wets and dries (noting the rainfall amounts with a rain gauge in my backyard).

I’ve never done this, but a graph or drawing of all your beds is a wonderful idea.

If you’re big on experimenting in the garden, you can note different types of fertilizer you tried during the year, tools you bought, and so forth.

A to-do list at the front of the garden notebook can be a handy reminder – there always seems to be one thing that you forget about over and over.

And don’t forget to add photos! We gardeners often can use inspiration. It’s such a pleasure to look back at pictures taken at the beginning of a project, see how far you’ve come, and be able to say, “Hey, I’ve made a difference.”

That’s what’s keeps us going.

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