Organizing your garden information

Organizing gardening information

With garden chores -- except for leaf removal -- slowing down, it's time to take a look back at the gardening year and get ready for the growing season to come. Before I order any new plants or seeds, I like to browse through my notes of the past few years to see the plants I particularly liked (and why) and those that were total failures -- and was that my fault, the plant's, the weather's, or a complete mystery?

I usually remember the duds, but it's always surprising to me how quickly a perfectly pleasant plant that performs nicely can get overlooked if I don't write it down somewhere.

I also like to hang onto the care directions for any new plants I grew during the year. I typically keep all this information -- along with photos and scraps of paper on which I've written advice and cryptic tips -- in a homemade garden notebook.

 But I'll have to admit that it's stuffed so full it looks as if it belongs to a very messy fourth-grader. (Think Peanuts' Pig Pen holding a giant notebook with pieces of paper flying all over the place, and you'll have a pretty accurate picture.)

"There has to be a better way," I groan every time I pick it up and things start falling out. Well, there are several better ways to organize gardening information, I've found.

One that looks very promising is the free Google Notebook, which lives on your desktop so it's always available. I discovered it the other day at Defining Your Home Garden. It's easy to use, Cameron says, even for non-techies. You can copy articles and photos you find online, compare prices among several sources, sort the information, print it, share it -- all very simply.

It's accessible not just from your computer but also from your cellphone, which could be handy when you're out shopping for plants.

Here's Cameron's step-by-step example that illustrates how Google Notebook works. It's got a lot of potential, doesn't it?

If you'd rather store real notes than virtual ones, Robin Wedewer, the Gardening Examiner, has written a helpful series of tips on gardening organization. During the summer, I used her Six Ideas for Organizing Your Garden To-Do Lists all the time.

Robin has also reviewed two commercial garden notebooks, in case you'd prefer to buy one instead of making your own: GardenScribe Plant Organizer and A Gardener's Journal, which holds 10 years' worth of notes.

I'm going to give Google Notebook a try. But maybe I'll also retire my old loose-leaf garden notebook and put together a new one that's better organized.

How do you get organized? What are the best ideas you've picked up? If you use Google Notebook, what do you like about it? I'm in the mood to get organized and can use all the help you can provide!

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