I like being organised – having lists, charts, diagrams, and plans. I also have a terrible memory. Therefore, when it comes to gardening, yes, I really do have a schedule! (and also J to thank for the idea for my blog post this week – thanks! ;D) I don’t think I’m alone there, either, though I’d suspect more experienced gardeners just ‘know’ or remember many of the things I have to keep track of. As a beginner gardener there’s a lot to remember and absorb as each plant has personal wants and needs, bedfellows it does not get on with, pests particular to itself or, worse, that it can pass to others, times when it must be repotted, times when the roots must not be disturbed and so forth. Trying to hold all of this in your mind is not an easy task!
Therefore, I have the Green Folder. What’s in the green folder? My garden plan, calendar with sowing dates, whatever seed I’m going to sow that day (if any), labels, a marker, a pencil, and “Grow Your Own Vegetables” by Joy Larkcom. This is my basic tool kit and comes out with me every time I go into the garden – even if I’m weeding – because who knows what might have popped up overnight and which I’ll forget about if I don’t note it down? Joy Larkcom’s book is a great addition to my kit – it’s not big and flashy, but it is dense, full of quickly absorbable information and tips – much like a manual or almanac for the small-garden and beginner gardener and I thoroughly recommend it.
I did not have the green folder last year and stupidly made some basic mistakes simply because of the fact I couldn’t be bothered to walk back inside to look something up or didn’t write something down before it frittered out of my mind. I’m silly like that… but, to be honest, last year was more about eager ‘participation’ in gardening and figuring out the basics so I’ll forgive myself my little mistakes – especially since it’s given me the basis upon which I can build a better system for myself.
The other tool I use is Folia. This is a social gardening site which allows you to input and track your plants at all stages of their life as well as letting you easily track all the seed, bulbs, etc. you’ve got. I’ve had a little button on the side of the blog since I started using it, but I don’t know if I’ve really mentioned it before on the blog. It can be a little overwhelming at first to use but, like most things, once you have a go you quickly get used to its quirks and the gardening community therein is well worth that effort – as is the ever-improving software. I’ve found fast, friendly advice there from gardeners around the world – from those who grow a little garden like my own to those who plant and manage acres in self-sufficient farms! It also has its own journal system, so if you don’t witter on all about your garden on a blog of your own you can do it there ;)
Folia allows you to check back to see which batch of last years seeds didn’t make it because you planted them too early, and which ones seemed to come up fine, it allows you to set tasks and can remind you via email of what you need to do that week. It has many groups on particular plants or growing styles where you can jump in and get more detailed advice and if you put in your growing zone, can tell you when you can sow many of your seeds. It has a free and pay-for version, and some of the funkier stuff is behind the pay wall – however it’s relatively cheap and goes towards maintaining the service which is run by a coder-gardener couple who do it all in their spare time. They’re very good at responding to bugs and suggestions and the last year has seen major revamps to make the site easier to use.
This year, I’ve also taken to labelling things much more. Last year I figured I could totally remember what I was planting. Yeah, no idea why I thought that, given my memory, but after a game of ‘is it cauliflower or is it cabbage’ I decided that next time I’d definitely label things much more meticulously (then my greenhouse fell over, knocking all of my carefully placed labels out of their tubs, but I’ll just try to forget that!).
I think having these tools helps me keep a good balance – I have the information at my fingertips if I need it, and it’s not too onerous to jot down little notes about things to do or that I’ve done then transfer them quickly onto Folia when I come indoors, knowing they’re safe there when I need to remember if there was any point in trying to sow peas in March or not to bother!