Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Growing year to year

Posted by: Paul Gardener
A posse ad esse (From possibility to reality)

As we work to grow our gardens, bringing fresh, healthy and organic food to our tables it's easy to get caught up in the process of picking our plants, choosing varieties, finding recipes that we'll use to preserve our harvests and just generally revelling in the excitement of either a new growing year or in the harvests that we're so enjoying as they come in. I've done it, I still do do it to some degree, but I've also learned that there are other things that I need to find some time and discipline to do. One such thing that we've been really making a concerted effort towards this year is our record keeping. It's not one of the glamorous parts of homesteading but it is, I am finding, an immensely valuable one.
List of this years preserved harvest items.

We kept our records this year, in a couple of very cheap spiral notebooks that got incredibly beaten up throughout the year. They were effective and easy to add things to though, and now that the majority of the growing season has passed us here in the northern hemisphere it is time to reconcile all the notes and charts into one location. For us that means digging into a stash of three ring binders that we salvaged from my office that were bound for the land fill, no need to waste after all. The types of things that we have added or will be adding are lists of things like what we grew this year, what we'd like to try next year, what and how much we put up for the winter and anything else we want to keep track of.
Detailed Journal of 2008 harvest totals.

This year for instance, we made it a personal goal to keep records of the weight of every item that we harvested. It allowed us to not only get a very realistic idea of how much total food we were able to produce on our own land, (over 500 lbs so far.) but it also will allow us to go back over the records in the off season and see what really did grow and produce well in our garden. Maybe we need to start earlier or try a different location, or maybe we just don't think a particular crop is worth the effort. Good records will help us to remember until next year and aid us in making adjustments to next years garden plan.
Charts showing what was grown where to help with garden rotations next year.

And that's another thing we have in our records, charts of what we grew and where we grew them. This is probably one of the things that I would say is a mandatory thing in any garden record book. I don't know about you all, but I can't remember from spring to summer what I planted where, and have made the mistake of growing the same things in the same places many times. Good crop rotation is one of the best organic gardening practices you can implement. It helps to keep pests from building up in one area, and minimizes the chances of species specific soil-born diseases from taking over. They don't need to be too detailed either, the ones in the picture above took me ten minutes to throw down on paper. I did have some notes in the beat up spiral notebooks, but most of the info I still remember. That won't be the case in February or March I assure you.
Keeping good records isn't one of those romantic, back to the land, idealistic things that we generally have come to mind, but in my opinion is one of the basic skills that we can build from the start to help ensure our other efforts are "fruitful". I encourage you to at least get a basic notebook, and start building that habit of jotting things down as they happen. Keep track of what you harvest, what kind of bugs you're seeing, weather patterns or anything else you think you may want to remember. You'll thank yourself later!
Grow on!