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Gardening with your Computer (Blog 1 of 2)

Jay Gould, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee

Yes, I consider my computer, or more specifically the computer word processing and spreadsheet programs, to be the most important gardening tools that I have. They enable me to record and retrieve all my successes and failures. How better to improve my gardening skills?

Gardeners have been recording their experiences for centuries, but only in the 21st century could the backyard gardener deploy meaningful computer power.

Why bother with a word processing program? Why not just jot down your gardening activities in a handy notebook? That’s what Henry David Thoreau did in his 47 manuscripts. They are treasure chests of facts and insights of the native flora and fauna that he observed over 24 years. But he had to enter his details in chronological order and how could he ever find that comment about a daisy written five years ago?With a computer such retrieval takes less than a second, plus you can edit existing entries, new entries, or even remove old entries. Try doing that on a piece of paper where you have already written into the margins!

You can buy a hundred different paper gardening journals. Just Google “garden journaling”. There are hundreds of gardening computer applications. Microsoft even has a template for garden journaling. But I suggest keeping it simple and stay with a word processing program you have and know. I use Microsoft Word and start with a basic text document.

To get started you want to enter ONLY the information that you think you most likely will want to know at some future date. You can always add and insert information, which you can’t do in a paper garden journal.

For example:

  • What did I plant last season?
  • How well did the beans grow?
  • Where did I buy the carrot seeds?
  • Where did I plant the tomatoes in September two years ago?
  • How did I treat the white fly infestation? Did it work?
  • When did I seed the peas?
  • How satisfied was I with …….. fill in the blank.

You get the idea. Here’s a section from my garden journal:

V69 Bush Blue Lake 274

  • Thursday, August 22, 2019, 4:52 PM, Purchased, Big Box Store, Seed Company, $1.49, 28 grams.
  • Thursday, August 22, 2019, 7:51 PM, Seeded two rows of V69 Bush Blue Lake 274 on south edge of bed 1
  • Sunday, September 01, 2019, 2:19 PM, Reseeded – many voids. Think that soon after germination, the tender shoots were subjected to multiple days without water, result: stunting and death.

These are the entries for V69 Bush Blue Lake 274 beans. Where does the “V69” come from? It is the unique ID number I assigned for this variety of green string bean. I have planted 68 previous vegetables (the “V” indicates vegetables) so Bush Blue Lake 274 is number 69.garden picture

Just as every item in a big box store has a unique number so must every plant in your garden. If after growing V69 Bush Blue Lake 274, I discover that it has a thick stringy spine that jams between my teeth, I want to remember not to plant it again. If all beans were labeled “beans”, I might have to relearn the lesson.

Having a unique ID number also has additional benefits. The number is shorthand for future journal entries, writing the plant ID on the tag you insert in the garden bed, and for searching for previously recorded information. More about labeling and how important it becomes when you want to create reports or summarize data in later blogs.

P.S. I did NOT type the date, hour and minute. I let the computer do the typing. Next time you will learn how- stay tuned!