My most un-favourite, but necessary, weekly job is updating my computer database of food plant propagation & growing from the exercise book scribbles which are my daily records.
Keeping records is a must if you’re going to aim for even a moderate degree of self-sufficiency. I’m talking mainly about growing annual vegetables here, but ultimately it applies to all food plants. ‘Getting it right’ is of paramount importance, when the alternative is starving.
Firstly, you’ll probably be trying out a large number of different varieties of each plant type, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc, in order to find those best suited to your soil, climate and taste buds, so you’ll need to keep records of their performance and yield.
Secondly, you’ll be varying sowing and planting times in a bid to find the optimum for each type for your area and to ensure a continuous harvest of something. Even three meals of carrots a day is better than starving.
Thirdly, you may be buying seeds from a variety of suppliers, so you’ll need to know which ones can be relied upon to always produce good viable seed and which ones sell seed which is a bit dubious. Ultimately, of course, you’ll be wanting to be self-sufficient in seed and so will be collecting your own.
A computer database is the best way of putting it all in a manageable and sortable way, so find one which is easy to use and does what you want. I use MS Works.
I record the following:
- Plant species, variety & seed supplier.
- Seed collection date (if I collected it myself or date on packet if I purchased it. This is very important. You don’t want to be wasting precious time sowing old, non-viable seed)
- Date seed germinated & number of days to germinate
- Quantity potted up (if not direct sown) and date of potting up
- Date seedlings planted out
- Date of first flowering and harvest
- Number of days from sowing seed to harvest (this is interesting to compare with what the seed packet says)
- General performance i.e. did the plants get attacked by anything or succumb to disease
- Yield (either actual weighing of the harvest or just general notes in terms of ‘lots’, ‘so-so’ or ‘pretty poor’)
When collecting seed I put the name of the plant, the variety and the date collected on the envelope and store these in separate yearly collections. When going through my seed bank to pick seed to sow, I always choose the oldest seed first.
I’m also moving back to the old-fashioned, pre-computer days by duplicating all the information on a card index system whereby I can still access the information in the event of a power failure or similar. I think such events are going to be more common as energy decline becomes a part of daily life.
All this may seem like a lot of unnecessary extra work, but in the long run, to have a food production system which is as productive and as efficient as it can possibly be, will be well worth the effort.