Keeping records

In the last post I quoted information from my records on propagation and planting dates and a few commenters said, wow! (or words to that effect 😉 ) about my record-keeping. Being science-trained, I suppose keeping records is second-nature to me—and I know how unreliable memory can be. Besides my gardening records go back through years of propagation and planting and no memory is that good.

I use an ordinary exercise book for day-to day records. A double page to a week. It looks like this :



At the end of the week I transfer those records to a computer database. I use Microsoft Works, which is a 3-in-1 program incorporating a database, spreadsheet and word processor. I don’t think it’s popular now, but I’ve had a copy on various computers for years. I don’t use the word processor much, but the database and spreadsheet are invaluable for storing and retrieving large amounts of information. I use the spreadsheet for anything requiring calculations—household and personal finances, my solar panel outputs, etc. The database is used for just data and the ability to sort columns into any order or find any records is a great feature. The propagation database deals with all my plant propagation records. It looks like this (photo of computer screen) :



In separate columns I record—the date; the name of the species; an ‘S’ for seed sown, or ‘C’ for cuttings and the number (e.g. C4); the date the seed germinated or the cuttings struck; the source of the seed and the date on the packet if purchased, or the date collected if from my own garden; the number of seedlings or cuttings potted up and the date; any notes, like, ‘poor germination’, ‘mouse dug up seed’, ‘snails ate all the seedlings’, (shit happens!) and so on.

The database allows me to search for any and all records of a species—amazing how consistent germination can be when you have dozens of records of the same species to look at and compare. It can also show the best time of year for sowing seed, for instance, some seed will sit there for weeks if sown at a particular time of year and yet germinate very quickly when sown at another time. The seed knows when it’s ready and I know to wait until it is. I’ve learned never to throw out seed trays until I’ve checked the database and I’m certain the seed is long past its usual time.

The database was very handy when I was growing plants to order some years ago. I could look at the germination times of a particular species and give the customer a fairly good approximation of when the plants would be ready for planting out.

I also have a planting-out database where I record what plants I plant, how many and where (just for shrubs and trees, not annual vegetables). Each major area of the property has a number, or other designation (FF is food forest and so on), so I was able to look back and see when I planted the Japanese Raisin Tree, which was the subject of the last post.

I have a seed bank database too, where I record my seed collection which is stored in packets in various boxes. This is a great help for knowing where I’m at with respect to seed, especially how fresh it is and whether I’m out of a variety and need to buy or collect a new lot.

While I admit I’m a record-keeping geek, even though I don’t spend a lot of time on it, I realise it isn’t for everyone. But it can be an invaluable aid to making a successful garden, especially if you grow and collect your own seed.


8 Responses to “Keeping records”

  1. Chris Says:

    Everyone has their own way of doing things. I think yours is great. I’m also sure, I use a lot of outdated programs too. I stick with what I know though. 😉


  2. fergie51 Says:


    Liked by 1 person

  3. narf7 Says:

    Good LORD Bev! I think I need a phd to just read this post. I bow to your record keeping. I learned how to create complex spreadsheets a few years ago but it really did my head in. I love lists and notes but this is taking it to a whole new level. I bow to your scientific record keeping. You truly are “The Guru!” 🙂


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Not really! MS Works is a simple program, easy to use. I’ve tried the ‘biggies’ —Excel and its database mate and they did my head in too. Far too complex for what I needed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf7 Says:

        I once had to insert a macro into an Excel cell. It did my head in SO much I had to go to bed for a rest at 2 in the afternoon or I would have thrown the computer out of the window! Luckily, Steve is a smartypants when it comes to technology and by the time I had slept off my angst he had worked out how to do it. Steve was shooting short movies with his camera yesterday and was filming the steam coming off my breakfast bowl (while I waited hungrily to eat it!) and after he shot it he edited it in Microsoft Movie Maker. I didn’t even know that Movie Maker existed and you can do all sorts of things in it including transitioning in images and editing sound etc. We have to learn how to use Premier Pro (in the Adobe Suite) this year to edit our movies and I am guessing it is a lot harder than Movie Maker but it gets me to thinking that sometimes more complex programs really don’t deliver all that much more than the original simple versions. I will check out Works.


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