Saturday, December 27, 2008

Keeping Track

When my oldest boy looked over my shoulder yesterday and realized that I was updating an Excel spreadsheet of seeds that are stored in our fridge, he laughed. The spreadsheet includes variety name, source (Burpee, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, etc.), year the packet was purchased, cost, and notes I’ve made about some varieties. This level of record-keeping may seem pretty extreme, but the spreadsheet helps me know what I have on hand and what I need to order for this year.

For example, I can see that my packet of Cajun Jewel okra was purchased in 2003. The germination rate on those older seeds may be reduced by now, and I should consider buying a new packet even though it still contains plenty of seeds. The packet has lasted five years because I usually grow only seven or eight okra plants each year; those plants (normally) produce all the okra my husband and I will eat.

Keeping spreadsheets for things like seeds, planting and garden chore activities, and whether a particular variety is worth growing again isn’t too horribly painful. My records aren’t spectacular pieces of prose, but they aren’t meant to be; they are just useful. I wish that I had kept better records for more than just the five or so years that I have them (some years’ records are better than others’).

However, Thomas Jefferson, one of my gardening heroes, kept journals, in non-spreadsheet form, about his garden for more than fifty years. He recorded failures, successes, the dates of planting and harvest; he traded seeds and plants with other gardeners. His garden journals are worth perusing, at the least, and sixty-six pages of his garden writing can be read here . Maybe my re-reading them will help this be a year in which my records are relatively complete!

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