Keeping organized as a gardener can be daunting! Seeds. Plants. Tools. Seasons. There are many things to keep track of to ensure our timing is right. These are my top tips for getting things in order for stress-free gardening.
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Smart Ideas for Organizing Your Garden from Seed to Harvest
I realize this may be somewhat annoying because I’m essentially going to say, if you want to be organized, get organized! But here we go.
Gardening can be messy and disorganized! And there is a lot to keep track of. Seasons, weather, soil, compost, seeds, plants, pruning, dividing, harvesting, and more. The magic is in the mayhem but not if we get overwhelmed.
I’ve gathered some tips, ideas, and products I use for keeping my garden (and life as a gardener) in order. I’m a big fan of creating plans, mapping out the steps, and then letting everything run on autopilot so I can have the fun without the stress.
BUT. This goal is two-fold. We don’t just want to get organized: we want to create systems that are easy to maintain. Perfection is the enemy of productivity. And, if a system is too complicated or unrealistic, it will be abandoned. So, keep it simple and adapt the advice to fit your situation.
6 Tips for Getting Organized
1. Create a Plan & Mark the Dates
Garden planning can be daunting, especially for new gardeners. And you may not want or need an elaborate plan, but, if you know what you want from your garden, it sure helps to have a road map to get there.
If you’re a new gardener and need some guidance to determine seasonal chores and planting ideas, look for local garden blogs, gardening books suited to your growing zone, or join your local horticultural society where you’ll find lots of experienced gardeners ready to help.
I start each year by mapping out my garden plans for each season. This may include landscaping, garden beds, veggie and fruit gardening, ponds and water features, and garden art-making.
I break all the tasks into manageable steps and list any deadlines in my gardening calendar. My list is usually ridiculously long so I rate things by urgency or must-haves, so I don’t get lost in the nice-to-haves.
I use Google calendar on the computer, but a paper calendar works fine too. Use whatever is most convenient so you’ll stick with it.
If you plan to grow plants from seed, I have this printable seed starting plan to get you started.
This fall gardening checklist shares the important stuff to get done before winter and what can wait.
2. Organize Your Seeds
There’s two things to tend to.
- How you file your seeds so they are easy to locate.
- How you store your seeds so they stay viable as long as possible.
The best solution to any problem is the one that gets done. If you buy a lot of seeds and do not have a good storage system, my number one tip is to start by simply putting them all in one place.
From there, you can work on getting them in order.
Seed Packet Filing System
This is a task for a rainy afternoon. And only if you have a lot of seeds. If you just have a handful of packets, keep them in a shoebox (with best possible storage conditions) and call it a day!
I have a lot of seeds, so I have an alphabetical filing system.
I keep the seed packets for each category in a labelled bag. Examples: Beans, Beets, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli….
Yours may be as simple as veggies, fruits, annual flowers, perennial flowers.
If you just sow at certain times of year, you could also sort the seeds into groups by sowing times.
Maintain Seed Inventory
Discovering a seed packet is empty at sowing time is the worst! Well, not the worst-worst, but in the realm of seed sowing time worst.
I have a system for preventing this mishap.
I have clips labelled ORDER to indicate inventory is low. After sowing, I always check how many seeds are left in the pack before putting it away. If it’s getting low, I add the ORDER clip. When it’s time to order more, I can see at a glance what’s needed.
Best Seed Storage Conditions
This article on seed storage outlines the optimum conditions for storing seeds.
It is recommended to keep them in a cool, dry, dark place with consistent temperatures between 32-41F (0-5C) and not more than 50% humidity levels. Long-term storage (3+ years) requires lower temperatures and humidity levels if you want to ensure viability.
Realistically, we store them in the best cool, dark location in our homes, keeping them accessible for sowing as needed. I keep mine out in summer and stored properly in winter.
3. Have Plant Tags Ready to Go
|Plant Tags||Label Maker|
Again, if it’s easy and ready to go, it gets the job done!
I am an epic plant-forgetter, either forgetting what I planted or not recognizing plants when they emerge from the soil in spring.
I have overcome this shortcoming by having two things: prepared long-lasting plant tags and an easy way to make instant tags.
For long-lasting tags, I get zinc or stainless steel markers and add plant names with a Brother p-touch label maker (with waterproof labels). I keep them in my potting area sorted in basic alphabetical groups so I can find what I need quickly.
For instant tags, I use the same metal markers and attach the nursery plant tag with a binder clip.
Another tip I’ve found helpful is to add a note to my plant markers indicating when a crop will be mature. It sounds silly but, when I have hundreds of plants growing, I sometimes overlook the best harvest times for my veggies. These little notes remind me it’s time to pick the beans.
You know yourself. Do what works for you.
4. Keep Notes
To me, it is unrealistic to think I’m ever going to keep a detailed garden journal with hand-drawn illustrations and nifty little growth charts. But garden notes can be extremely valuable for tracking plants and learning best practices.
Choose whatever system you are most likely to keep up with: a paper journal, a spreadsheet, or a 3-ring binder.
Sometimes I’m so grubby from gardening that the best option is to dictate a note into my phone for reference later.
At the end of a productive gardening day, shower, have a nice dinner (prepared by someone else!), and make time to jot some notes down from your day.
Examples of useful info to jot down: date, weather, what you planted or pruned, phenology notes, future wishes, what needs fixing, moving, repairing, pests, what’s in bloom, reminders.
I have printable seed-starting note sheets here if you want to give them a try.
The other key component of keeping helpful garden records is to take lots of photos. Before, during, and after. And photograph any ideas you like in other gardens so you can use them as inspiration in yours.
5. Create Chore Checklists
If you’ve been reading Empress of Dirt for a while, you know I love a good checklist!
Any repeated task that requires some thought gets a checklist! That how I come up with all the garden tip sheets and checklists on this site. I research everything, find the most reliable information I can, and then put it in a file for future reference.
How you keep checklists will depend on your working style.
I like to stash everything web-based so I can easily find it on my computer or phone. I use Google Keep, Trello, and spreadsheets for most things.
You may prefer a notebook. Whatever works! The point is, if something requires reminders or instructions, gather them once and keep them in an easy-to-access location so you have the handy as needed.
If tasks are date-sensitive, put reminders in your calendar.
6. Keep Your Garden Tools and Supplies in Shipshape
I saved this one for last but it could be the biggest task.
And the most obvious. Having your tools and supplies in good shape and easy-to-access makes gardening so much easier. And enjoyable.
For years I did not have adequate storage space and it was awful getting tools out from the over-crowded, multi-purpose garage.
But even now with ample storage space, things can get muddled if I don’t keep on top of it.
Step one is to get it all in order. Pull everything out. Assess every single item. Does it work? Is it useful? Do you use it?
Toss, donate, repair, sort.
I create mini work stations. It’s the same idea as keeping stations in a kitchen for baking, making tea or coffee, or whatever. I have all my seed-sowing supplies in one trug. The stuff I use for garden art repairs and plant supports in another, and so on.
Mark easy-to-misplace tools with bright spray paint. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found my favourite dark green weeding tool in the compost pile!
End your garden days early to allow time for clean up before you are too stiff or tired to move. I keep vegetable oil and a rag by the tools so I can clean and oil them before hanging them up.
Check that everything is in its place before heading indoors for a hot shower.
So, are you an organized gardener or a wanna be?
I’m not sure if any of these tips will really help unless you enjoy putting things in order and having systems. But if your DNA is headed in this direction, enjoy!
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛