Keeping organized as a gardener can be daunting! Seeds. Plants. Tools. Plant care. Seasons. Use these tips to get things in order and garden stress-free.
Garden Organization & Decluttering Tips
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
Some of us do not want elaborate plans, but, if you know what you want from your garden, it sure helps to have a preliminary road map. You can always change it (we all do), but it helps set a direction.
Local garden tours, clubs, and horticultural societies can be a great source of inspiration.
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.
2Organize Your Seeds
Once you have acquired some seeds, keeping them in order helps ensure they are easy to find and will get used while they are still viable.
If you want to keep it really simple, start by keeping all of your seeds in one place. Just one big box. I always recommend this for filing systems too because the best system is the one we can easily maintain.
Alternately, there are various ways to keep seeds organized by type.
This article on seed organization offers more ideas.
Another really helpful tip is to mark any seed packets that are running low. After sowing, I always check how many seeds are left in the pack. If it’s low, I put an “ORDER” clip on the packet and add it to my NEXT SEED ORDER list.
Optimum Seed Storage
The lower the temperature and moisture levels, the longer most seeds stay viable.
See this entire seed storage article for details.
Best temperature | 32-41°F (0-5°C)
Most fridges are in this range.
Also, room temperature (70°F/21°C or lower) is fine for short-term storage (1 year).
Store dry seeds and keep dry | Relative humidity below 50% | Keep away from light.
Paper Envelopes | In sealed jars with silica gel pack if moisture is an issue.
3Have Plant Tags Ready to Go
If you are like many of us, it’s easy to forget what you’ve planted or have a hard time recognizing plants when they emerge from the soil months later.
I do two things to avoid problems.
First, I always use long-lasting plant tags to ensure they will not fade or wear out.
Second, I always get tags ready before I plant or sow so there is not excuse for not marking everything.
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.
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 so 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 and snap some photos for reference later.
At the end of a productive gardening day, it’s such a relief to have a shower, enjoy 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.
5Create Task 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!
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 make use of my own Fall Garden Checklist every single year.
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.
6Keep 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. Put like items together. Assess every single item. Does it work? Is it useful? Do you use it? Do you have too many?
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.
It also helps to mark easy-to-misplace tools with bright spray paint. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found my favorite 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 ♛