Keeping organized as a gardener can be daunting as we plan, plant and sow, maintain the garden, and track our progress. Use these tips to get things in order and make your garden life as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
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. And round and round it goes. The magic is in the mayhem but not if we get overwhelmed.
Sometimes we’re fine in one area—like buying plants or seeds—but need help in another area—like keeping our tools and supplies sorted and ready to go.
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 and help achieve our goals.
Knowing the quest for perfection is the enemy of productivity, I aim to keep things do-able and realistic.
Otherwise, if a system is too complicated or time-consuming, 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.
Empress of Dirt
Printable Garden Planner & Notes
An assortment of basic garden checklists, undated calendars, and note pages for planning and tracking your gardening season.
This is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device to print as much as you like for your own personal use. It is not a physical product.
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Digital products are not available in EU, UK, and Northern Ireland due to tax regulations.
The Empress of Dirt Printable Garden Planner & Notes is designed to help you map out your garden plans and track your progress—your way. It doesn’t tell you what to do: it gives you a framework to map out what you want to do. Have a look in case it will be helpful to you. Everyone works differently and will find different methods useful long-term.
If you plan to grow plants from seed, I also have this printable seed starting plan to get you started.
For guidance, this season by season garden task list can help guide the way.
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.
For a simple, do-able system, see How to Categorize Garden Seeds.
Once organized, this shows two container systems for storing seeds.
Photo cases are a popular option. I like to use plastic bags organized by basic plant groups. Easy!
These printable plant labels also help.
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
Seeds need to be kept dry and cool in darkness for optimal storage.
- Short-term (1-2 years), room temperature (70°F/21°C or lower) and moderate or low humidity (60% or less) is fine for most seeds.
- Longer-term (2+ years) or if household conditions are not optimal, store seeds in refrigerator using airtight containers.
3Use The Right Plant Tags
Pick The Right Tag For The Job
If you are like many of us, it’s easy to forget what you’ve planted or have a hard time recognizing what’s what months later.
The best type of plant tag for the job depends entirely on what the job is!
Indoor seed starting tags are much different than long-term outdoor tags.
How To Make Plant Tags lists the best options for tags that need to be purely practical (like the ones used for seed starting). It also shows the best materials for long-lasting outdoor tags or markers—including markers that will not fade in the sun.
If creativity matters (you know I love that), there are also countless super cute and creative ways to keep track of your outdoor plants while adding an artful touch. See 25 Creative DIY Plant Markers & Tags for ideas.
More Plant Tag Tips
It’s always worthwhile to get your plant tags ready BEFORE you plant or sow.
Assemble your tags, seeds, and sowing plan—along with a clipboard and pen for taking notes—and you’re ready to roll.
But not so fast.
Another really helpful tip, especially for new vegetable gardeners, is to note the expected harvest date (or range) right on the plant tag.
I use bulldog clips (also called binder clips) for this purpose.
Clipped right on the plant tag, I can see at a glance—right in the garden—when it may be time to pick the crop.
It might sound silly but even after years of growing, new varieties can sneak by and overripen without this prompt.
Ultimately, you know yourself. Do what works for you.
I mentioned planning and keeping track of important dates in Section 1. The follow-up is keep notes tracking your actions and progress.
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.
To me, it is unrealistic to think I’m ever going to keep a detailed garden journal with beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and nifty little growth charts. But garden notes can be so valuable for tracking plants and learning best practices.
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. When I do take photos for reference, I always take one picture of the entire bed or area for reference, and then some closer shots to catch any details I want to remember.
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, seeds to reorder, and other reminders.
I have printable seed-starting note sheets here if you want to give them a try.
As mentioned, I also have a printable garden planner to help both with garden planning and tracking. The tracking sheets work nicely for keeping ongoing progress notes.
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.
You may prefer a notebook with your own plan. 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. I use Google calendar (on my phone and computer) for this.
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. Mess happens no matter what!
Step one is to get it all in order. Pull everything out. And I mean everything. Put like items together.
Assess every single item.
- Does it work?
- Is it useful?
- Do you use it? How often? Is it worth keeping?
- Do you have room for it?
- Do you have too many?
Toss, donate, repair, sort accordingly.
I create mini work stations. It’s the same idea as creating functional 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.
More Decluttering Tips
- Decluttering 101: How to Let It Go and Get on With It
- How to Get Started with The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up
So, are you an organized gardener or a wanna be?
We’re all wired differently so there’s no one way. Some of us needs lists and structure to feel on track. Others like some chaos and ad-lib it. Go with what works for you and, most importantly, enjoy your time in the garden.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛