Having dug out the Real Men Sow money saving spreadsheet recently, something struck me.
In amongst all the harvest weights, different veg and money-saving calculations was a simple but great thing: the dates that I harvested every single crop for a whole year.
Whether it was gooseberries or garlic, each trip to the plot was detailed. It’s obvious really, but whilst getting all excited about money-saving, I’d forgotten about the usefulness of keeping records.
Keeping records is a really beneficial thing to do when growing veg. Whether you’re using a blog, a spreadsheet, or a good old fashioned notepad, there is much to learn from previous escapades.
I realised this at first when buying seeds for one year. I used to be absolutely rubbish at jotting down notes. I’d throw away the seed packets too, and once the allotment weeds or windy weather claimed my seed labels I’d have no idea at all what variety I’d grown.
So regardless of whether the crop was out of this world or utterly terrible, I’d never remembered whether to dodge the variety the following year or not. Keeping records has really helped me build a list of my favourite ‘reliables’; those veg varieties that have always done well for me.
Using a spreadsheet or notebook also helps show what was a good cropper, particularly if you also note the growing environment. Over time, notes can help identify whether crops was effective, given the space it occupied.
And did you get enough produce from the amount you sowed? If you love beets but didn’t harvest nearly enough to satisfy your tastebuds, previous year’s notes will help remind you to stick some extra rows in.
My spreadsheet shows me exactly when I started harvesting different crops every season, and I enjoy keeping an eye on how early (or late) types of veg show their faces each year.
This is sometimes reassuring too, as often you think that your plants are behind but in fact, you’re imagining it. For example, I seem to have got it in my head that May is the month for broad beans, and this leads to annual panic. However, a quick look at my records shows that I’ve never harvested a broad bean before June.
And how does my greenhouse effect growing? Working out the difference between outdoor-grown veg and greenhouse veg is also interesting. I harvest tomatoes until December in my greenhouse, for example, compared to October out on the allotment.
The Satisfaction of Looking Back
My plots changed so much over the time I’ve worked them, and I’ve found looking back over my records to be incredibly rewarding. I can see how my growing has improved, and how over time I’ve honed the varieties I’ve grown to maximise my yields.
Of course, you don’t want to be a complete loser about it like me, with spreadsheets for this and spreadsheets for that – but I reckon there’s room in every grower’s life for at least one. 🙂