So I’m greedily scooping up happily selecting a couple new clematis plants, butterfly bushes and purple smoke tree from Aldi’s a couple weeks ago (major score!!) and I wonder where will I plant these? Who knows, and who cares at these prices! But with my garden organization journal at home, I’ll be able to pick the perfect spot when I get home even though a lot of plants have yet to show up for the party cause it’s early April (when I bought them).

Wait! You Jaime are organized!? Well no, not really, but I kinda had to come up with a little garden organization in order to keep up with all my gardens, if you know me a little you know I’m a bit of a plant hoarder. Let me share with you how I organize all my craziness! (Well at least I wrangle in my garden craziness that is)

How to get and keep an organized garden

Garden Organization

Do you keep a record of your plants in your landscaping? If not, I suggest you do. If you’re like me and go a little nuts in the plant department it’s hard to remember everything I have, where it’s at or even what I’ve killed and/or died a sad, slow death.

I’ve come up with a great solution for my garden organization woes. A big 3-ring binder I found at the recycling center. Yep, it was free. I cleaned it up and bought some plastic protector pocket sleeves for it and it’s been useful ever since. Even though they’re only a few bucks, I lucked upon this binder and being the tree hugger that I am, decided this binder would not end up in the landfill.

Inside the binder I keep plant tags, certain photos of my gardens, records of planting dates, newspaper clippings and notes on how the veggie garden or flowers do from year to year. Notes? What notes? You know things like…

Dang. I shoulda cut the mums off but now it’s too late and they’re flopped all over the place.

(Wise advice from my late Uncle Arnold: cut off your mums by half no later than the fourth of July)

or…

Where the hell are my tomatoes?!

Oh yeah… I didn’t plant them until May 1st because it was too wet to work the dirt.

See. You can go back to your garden organization journal and find all the information out quickly and without having to waste time searching books or falling into the rabbit hole that is the internet.

I’ve also printed out advice on topics such as how to make homemade concoctions like fungicide and homemade bird suet, or proper pruning of certain plants that I have. Customization is the key. I keep things that only pertain to me and my gardens. I love books, and have a lot, but having everything in one spot for my plants is a real time saver.

Another tip for looking plants up online… when you find information about a particular plant you have, bookmark that into a folder you’ll make called gardening and place it into a subfolder called Plants I have. You can nest folders till your little hearts content with subfolders like vines, shade, sun… you get the idea.

This year, I’ve been consciously taking more detailed photos of my gardens for the gardening journal – so I’ll know what is where and when to expect it. Not all just pretty money shots either. Down and dirty close-ups of just popping out of the ground sprouts so I’ll recognize them. This is good and timely info for when I’m on my knees in March/April plucking weeds for the first time of the season and need to know is that a weed or the Twilight Prairie Penstemon I planted. Hang on, let me check my garden organization binder! Ooops. Sh!t.

Hint: Remember to check your binder first before you pluck.

You may be wondering what to do with all those hundreds and hundreds of photos and how do you organize those?

I organize all the pictures I take with my phone and camera using Photos on my iMac. I tag everything appropriately, with specific keywords such as the name of the plant, color of the flower, the location, time of year I took the photo. I have named my 11 gardens (!) I’ve never counted them until writing this! and then I put them in an album called My Gardens Through the Years. They’re all together for me to see and compare year to year or just to reminisce.

I’m pretty proud of that idea. I used to print out a few good ones and put them in the binder, but this is easier especially being able to find things so quickly by just using a keyword search. This is most excellent when I’m wanting to paint a certain flower and need reference material.

Here are some of my keywords for inspiration:  early spring, spring summer, fall, winter, flowers, flowering, spent, pods, bud, seedling, round garden, Studio Gardens, re-seeder, aggressive, easy to propagate, garden art, trellis, arbor, swing garden.

Bulging garden organization binder

Here’s my bulging binder!

Garden Journal Binder

Here’s how I used to print out the photos and place them in my binder.

Garden Journal Binder

I even have a pocket for plants I’ve killed! (There’s A LOT!)

Here’s a few written pages from my Garden Journal Binder. What better place to keep ideas, sketches and thoughts that you’ll probably forget come the next planting/harvesting time. Tip: Always date your pages.

Sketches for then future ideas

Sketches for then future ideas

Your pages can be as detailed or as short as you want. I found being able to go back to see how certain varieties did extremely helpful.

page out of garden journal

A seasons worth of vegetable garden journaling

Keeping plant tags helps me remember what plant or plant variety I have so I don’t buy the same plant twice (Oh the horror of wasted garden cash! I will propagate that sucker for free!*) Of course there’s the final growing size and zone info plus light and water requirements listed, too. It’s also great in about January, when you get those beautiful seed catalogs and wonder if a certain color clematis will look good with that rose you planted three years ago. Or do I have room for another shrub? (Always yes yes yes!!!)

Garden Journal Binder

I keep all my tags with plant info. This could stand a little more organization!

Another tip to customize your garden organization binder even further is to keep a list of plants you have and their requirements as far as monthly chores go. For instance, in my category of shrubs I list: Old fashioned lilac:  April/May always prune lilac blooms as soon as they die so that you don’t prune off next years flowers if done later. Or again with the chrysanthemums in the category of perennials: Chrysanthemums: June 30th prune by half; root to make new plants.

You might even include a calendar that you can record planting dates, feeding dates, etc. You can easily print an empty calendar out from an iMac. If you don’t have one, there are lots free to print out, just search free calendar to print. I have done this many times and having a calendar where I’ve recorded when I fed the roses and tomatoes and when they need it again is helpful.

That’s about it for the garden organization binder. Here’s a bonus tip on how I keep up with seed planting. I plant a lot of seeds indoors before the first frost in my area (zone 6b). I came up with this handy “rolodex” of sorts planting time table. I just used a basket I had laying around and the cardboard is a bunch of pop tart boxes I repurposed. The number of weeks are times I need to plant before the safe planting date (usually for me April 16th) in order to have plants ready to go in the ground or pots for outside.

Seed organization basket

So handy – know at a moments glance when to plant.

I also love to recycle the envelopes you get in junk mail or bills. Keep them in a dark and dry spot or in a canning jar and in the fridge. I save the little packets of the drying agent found in prescriptions and place with my seeds so they don’t sprout. Make sure to date your seeds, I forgot on this one. These are a great way to share with friends.

repurposed junk mail envelope

repurposed junk mail envelope

Junk mail envelopes - repurpose into seed packets!

Junk mail envelopes – repurpose into seed packets!

 

This journal came about because I was collecting scribbles and papers on my gardens. If I had the chance to do it over again, I would’ve made it a lot prettier. You’d think as an artist, I’d have this thing looking stellar! It’s the whole cobbler’s children have no shoes syndrome I guess. Besides, ain’t nobody got time for that! But if you’re just starting out, I hope you’ve learned a thing or two. Or maybe you’ve been entertained or better yet inspired. Any way it was, thanks for visiting. I love to dispense gardening advice and talk plants. Leave me a comment if you have any other ideas for garden organization.

I’ve not been in my art studio for… way too long to admit. I’ve got so much to do! I’m making progress, albeit slowly thanks to garden organization… it makes the job a bit easier (on my brain, not my body!). But I love this time of year don’t you? We’ve had such warm temperatures lately and today is no different. It’s supposed to be in the 80’s! That’s May temperatures! And I cannot recall a drier April either. Crazy spring.

Come back soon, my next post is the first tour of my Spring Gardens in 2017.

*if you propagate, never sell a patented plant unless you apply for and receive a proper certificates, permits and licenses to pay royalties to the original grower. (FYI- I’ve heard it’s just pennies per plant).


paintings by Jaime Haney of New Harmony, Indiana

Learn more about me on the ‘About’ page in the menu at the top. I’m an artist – a painter mostly and an avid gardener. I paint a variety of subjects including birds, koi fish, my gardens, ponds and flowers as well as anything having to do with nature especially trees and tropical scenes. I also enjoy painting abstracts and have started created more and more of them. My most favorite thing to try to achieve in my painting is is mystery.

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