Friday, May 3, 2013

Gardening with Spreadsheets

One thing that all rennaissance persons need to be able to do is grow their own food, but another equally important aspect is the ability to use technology to help with everyday problems.  This post is one of my solutions.  I know not everyone is programmer like I am, but keeping records in a digital format is a great way to keep from losing them, and to keep clutter down in your house.  Just make sure you back up important documents in a few places.  I like to use Google's Drive.  You can download copies of spreadsheets to a variety of formats.  That way if Google announces Drive's demise, you can still have all your spreadsheets on your computer. This is my take of using digitization to help with gardening.

I planted a  spring garden earlier this year and parts of it are coming along pretty well.  Some parts not so well.  One thing that I didn't do was mark what I planted.  I'm pretty lazy person, and didn't feel like taking the time to make or buy some labels.  And I didn't really think it would matter.  I usually just see what's growing when it's time to start picking it.

I decided that I wanted to be more scientific with my gardening.  My first goal was to start to  tracking what I planted.  Below is an example of my garden spreadsheet from Google Drive.  You can use any spreadsheet program you want, but I like to use Drive.  It's free, it works, and I can access it from anywhere.

It still needs a lot of work, but at least it's a start.  My next goal is to actually count the seeds I plant and try to kee an accurate count of germination rates.  This way I can weed out bad seeds from good ones.  There's nothing worse than spending money on seeds where only 1 in 5 will actually turn into a useful plant. 

A well planned garden is the first step to a successful garden.  You need to rotate plants to help keep the soil rich in nutrients.  To keep plants rotated, you need to figure out what you're growing now, and what plants to grow next year in that spot.  A spreadsheet makes this process simple and painless.  Take this years spreadsheet, save a copy of it under a new name, and figure out what plants will complement what you grew this year, and plant them.

One thing I've learned this year, is that certain parts of my garden are growing very well, and some parts are not growing worth a darn.  I've color coded my spreadsheet based on what plant is growing there right now, but I think using a color code for fertilization would be even more useful.

This is a basic outline for now.  I'll post more on it later, as I get to a point where I make it even more useful.  I hope it helps you on your way to a bigger green thumb.