Using spreadsheets in garden planning: Part 4

– Posted in: Acquisitions, Design, How-to, Recommended Links, Seeds and Seed Starting, Series, Spreadsheets in Gardening, Wishlist

In part 3 I showed how to put the finishing touches on a spreadsheet that calculated the potential cost of a plant order in progress. But because of its tabular format, a spreadsheet is often used in situations where a lot of information needs to be organized, even if no calculations are made. Below are several examples of other ways a spreadsheet can be used in garden planning, but none of them makes use of the mathematical abilities of the spreadsheet program. Still, I hope even you hardened Excel veterans out there will pick up an idea you can use this year. And if you have other implementations of your own, by all means share them in the comments. All of the following examples were created as additional sheets of our previous workbook, Demo3.

Seed Starting

This seed starting worksheet was derived from my last several years starting seeds; I just picked out representative entries until I felt I had a good selection to show you. I always started out with lofty ambitions in regards to record-keeping, but I never managed to track all the information I so hopefully made columns for at the beginning of the seed starting season. It was helpful to have a record of when I started the seeds and under what conditions they germinated well, even if I rarely marked down when they actually went in the garden. Hints:

  • Where I have a column for stratification, you could use the date you put the container outside for winter sowing.
  • Don’t forget you can format the date columns in the same way you format currency–use the drop down list.

Old Roses of A Gardening Year let me see her Seed Order workbook from last year. She didn’t have dates in hers. She used it solely to track purchases, and wrote her seed starting information in her planner. Make sure your spreadsheet serves you–don’t become a slave to those little cells!

Planting Calendar

I recently finished reading Gardens by Design by Noel Kingsbury. He had a table on page 171 illustrating a way of organizing information about plants that you either already have in a border or are considering for a border. It enables you to see at a glance what colors you have in the border during various times of the year. By using this table you can see if there are any times when nothing is blooming or the colors will probably not mix well. When I saw this in his book I immediately realized it was another good use for a spreadsheet. I duplicated a bit of his chart in another sheet of my demonstration workbook. For some of you, I know, it is a bit too anal of an approach, but for a novice gardener, planning his first border and unfamiliar with many of the plants, it is a helpful way to get a grasp on a large body of information.

Specialty Collections

Sometimes a gardener gets a little, um, obsessed with a certain genus or type of plant (alpines, for example)–or even a garden tool!. A spreadsheet can be very helpful for tracking purchases, trades, and the occasional demise of those special plants. I’ve used my colchicum collection to give you an idea of the kind of information you might record. But just because I have 34 entries for a flowering bulb many people have never heard of doesn’t mean I’m obsessed with them. I just find them interesting . . . .

Other Helpful Links

Since Google’s spreadsheet program can import Excel files, you can get additional Excel templates from Microsoft and import them into your Google spreadsheet. Also, since I first wrote about alternatives to Excel, I’ve discovered a source for free portable applications, software “that works with any hardware you like (USB flash drive, iPod, portable hard drive, etc).” This means it is small enough to download on a dialup connection, and can be used even if you don’t have a computer to call your own–as long as you do own one of the above mentioned pieces of hardware.

That wraps it up. I’ve now made it possible for you old-timey gardeners to join us in the 21st century. Go forth and conquer!

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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