The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

The Techie’s Garden

May 15th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Posted in Blog

A techies garden plan

A techie's garden plan

Back in April I asked readers how they go about keeping garden records. Being of the last century, my own method is to jot things in a spiral-bound notebook with a pencil. Along came Amelia Showalter explaining how she puts an Excel spreadsheet and her Iphone to use while tending her vegetables. I asked if she could write us a guest post on the subject.

By Amelia Showalter

Some people might think of vegetable gardening as the ultimate low-tech (or even anti-tech) activity, a hopelessly retro hobby for little old grandmas and back-to-the-earth hippies.  And it’s true that part of what I like about gardening is how different it is from the rest of my technology-dependent life.  Shoveling dirt under the hot sun and coaxing tasty foodstuffs out of the earth is a far cry from my job as a political strategist, in which I crunch numbers all day in an air-conditioned office and produce just about zero physical product.  Gardening is inextricably tied to the natural patterns of weather and temperature and day-length that modern life has ‘freed’ us from.

And yet, I use a surprising number of technological aids in my gardening adventures.  Maybe part of it is that I’m 25 and it’s an inevitable part of my lifestyle.  But I would guess that most gardeners of any age use modern technology in some way or another.  At a basic level, being able to look up the hourly and 10-day weather forecast online is tremendously helpful for planning when to go work the garden or whether it’s safe to put seedlings outside yet.   The internet is also useful for buying seeds at the beginning of the season.  I love poring over the full-color catalogues I get in the mail, but when it comes to actually buying the seeds I always go online to place my order.  It’s faster than ordering by post, and it gives me an electronic record in my inbox.

Likewise, using Google Calendar has been great for my record keeping.  I can make notes of when I sowed seeds or when things germinated and look up this information from any net-connected computer – a definite advantage over a physical diary, which I could lose or not have handy when I wanted it.

I also use my iPhone to access information while I’m out at my community garden plot.  If I’m not sure what soil pH an eggplant enjoys, I can look it up on my iPhone and amend the soil accordingly.  I’ll also jot down notes and to-do lists on my iPhone so I can remember them later.

Finally, I have an ever-evolving spreadsheet that I’ve jiggered into a map of my garden.  Each cell represents six inches square, so I can accurately map out even my densely-planted rows of greens and root vegetables.  Then, in the same spreadsheet, I keep a running tally of my expenses so I can make sure I’m not spending too much.

Oh, and of course, there’s blogging.  Writing about gardening and local food on Gradually Greener has been a lot of fun, but what’s really useful is reading other peoples’ blogs.   Gleaning wisdom from more experienced gardeners (particularly if they live in your area) is the easiest way to avoid mistakes.  My Google Reader queue is constantly full of insightful garden blog posts, and it is not uncommon that I’ll change my gardening strategies based on those insights.

There’s no need to tech-ify your gardening techniques if you’re satisfied keeping paper notes.  But gardening and technology are far from incompatible.  Now, does anyone know how to train a Roomba to vacuum up weeds?

Read more great stories about how we are taking back our food system at Fight Back Fridays.

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  • valerierose

    I definitely think interacting with other garden bloggers has helped me learn and stay on track. Is it me, or is the garden blogging community extra friendly?

    Another high tech idea is to use google earth to map out your garden. I showed how to do that in this blog post:

  • FoodRenegade

    Believe it or not, as tech-oriented as I am, I’d always assumed that gardening would invariably be the low-tech part of my life. As such, I’d use a spiral note book, pour through real books on my shelves for the info I needed, etc. It never even occurred to me that I might want to use technology this way. (I’m still not sure I’d want to.) But, I can see its appeal.

    Thanks for sharing this in today’s Fight Back Fridays carnival.

    (AKA FoodRenegade)