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by Amanda

Garden Maps - Rescue Garden
Jenny is using her hoop house as a woodland nursery this fall until she can transplant next season. She's taped the nursery map to the inside of her garden shed door, along with a plastic zipper bag that holds all of their tags and care instructions.

Garden maps are a gardener’s best friend. In the whirlwind that can be the planting season, jotting down a quick sketch with newly-planted varieties or plants that may need to be divided can go a long way in keeping organized at the end of the season. Come late fall, re-visit your garden maps and take note of what went well, what plants may need to be moved in spring, and anything else that you’ll want to know for the next growing season.

How To Create A Garden Map

The best thing about a garden map is that it can be anything you want it to be. I tend to do a quickly-sketched map in my garden journal of the planting area, taking note of new and existing varieties. I use an “x” to symbolize one plant in all of my maps, which makes it easy to remember. I’m a visual learner so this is what works for me. If you want to be accurate, use graph paper and measure the area to get the correct square footage.

Garden Maps - Rescue Garden
Jenny has written her garden map directly on the wall of her hoop house, which was inspired by her father-in-law's maple sugar shack, as he records every year's performance directly on the walls. Anything goes with garden maps!

Are you more of a chart person? Create a chart with planting dates, location and progress in a notebook or on your computer (or even on the wall as you can see above!) if that’s what works better for you. There are also dozens of helpful apps that can do the work for you.  

Garden Maps - Rescue Garden
Also from Jenny, her chicken Rita looks over a map she made in her journal that shows which seeds she started in which plastic-domed tray.

There’s no wrong way to create a garden map as long as it’s helpful to you.

Taking Notes On Your Garden Map At The End Of The Season

Your garden maps will come in most handy at the end of the season, when you can go back to your drawings and reflect on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what needs to be re-located or divided.

An example of this is a temporary bed I created at the beginning of summer for “rescue” plants that needed to be planted quickly. I added them to a newly created bed and took note of what was planted where. A few weeks in, it became obvious to me that this bed didn't get as much sun as I had originally thought and many of the plants weren’t doing well. I consulted my chart and re-located many of the sun-loving varieties that were planted in the back of the garden, making a note of this on my map. This fall, I know there is room in the back of that garden for shade-loving perennials such as Hostas or Bleeding Hearts. The Veronica and Hollyhocks were moved to an area that gets full sun and is easier for me to monitor to make sure they continue to thrive.

Garden Maps - Rescue Garden
My garden map for the "rescue garden" that ended up being shadier than I had thought. I add notes directly to my garden maps (using the opposite side of the paper if I need to)

If something just simply didn’t grow in your garden, it’s great to identify it because maybe you just don’t have the right soil type or growing conditions for that variety to thrive on your property.

Using Garden Maps to Remember What You Planted

If you’re a gardener who doesn’t always meticulously plan everything you add to the garden (because hey, maybe that sale plant could fit in the corner there), garden maps are a great way to keep track of what you’ve planted where. This is especially helpful if you’re planting bulbs; they can sometimes take weeks to sprout (or months if you’re planting in the fall) and it’s always good to jot down where you planted each variety so you know what was successful and what wasn’t.

An example of this is my vegetable garden that I planted several weeks before moving into my new home. I didn’t have markers, so I drew a map to remember what I had planted where. As a new vegetable gardener, kale looks a lot like lettuce to me when it first shoots up, so it was really helpful for me to remember what was planted in my rows so I could make better decisions about where to weed and where not to weed. It was also great at the end of the season to have written notes about where my tomatoes were planted, as they got blight and did not survive. I will never plant them in that spot again! 

Garden Maps - Rescue Garden
This vegetable garden map helped me a lot this season. As a new vegetable gardener, it helped me differentiate between weeds and seedlings in the first month.

Planning Ahead With Garden Maps

Besides mapping what you’ve already planted, drawing a garden map of what you want to plant is a great way to prepare for the upcoming season. Using exact measurements, you can plan out your square footage and calculate how many plants you’ll need, or you can do a rough sketch to loosely decide what you want to plant.

I created a garden map for our chicken yard and didn’t use exact measurements because it's a casual design and we are mostly planting from seed. We seeded the grass several weeks ago and won’t do the rest until the spring (because there are only so many projects we can tackle at once), but I’ve drawn out exactly what we want to plant where so I can plan ahead and place my order before it’s time to seed in the spring. I figure I’ll order more than I need, as the ducks, chickens and rabbits will probably eat some of the seed. I’ll just keep scattering until it fills in. Not the most efficient plan, but that’s why I created a garden map – to keep track of what’s planted where!

Garden Maps - Rescue Garden
This rough map of my chicken yard will help me plan for spring seeding.

Do What Works For You To Stay Organized

The biggest thing to remember about using garden maps in your own landscaping is that they are customizable for every gardener. If you're organized and like to have everything to scale and saved to your computer, that’s awesome. If you’re more disorganized and random about your gardening (like me), simply doing a quick sketch of what went where will be just as helpful. The key is to have fun with it and be able to reflect on your growing season at the end of the year with something tangible to reference.

How do you use garden maps to stay organized in your garden? Please post in the comments below!