I would have never thought a gardening class would begin with a presentation on spreadsheets. The old adage, “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring” obviously covers more ground than I realized.
Jim is one of our instructors, one of the longest serving Master Gardener volunteers in our community, author of the “You Can Dig It” column in the local paper, and a retired chemical engineer; the latter of which may help explain things as we go along. He kicks off every class with a tip-of-the-day. Sometimes it’s a clever product that makes our gardening chores ever more efficient, a book that may prove invaluable to our future gardening careers, or a quick lesson on drip irrigation. I can’t think of a tip-of-the-day that I haven’t taken to heart, but the spreadsheets were surprising, maybe a little frightening.
The TubTrug was a tip-of-the-day because it’s lightweight and durable, but flexible enough that you can grab it by both handles with one hand; which means you can fill it with flowers, vegetables, weeds, or whatever, and still have one hand free to carry a tool. It comes in various sizes and colors.
The Home Gardener’s Problem Solver was written by ORTHO some time ago so the chemical recommendations are out of date, but the front is filled with pictures of common problems and a brief analysis to help diagnose almost any plant issue.
A quick internet search on ‘gardening spreadsheets’ reveals a gazillion different varieties. There’s spreadsheets for managing the budget for buying seeds, companion planting references, crop rotation tracking, formulas one might use to determine the size of your garden based on the number of people eating the vegetables, and spreadsheets to keep track of the seeds you’ve already bought. It’s the same kinds of things you might track if gardening is your business.
One of Jim’s spreadsheets identifies every gardening chore from pruning, weeding, and cutting down the dahlias to unhooking hoses, disconnecting headers, and moving the drip irrigation valves inside before winter. Another includes a full calendar year of fertilizing reminders, another lists all the plants that didn’t survive his garden, and yet another tracks daily rainfall totals. Jim also uses a spreadsheet to track dilutions for the major chemical products complete with a conversion rate based on the specific buckets and bottles he mixes them in. There’s more, but you get the gist.
Most gardening spreadsheets help organize rather than measure, but there’s plenty of things to measure in the garden, and sometimes the plants will do the measuring for us.
Seventeen years ago, the visibility in the area where I live was less than a mile. Ozone levels have improved significantly since that time, but it prompted the installation of ozone gardens in schools all around the area to educate our children about the effects of air quality and to teach them how to monitor air pollutants using native plants.
Ozone-sensitive plants reflect ozone damage on their leaves with tiny, evenly spaced purple to black dots, known as stippling. Eventually, the leaves will yellow, die and fall off. In this part of Western North Carolina, the cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), black-eyed Susan (Ridibeckia hirta), yellow crown beard (Verbesina occidentals) and common milkweed (Asciepias syriaca) are just a few of the native plants that are good indicator species for ozone gardens.
The National Park Service has compiled a list of plant species found within National Park boundaries that are known to have a negative response to high ozone exposure. You may find native plants for your area on this list, or you can even sign up to establish your garden as an official Ozone Garden at handsontheland.org.
If you are a spreadsheet kind of gardener – well, you probably already have your own spreadsheets. But if you’ve just entered my new mind-blowing world, maybe you’ll find some inspiration within the examples below. Happy Gardening. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A community of volunteers measure precipitation across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bahamas every day. CoCoRaHS (pronounced KO-ko-rozz) is a grassroots volunteer network of backyard weather observers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow) in their local communities. Visit the CoCoRaHS website for more info or to volunteer.