The most important tool for me is Google Spreadsheets.I have one master sheet and several sub-sheets to keep track of every plant. I even have the existing or native plants and weeds listed. Yes, when I identify a weed, I add it to my sheet! Here are the key features of my spreadsheet:
1. I take photos of every plant and post them on Flickr or Picasa Web Albums (both of these are free web applications and I use both). Once I have a photo uploaded, I copy the link address and paste it in my spreadsheet (this is a really useful Google Sheets feature). That way, when I am using the spreadsheet, I can quickly click to bring up a photo of any plant. Many times I take annual photos so I can view yearly progress and changes.
2. For each entry, I also try to link to specific relative data on the web (including photo, if available). For example, for my daylilies, I usually link to the All Things Plants or AHS database. Usually, I just use the ATP links, because they include a link to AHS. For many perennials and conifers, my proclivity is for the Missouri Botanical Gardens database (http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener.aspx); Carsten Burkhardt's Web Project Paeonia is great source for peony info (http://www.paeon.de/); and, of course, the American Dahlia Society for Dahlias. However, the ADS database does not seem to be well maintained.
3. I identify a specific “Bed” or location for each plant. For example I have a “Red Bed” in the front of the house. It is a rather large bed, so I have divided the bed into 4 areas: R1, R2, R3, and R4. I have a sub-sheet that allows me to select the bed “code” to list the plants I have in R1, R2, and so on (if I use “R” it will list the entire Red Bed). I have over 30 bed codes that I use. Many times throughout the summer, I will print a “bed” list and take inventory. If you have hundreds of specimens or if you are just plain "old," then sometimes you might miss noticing that a plant has died. I currently have over 1600 items on my sheet.
4. When I purchase new plants, I assign them an initial location (bed) code of A0. This allows me to generate a list of plants in the greenhouse that are in need of planting. I also download this list so I can easily generate plant labels using my Brother P-touch label printer. Here’s a copy of my current list for planting. Note that I purchased some new daylilies:)
5. I also add plants to my spreadsheet that I would like to have in the future. I use a bed code of A5 or something like that so that I can view my wishlist.
Another on-line app that I use is “Remember the Milk”. This App lets you enter a date and task. On the specified date, the app sends you an email or text as a reminder. You can also set up your calendar (e.g. Apple Calendar or Google Calendar) to automatically read this info. Here is an example of one of my events: I have a July 15th action to “Harvest the Garlic.” I have set this reminder up as a yearly repeating event, so each year I get pinged at the appropriate time.
Of course you can use this app for other things as well. I usually note the date when I spot my first returning Purple Martin.
Maintaining a spreadsheet is a learning experience. I research the plant on-line, I learn how to pronounce it, I see what it looks like, and I know when to expect what. Life is good:)
Finally, for those doubters, I really do document my weeds. Since I am in the county, I decided to share this photo of Echinochloa crus-galli, (Barnyard Grass), ih-kye-no-KLOE-uh kruss-GAL-eye, 5 ft,, ZoneHA, Weed,W1