Creating a garden notebook with Evernote

Here in the far north of Scotland we’ve had a pretty good summer (unlike the rest of Britain) which has meant I have been able to spend a lot of time in my garden. We started it 6 years ago when our house was built and have slowly increased the number of plants. For years I have been intending to start a garden notebook or log to record what plants we have, when they were planted and other useful information. This summer I finally got it off my someday/maybe list.

I had initially planned to use a Moleskine notebook. However I also wanted to include photos of my plants so realised this wasn’t terribly practical. Instead I have created a digital notebook using Evernote.

Its iPhone app makes Evernote ideal to use for a garden notebook. I can take a photo of a plant with my iPhone and instantly turn it into a note. I add a title (the name of the plant) while still out in the garden with the plant (and its label) in front of me. 

Once I get back indoors I may add a link to a relevant webpage on Wikipedia or The Royal Horticultural Society. I record where the plant came from and when it was planted. I also include other useful information such as whether it needs extra watering and its eventual size.

A number of plants that we have bought had sticky labels on the pot with details about the plant. These pots have been piling up in the garage for years waiting for me to copy down the information from all the labels. Rather than write them down I have now begun photographing each label and adding it to the appropriate note. (Unfortunately my iPhone camera isn’t up to this job as is unable to do macro shots so I use my normal camera and drag the pictures in.) Evernote has the ability to read text in photos but it doesn’t seem to work too well for the labels. Possibly because they are a bit dirty.

I’m hoping this notebook is going to help me keep the garden a bit more organised. We’re not terribly good at planning where plants should go. We just see something we like, buy it and put it in where we see a gap. We often fail to leave enough space for plants to grow, forgetting that over the following years they will become considerably larger. Now that I am recording what size plants are likely to reach I’m hoping that next year when I add more plants I will choose more appropriate locations for them. I’m also keeping a note of which plants have grown so big (because I didn’t plan properly!) that they will need divided next year. By having a photo of them now in full bloom I will be able to plan how much to section off next spring.

I’ve only just begun cataloguing plants and still have dozens to do but it’s fun and I’m enjoying it. I suspect there are many more ways I could enhance my garden notebook. Any tips or comments would be appreciated.

Yojimbo vs Together vs Evernote: a review

I have been trying to choose an information collector and organiser for the last few weeks. There are quite a few available for the Mac and I thought I would write about how I came to my final decision.

What exactly is an information organiser? Basically it is an application that can collect and store pieces of information as notes. Little bits of text, web page archives, snippets from a web page, photos, PDFs, all sorts. These applications are enormously versatile with as many uses as there are users.

What do I need it to do?

I have three main uses.

  • I want to be able to store little snippets of text, such as a reference number for something I just bought online. The type of things I could write in a notebook but could more quickly add to the computer if I’m already sitting here.
  • I buy loads of stuff online. Almost everything except groceries. (And the only reason I don’t do that is because the service isn’t available where I live.) When I’m researching something I want to buy I want to keep track of all the items I’m considering. For example, last week we bought a new TV. (It’s not arrived yet but that’s a whole other story!) I looked at multiple websites comparing plasma and LCD, features and cost. I could have bookmarked each page (or kept multiple tabs open) but I would have ended up with a large number of pages, flipping back and forth all the time. Instead, it is much easier to save relevant snippets of each webpage (or sometimes an archive of the whole page). I want to be able to save web archives, with a link to the original page and have the ability to add my own comments.
  • I need to keep track of reading material I use for work. I read a number of online journals and websites and need to record and archive anything I have read – a mixture of web archives, bookmarks and PDFs. They need to be kept well organised – I have an annual appraisal where I have to present evidence of what I have read with comments that I may have added.

Features I consider important

  • Add a URL or web clipping with only one mouse click (or an easy keyboard shortcut)
  • Preview a web archive or PDF within the application
  • Tags for organisation
  • iPhone or web access (only necessary to access my reading material at work)

Having looked at a few applications I decided to trial Yojimbo from Bare Bones Software, Together from Reinvented Software and Evernote. Read the rest of this entry »

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