Measuring the Harvest

As of this week, I am officially harvesting from the garden on a daily basis! There have been big bowls of spinach, perfect bunches of radishes, bouquets of rhubarb stalks, and the crown jewels of the early harvest: the first strawberries!  It is immensely satisfying to see this year's gardening efforts start to add up.

Last year was the first year I kept track of my garden harvest totals.  My primary objective was to get a better sense of what I was actually getting out of my garden.  Prior to tracking it, I could have told you that things did or didn't do well, but I really didn't have a sense of how it all added up over the course of the season (let's face it, all those overflowing bowls of beans start to blur together after a few weeks).  I was pretty amazed to learn that by the end of October, my little gardens produced just a little over 800 pounds of food, a number I certainly wouldn't have ventured to guess on my own!
To measure the harvest, I use a digital kitchen scale.  It's a basic model (I think I paid around $10 or $20 for it) and it performs the two functions that are important to me: it's easy to "zero out" the scale after placing a bowl or container on it (so I don't have to weigh the bowl separately and subtract it later), and it goes out two decimal places (which is enough to get a reading on some of the lighter items, like greens and herbs).  I find it's easiest to do the weighing right away when I bring in the harvest.  It really only adds a few seconds to the work I'm already doing to clean and store the produce, as long as I keep it simple and have a system that works for me.

The actual tracking of those totals is where I learned a lot of lessons last year.  I started out the season by setting up an awesome spreadsheet (if I do say so myself!) and had every intention of entering each day's totals right into that spreadsheet so that at any given time, I would know where I was at for the month or year to date.  In reality, I used the awesome spreadsheet for the first month or two.  As the season (and life) really ramped up, I ended up just jotting the numbers down on a notepad I kept in one of the kitchen drawers.  It made for some interesting times at the end of each month, trying to make sure that I had everything on the notepad (and the occasional post-it note) accounted for, but in the end it was much simpler to do the recording by hand.
Taking those lessons to heart, this year I'm trying out a slightly different approach.  I created a basic table and printed out a number of blank sheets where I can fill in what's coming out of the garden each month.  I taped it to the inside of the kitchen cabinet directly above where I do the weighing, so now I can just open the cabinet, jot down the number, and ultimately have everything in one place when the end of the month comes around.  This should be a much simpler approach--no more wondering where the notepad walked off to, or finding a stray post-it note after the fact--everything will be in one place.  
This year I will once again measure the totals of each crop (in pounds).  In general, I don't take the time to  separately track different varieties of the same vegetable (though I may do that with my paste tomato trials if it's not too complicated to keep each variety separate and labeled between the community garden and my kitchen).  I also haven't really taken the time to do the math and figure out what my return on investment is, based on what it cost to put in the garden and what I would have paid for the harvest at the grocery store.  Both would be interesting to know, but for now I'm happy to simply have a better idea of what's coming out of the garden.  I also think it will be interesting to see how this year compares to last year as the season goes on.

I'd love to hear about the ways you measure your garden harvests! What works for you? Any tips or tricks you've learned along the way?