Keeping a Garden Journal


Keeping a garden journal can add to your gardening success and enhance your enjoyment of your gardening activities. Depending on how much effort you want to spend on the journal, it can be a fancy scrapbook kind of garden journal, or a plain composition noteboko.  It can record as little as what you planted and when. At the other extreme, it can record every minute activity you perform in your garden, such as trimming, fertilizing, watering, and recording rainfall, temperature and hours of sunlight. It's up to you, how much information, or how little, you keep. It also depends on what you expect to do with the information later.
Journal Style
There are many different ways to keep a garden journal, and you should consider which one will likely meet your needs the best.  Below is an example of many ways people record the things growings on in their garden.
  • Shoebox: This broad category includes everything from kept in a shoebox, bag, storage box, or any other format where retrieval is on a 'dive-in' basis. This type of journal works best for people who want to save 'stuff', just in case, but have no idea what they'll do with it.
  • Garden Planner: This type of garden journal includes current gardening information and planning tools such as garden layouts, visual references such as pictures, and detailed information about bloom time, requirements, color, and design issues as well as gardening activities and observations.  I offer a Custom Garden Guide here my site!
  • Garden Organizer: The garden organizer journal is grouped by plant type or location, by color or season, or in another way that makes sense to you. Contents are organized in the chosen order, rather than recorded sequentially in date order.
  • Chronological Journal: The best example of this a personal diary. For each day that you choose to make an entry, you start a new line right after your last entry. You make entries daily, weekly, or as you get to them. Usually, pictures and additional information is not included.
  • Photo Album: For avid photographers or gardeners who want to look at their garden even in the winter, this form of garden journal lets you store garden pictures, plant details and activities. A popular use of this style of journal is to take digital photos of your plants through each stage of their growth, inserting new pages as required. This can provide you with a visual image of what your perennials look like when they emerge from the spring soil, vs. what weeds look like, so that you remove the weeds only.
  • Record Keeper: The record keeper format permits the most detail to be kept on each and every plant in your garden. It will likely include complete plant details, all activities, and permit as much detail as you want to enter. This style need not be in a binder, but could be index cards in a shoebox, in alphabetical order, for example. It could also utilize an address-card filing system.
Journal Types
Now that you know how you want to journal, it's time to choose a vessel in which to keep all of your information and research.  There are many different types of journals.  Some are fancy and expensive, some are homemade and simple, and others are online, like mine!
  • Diary Style Garden Journal: The diary style follows the format of a regular bound diary. The pages are usually un-formatted so that you can write as much, or as little as you wish for each day, or skip days without skipping pages. Your notes are written in chronological order. You can tape seed packets and pictures into this style journal and it will have a scrapbook feel (when it overfills it's time to get a new volume). This style is best if you want to simply record your activities and observations.
  • Formatted, Bound Style Garden Journal: This style garden journal may be formatted with a space allowed for each day, grouped by plant, with specific contents related to gardening, or in other ways. It is bound so that you cannot insert pages afterwards. Notes are in chronological order. Again, addition of enough seed packets and pictures will make the book very bulky.
  • Loose-leaf Style Garden Journal: This format of garden journal utilizes lined or unlined loose-leaf paper as its base. Its main advantage is that you can insert pages at a later time. Why would this matter? Well, if you want to keep all entries regarding a specific plant together, as some gardeners do, you will need to either insert pages as required, or leave a lot of room after the initial entry, which looks really silly until it fills up. This is also a nice cheap method to create a do-it-yourself garden journal. See our instructions for a sample homemade garden journal. You can also use your word-processing software to create and maintain your garden journal.
  • Online Style Garden Journal: There are numerous services for creating and maintaining a garden journal on the Internet. With these services, your journal is readily available online to you at any time, and many services are free. A selection of templates is usually provided by the service, for you to customize your entries to suit your taste and needs, and you can choose to share your journal with others, or keep it private. The advantages of this type of journal include your participation in an online community, and the ease of use, once you get used to them. The disadvantages include the need to be on the Internet to make your garden entries or refer to past entries. Most services do allow printing of your journal. I also want to mention that there are tons of phone apps which are catered to gardeners either for free, or for a small fee. Below I have listed two of my favorite garden journal websites, as well as the two apps I have on my phone..
  • Computer Program Garden Journal: This style of journal is useful for the gardener who wants to look at gardening activities in a variety of different ways. For example, to see all activities for a specific plant, or all activities of a specific nature (eg. fertilizing), as well as activities by date. Most computer garden journals also include a section for detailed plant records, as well. You will usually be able to print all plant records and journal entries in a variety of different sort orders, depending on how you will use your journal. You can also add entries out of date order. The Garden Management System gardening software ($30) includes a garden journal. With this program, you can view journal entries for with each plant, in date order, and in a variety of other sort orders. You can also print a page for each plant that includes plant characteristics and details, as well as all journal entries for that plant, as shown in the sample plant report. 
Now, Get Started
Now that you have your journal, and know the style you'd like to keep, it's time to get started.  If you're not purchasing my Custom Garden Guide, use my Planning menu to help you out. 
  • Your Garden Plan will help you draw out you plans.  Keep copies of your drawings in the front of your journal.
  • What to Grow will teach you about what plants will grow in your area, as well as what plants are easy to grow.  This will help you purchase your seeds/transplants.  Be sure to save you seed packets!
  • Your Garden Design will teach you all about companion planting, and where each crop should go in your garden.  It's important to log your garden design so you can reference it when sowing your seeds or transplanting.  It will also be helpful to reference next year for you crop rotation.

If you're not a gardening newbie and have an existing garden, it may seem overwhelming to begin keeping records, now. Where to start?!?  I don't expect you to back track three months or more of garden activity, but start recording now.  It will be well worth it in the end!  Here are some things you can start doing today. 
  • Take pictures of your plants. If you're short on time, use a digital camera.  You can take pictures willy-nilly, then upload them later.  Just be sure to use the date stamp function on your camera for accurate journaling later. 
  • Begin recording your activities, including creation of the journal.
  • As a general rule, it's a lot easier to get started and keep motivated as you begin your journal, if you split big tasks into a lot of manageable little tasks.
What to Record
  • Sowing dates
  • Transplanting dates
  • Source and cost for plants and seeds as well as date purchased
  • Weather particulars such as rainfall, high temperatures, and frost dates
  • Plant characteristics, date of germination, date they emerge in spring, appearance of blooms
  • Date of harvest (for vegetables) or cut flowers taken
  • Date and type of fertilizer or other chemicals applied, and to which plants
  • Observations
I hope you do take the time to create and keep a garden journal. 


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