The garden journal is a gardener’s record book, personal history, and auxilary memory. At its simplest, the journal is a place to record what you planted, when, and how well it did. The more detail oriented may record temperature, rain, and bloom times, while the more artistically inclined may add sketches or photos. We may make notes from books we’ve read, record varieties a friend suggested, or clip in a seed packet to jog our memory.
Types of Garden Journals
We’ve tried all kinds of methods for keeping track of the garden, and we find they shake out into four main types.
1. The sketchbook. This hardbound or ring-bound book can be taken into the garden for recording. It tends to pick up smudges and water damage, but it’s perfect for jotting down of-the-moment ideas you don’t want to escape you. Sketchbooks are often augmented with artistic (or not-so) renderings of planting plans, plus photos and plant tags.
2. The three-ring binder. The binder permits flexible organization. You can customize it with plastic sheets that hold plant tags, hole-punch and add your plant and seed receipts, and keep torn-out magazine articles in it too. Bulkier than the sketchbook, it’s a very effective method for organizing large amounts of garden info.
3. The calendar. We’ve used wall calendars to track planting dates, weather, germination, and bloom times. The calendar is right there on the wall, so you remember to actually record information, but there’s not much room for musings.
4. The electronic. Whether its a blog, a series of posts to Facebook, or a Pinboard, the internet offers lots of ways to track your garden. If you’re putting your journal out for the world to see, though, you might feel some pressure to make it interesting, possibly glossing over some of the picky details that make a journal useful to you.
What to Include
A garden journal is intensely personal, and over time you’re likely to develop your own shorthand and style. Overall, though, we’d suggest recording your seed inventory each year, new additions to the garden, and planting and harvesting dates.
We also track the weather, pest problems, any special measures we took (adding an organic fertilizer to the tomatoes, for example), and our expenditures. And while they don’t always make it into the journal, we try to record our garden in photos at least every few weeks.
So this year, consider starting (or expanding) your garden journal. When you’re ordering seeds next season, you’ll be glad you did!