Many people balk at the idea of keeping a garden journal because they consider it unnecessary and just one more chore they don’t really have time for. However, there are advantages to keeping a journal including planning your garden and keeping track of your garden tasks.
However, it doesn’t have to be in book or journal form, it can be a calendar, a spiral notebook, a notebook with pockets, an accordion file, a scrapbook, a photo album, an organizer, or even sheets of loose paper kept together in a folder or a box, it all depends on what you want to use your journal for.
A journal actually helps save you time because it will help you with garden preparation and planning. While each spring most gardeners look forward to getting back out into the garden in full force, others are reluctant because they aren’t sure where to start, and still other gardeners find themselves too busy with basic garden chores to thoughtfully plan out the garden for the year and to get it ready for the gardening year ahead.
This is where a garden journal can help; it’s the ultimate planning tool, and the place for you to figure out what you want out of your garden. Ask yourself some questions, making note in your journal. Take the time to really explore what kind of gardener you are; do you want a vegetable garden, an herb garden, or a flower garden? When asking yourself these questions your journal is the place to jot down what goes along with each type of gardening and to keep track of these activities.
After you get an idea of what kind of garden you want, you can also use your journal to do a thorough assessment of the areas you have to work with. Survey the area or areas you want to use in your yard, keeping in mind the type of soil you have, how much work it will take to amend it, its drainage, how it will be watered, the amount of sunlight it gets, and other uses for the area, noting all of this in your journal.
It is also a great tool for keeping track of garden maintenance tasks and keeping records. One type of journal that’s especially useful for this purpose is a simple calendar. If you are like most people, you probably get several free calendars every year. Keep one or more of them in your potting bench and you can use them to track and plan all the activities you perform in your garden such as trimming, fertilizing, and watering or even to record rainfall, temperature, and hours of sunlight. You can note the names and dates of the plants you used, and the seeds you bought and when you planted them or use it for starting seeds, writing out the starting and germination dates in your calendar.
Other things people keep track of are beginning and end of harvest, costs of plants and supplies, and vegetable and flower varieties including performance or garden successes and failures.
You might also want to keep notes on bloom periods. For example, if you find that after visiting a botanic garden or park you really wish you had a certain flower, tree, or shrub, and only recognize this once it’s in bloom, you need to keep track of when it needs to be planted. One way to make sure you never miss the right time to plant something is by keeping a gardening journal.
Lastly, a journal is also a great place to get and keep ideas for your “dream” garden including pictures from catalogs, magazines, and public gardens, notes from garden lectures, classes or tours, and magazine articles. This is where a journal with pockets or plastic sleeves comes in handy for keeping track of these things as well as garden catalogs, order forms, receipts, and even seed packets.
Remember, you don’t have to start a journal in the spring. You can start it anytime. You can keep notes throughout the year on how well certain varieties of plants worked for you, new plants you want to try, and even to list garden events so you won’t miss them next year. Give journaling a try, you might find it helps you be more a successful gardener.