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Tips for keeping a garden journal

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

Do you keep records of your gardening activities? If not, you probably should, and we'll explain how you can get started.

Experienced gardener's sometimes seem to have a magical "green thumb," but most will tell you that they simply have access to better information and try to learn from their mistakes. They are usually keen observers who are constantly taking note of things that work well for them, things that didn't turn out as they expected, and things they wish they had known before getting started on a project.

One of the tools of the trade for gardeners serious about growing their skills in this area is a garden journal. In this post, we'll break down just what a garden journal is and offer some tips for getting the most out of your journaling process.

What is a garden journal?

Garden journals take many different forms, with some being more personal than others or some including more elaborate details than others. There's no uniform, "right" way to keep one. In short, a garden journal is simply a collection of records and writings related to your gardening activities from one season to the next. Over time, these records become both the story of your garden's growth and progress as well as a critical reference for future project planning. Plus, it's a lot of fun!

Your journal might be as simple as a few notes jotted down periodically in a composition book or a commercially published journal. If you favor the DIY route, you might explore hobbyist websites (like this one) offering printable journal pages you can mix and match to suit your imagination.

Journaling tips

Regardless of what form your journal takes, we've got some suggestions for getting the most out of your record-keeping process:

  • Include pictures and drawings. Pictures don't just add a splash of color to your journal; they also preserve memories! Consider including series of "before," "during," and "after" snapshots for your projects. Show off your best blooms and most impressive vegetables. Keep a visual record of fungal/disease/pest issues encountered so you can more easily identify them and track the effectiveness of your interventions. Include sketches of garden layouts--what you planted and where--so that you can plan crop rotations and shop for appropriate fertilizer blends (since different plants deplete soil nutrients at different rates).

  • Save seed packets and plant identification sticks. These contain invaluable information that you might want to reference at some point in the future, particularly if you're needing to plan for expansions and want to use the same species or producer. Many gardeners keep a file of these things, but you could also just as easily tape them into a journal--scrapbook style--or include them in a binder pencil pouch.

  • Tabulate mundane details. There are certain pieces of information that you'll want to have access to without having to flip through a bunch of pages all at once. Observations about weather conditions, when and where you purchased particular seeds or live plants, notes about when you last watered and fertilized--these and other facts can be attractively laid out in tables that form a single page or spread of your journal. Then you can track information over a full month, season, or the whole year in one place.

  • Write about whatever you like. Some gardeners prefer to stick to the facts: "Standing water again after last night's rain. Need to turn the soil next month and add some compost." Others use their journals for freeform creative self-expression and spiritual devotion: "Noticed the pansies perked up after last night's rain, and the colors reminded me of one of my favorite poems by..." Remember that this isn't a scientific manual; it's your journal. Use it in a way that connects you with what you love most about gardening!

Regularity and sustainability

One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a garden journal for the first time is trying to do too much with it right from the start. They try recording all their observations and include too many pictures. It becomes a big project very quickly, and after a couple months it begins to feel more like a chore than a source of joy. It's important to remember that the best journaling habits are the ones you'll consistently do, not the ones you might ideally like to pursue sometime in the future. There's always room to add new information, but consistent information is more helpful than volume of information. Over time, you'll develop a sense of what is and isn't important to include in your journal.

Our store is a wonderful source of inspiration and information for your journal, too! Feel free to bring yours along with you the next time you stop by. We'd love to see what you've been working on!


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