When I first started gardening I wrote notes on a piece of paper. I listed the seeds I wanted to plant and when I was supposed to plant them. I also roughed out a drawing of where I would plant each kind of seed in the garden bed. Not bad for a start.
Then I lost the paper. 🙂
I’ll be honest, I do a lot of my planning on loose pieces of paper, but when I’ve settled on a plan, I transfer it to my garden journal (it’s a lot harder to lose). It contains a record of my plans, but more importantly, it also has a record of everything I do and my gardening results. I won’t remember next year when I started the cucumber seeds or how many pumpkins we got from each vine. How often did we fertilize the tomatoes? Which variety did we like best?
Why Do You Need One?
Gardening involves a fair number of details, so it’s a good idea to have a plan and keep a fairly detailed record of what you do, any thoughts you have along the way, and your results. Those details can help you understand what is going on in your garden and make wiser gardening choices in the future.
Details, Details, Details
Last year our acorn squash (my husband’s squash of choice) was a bit blah. I wrote that down. This year, as I was making seed choices, I ran across the note and ordered another variety.
This article contains affiliate links. If you click and buy, I make a commission. Thanks for helping me bless my sweetie with yummy acorn squash. ❤
My DIL wants to grow some chocolate tomatoes in our shared garden. I wrote that down and now it’s added to my spring shopping list (I buy tomato plants rather than starting them from seed).
The bottom line for me (and most people) is if I don’t write it down there’s no guarantee that I’ll remember it several months from now. There are just too many details to hang onto.
Learn as You Go
Keeping an ongoing record means that from year to year I learn things. I learn what works (and what doesn’t). I learn what I like. I learn how much I need to grow. I learn from my mistakes (yup, failure can teach you as much as success).
If two years running I wound up with terribly overgrown pumpkin seedlings (because I started them too early), I need to grow some patience and start them a couple of weeks later.
I also keep an eye on what other gardeners do (in real life and on Pinterest) to learn from them. If my pea trellis was too small and didn’t hold the weight well, I’m going to ask questions and do a couple of searches to come up with something different for next year. (And I won’t forget it because I wrote it down in my journal.)
Helpful Things to Include
The journal needs to be something that works for you. It needs to play into the garden and produce you want.
Here are a few ideas:
Write down your last and first frost dates.
These dates will help you figure when to plant and help you pick plants that can grow and produce within your growing season.
Related Reading: from Dave's Garden
Lookup Your First and Last Freeze/Frost Dates by Zip Code
Make a list of the seeds you plant.
Be sure to list the particular type or where you bought the seeds so you can get them again if you like them.
Sketch a simple drawing of your garden space.
You could also get fancy and take pictures, but regardless, note where you plant each kind of seed. When they start popping up they can be hard to tell apart. (Garden markers can help with that too.)
Journal your activities.
Write down what you did and when. When did you fertilize? When did you pinch back your tomatoes? What materials did you use to make the pea trellis? You can do a general journal of activities (just date and write as you go) or divide by plant type. For example, put all your tomato notes on the tomato page and all the okra notes on the okra page.
Note the kinds of problems you faced.
If your tomato skins started splitting, what did you do to combat it (water more consistently and deeply)?
Keep a record of how much produce you harvest.
You can keep track of it by number or weight (even a rough estimate is helpful). For example, last year I had 16 pumpkins from 5 vines. They were great pumpkins (I’ll grow them again this year), but we need more. Everyone on the property likes them and holiday baking cleaned us out. Knowing how many we had means I can figure how many more plants to add in the spring. I’ll also water and fertilize more carefully (pumpkins are heavy feeders).
Keep a record of your garden purchases.
If you are interested in how much your garden is costing you, create a page to record purchases. (Compare the amount spent to the amount of produce you harvest and smile.)
Create a year-end page.
I like to create a page at the end of my gardening year where I sit down and write down my overall thoughts about that year. I take note of anything that needs fixing or that I want to do differently next year. It’s my place to start the following spring.
Some folks prefer lists. Some like notes on calendar pages. Others like neat sketches and notes on graph paper. It’s a preference thing. Play around with a couple of styles and stick with the one you like best.
Also consider how much you want to write. Some people write copiously. Others are happy with brief notes. What do you need to get the results you want?
If you like forms and such, ↑ Botanical Interests has a freebie garden journal you can download. And, of course, there is the digital option. One year I tried putting everything in Trello and it worked fairly well, but I just prefer a pad and pen, so I’m back to a composition notebook.
Binders work fairly well too because pages can be added and removed. You can also add envelopes or pockets for receipts. Sticky notes can be helpful from time to time. Have fun with it!
The bottom line idea with garden journals is that keeping your gardening information in one place will make gardening easier and help you make wise gardening choices from year to year. A little bit of journaling can make all the difference.
Related Reading: Starting Seeds With Sticky Notes
Take the crazy out of your planting schedule.