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Keeping a Garden Journal


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 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. I had some correspondence with one gardener who pooh-poohed the need for any kind of journal. This gardener wrote notes on activities and kept them in a big plastic bag for retrieval, should the need arise. Fortunately, there's lots of room in gardening for every point of view. It depends on what you want.

Journal Types

There are several general types of garden journals, and you should consider which one will likely meet your needs the best.

Shoebox

This broad category includes everything from nuts to bolts, 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, colour, and design issues as well as gardening activities and observations.

Garden Organizer

The garden organizer journal is grouped by plant type or location, by colour 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.

Personal 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 tyle 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 them 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 Styles

Diary Style Garden Journal

The diary style follows the format of a regular bound diary. The pages are usually unformatted 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. While you can tape seed packets and pictures into this style journal, they will eventually over-fill the book and make it unattractive. 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 an space allowed for each day, 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 wordprocessing software to create and maintain your garden journal. Use of backgrounds like gardenjournal.gif will let you customize the appearance of your journal.

Web-based 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 oneline 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.

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 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.

What to Record

You can record as much, or as little as you want, in your garden journal. Just make sure it's a fun activity, rather than a chore. Some suggestions for the kinds of information you may want to include are:
  • planting dates for seeds and plants
  • transplanting dates
  • source and cost for plants and seeds
  • any guarantees and location of bills (if needed)
  • weather particulars such as rainfall, frost dates and results
  • 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

Garden Journal Sections

You may find it helpful to divide your garden journal into sections. As with all the other choices you'll make regarding your journal, your choice of sections depends on how much information you plan to keep. Think about the gardening information you currently keep, and why you might consider a change. Then consider how to achieve this. Here are some possibilities to choose from.
  • seed packets - included with plant detail record or in separate section
  • pictures - throughout season or at peak bloom, included with plant detail or in separate section
  • reference materials - articles, magazines, book list and comments, any course materials
  • garden plan - to scale on graph paper, or drawn free-hand, laying out beds and plantings
  • daily activities
  • wish list - plants to consider for the future, possible architectural considerations like a pergola, hut, water feature or dry river bed
  • dried blooms
  • inspiration thoughts
  • websites you like and why
  • recipes for your garden harvest
  • supplier notes - who you like and who you don't
  • costs - keeping all your gardening costs together can be an eye-opener at the end of the year, which can be a good thing or a very, very bad thing, depending on your viewpoint

Make Your Own Garden Journal

We've put together some instructions on making your own garden journal. A few variations on home-made garden journal creation are included.

Comments? hmkstaff@hmk.on.ca



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