If you’re like many avid gardeners – or even those just beginning – you’ve probably been thumbing through gardening magazines, sketching out plans, and making a shopping list. If so, you’ve already laid the groundwork for a great growing season and an incredibly helpful garden journal

Garden journaling is a fun activity before, after, and during the season. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started. 

Why Journal?

Why should you keep a garden journal? Mainly, to have a record of what you planted and where. Keeping track of these basic details helps you know what worked and what didn’t during previous growing seasons. Did the azaleas flourish in the spot where they were planted last year? Did the blueberry bush need a little more space? When you note these observations throughout the year, you’ll create an even better gardening experience next year. 

Keeping a garden journal can also be a great resource to pass on to beginner gardeners or loved ones who will want to remember what their grandparents grew in their gardens. 

It’s also a fantastic resource should you ever sell your property. A detailed log of specific trees, shrubs, plants, and more can be a helpful tool for the next owner. 

What kind of journal do I need?

Nowadays, there seems to be a planner or journal for every subject. A quick search on the interwebs will bring up dozens and dozens of gardening journals to choose from. But don’t get overwhelmed. A simple spiral notebook is just as effective as a fancy design with a bunch of bells and whistles. 

Whichever journal you choose, just make sure that it offers plenty of room for notes, sketches, and somewhere to keep or attach important information. It should also have enough space for at least two or three growing seasons. 

A simple composition notebook with sticky notes, paperclips, and a stapler are all you really need to get started. 

Where do I start? 

Starting is easier than you think. Begin by creating different sections in your journal. (See below for suggested sections.) Leave enough room in each section to edit notes and clip photos or seed packets. 

You should also include a planting zone map and schedule at the beginning of your journal. Knowing which planting zone you’re in is essential to growing plants that are appropriate for your area. Adding a planting zone schedule will give you a good idea of what needs to be planted when. 

Suggested sections for your garden journal 

  • Sketches – Make sketches of your property noting where everything is planted, including trees, shrubs, existing flower beds, etc. You can also include sketches of what you plan to plant in the future.
  • Seed and Plant Log – This is where you can record specific types and brands of seeds and plants. Staple or paperclip seed packets, tree tags, etc. so that you have all of this information in one handy place.
  • Expenses – Keep track of what you plan to spend, when you spend, and how much you actually do spend. This will help you determine your annual gardening budget for the next year (that is, if you consider it money well spent). 
  • Tools – If we don’t keep an inventory of our gardening tools, we can easily find ourselves with three of the same thing. (How many pairs of pruning shears does one person need?) Or how many times have you loaned equipment that was never returned? Keeping track of your inventory means you’re keeping track of your investments.
  • Calendar – Seeing a calendar for the entire planting season can help you be more intentional with your time and become more efficient in your gardening.
  • Care – This section allows you space to make notes about caring for specific plants in your garden. Maybe you need to hold off on pruning until the evening hours due to sun placement. Or perhaps you should note how your garden responded to fertilization during a particular season. You’ll be so happy you logged this information next year.

Gardening in the Margins 

Now that you’ve set up your journal, this is where it gets fun. Leave yourself plenty of room in the margins for other notes. Maybe your sketch will include a note that your son helped you plant the sunflowers that year. Or you attach a snapshot of your grandchild harvesting peas. Or, if you love to draw, sketch the cardinal that pays a daily visit to your rose bushes. You’ll appreciate these little treasures when you look back at past seasons.

Your garden journal will not only give you a chance to organize your plans and dreams, but it also creates a scrapbook for others to enjoy someday. 

Oh, and bring your journal when you visit the greenhouse this spring. We can’t wait to see it!

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