Why You Should Keep a Garden Journal
Most people hate journaling. They were introduced to it in school, forced to write in it every day and then hand it in to the teacher. It felt more like a report, than a personal document. Well, you can relax. A garden journal is nothing like those journals you were required to keep in school.
Garden journals are easy. You don’t have to write in them every day. You don’t have to worry about spelling and grammar. You don’t even need to write in complete sentences. And you don’t ever have to show it to anyone. It is for your eyes only.
So what do you write in a garden journal? Anything that you want to remember for the future. What you planted. When you planted it. Where you planted it. Seed germination rates. The condition of plants on arrival from mail-order catalogs. Which plants did well and which did not. Pests. Diseases. How you handled them. What worked. What didn’t work. The weather. Rain. Frosts. Extreme temperatures.
By the way, did you notice the lack of sentence structure there? And yet I managed to convey a lot of information, didn’t I? This is how you can write in your garden journal. Brief notes are fine if they are clear and when you read them in the future, they make sense.
Your garden journal doesn’t have to be an historical record entirely. If you like to write, your journal is a great place to record your thoughts, write essays or poetry inspired by your garden. If you are artistic, you can add drawings and paintings of your garden. There are no hard and fast rules. Your garden journal should be a reflection of you and how you garden.
The value of your garden journal will become clear in a few years. Each year you should make a point of re-reading your garden journal from previous years. You will start to notice trends in weather. You will become more selective from whom you buy seeds and plants. Your garden will look better and yield more each year as you apply the lessons from previous years.
Garden journals are sold by most garden supply companies. They can be beautiful and expensive. Here are three great inexpensive alternatives.
A spiral notebook, that staple of the classroom, makes a great garden journal. It’s cheap and durable and you won’t care if you get it dirty. You can write in it, sketch in it, and staple in photos and seed packets. Just be sure to label what year(s) you used it.
I have arthritis in my hands and fingers making writing very painful. I can still type so years ago I hopped on the blogging bandwagon. I loved my garden blog! I could write, add photos and links, and even share experiences with fellow gardeners all over the world. The only drawback was that no one seemed to understand that I didn’t want to become a world-famous garden blogger, that my blog was just my garden journal. There is a garden blogging etiquette! I found myself forced to keep a blogroll, participating in special events like posting pictures of what was blooming in my garden on certain days and spending way too much time reading and commenting on other people’s garden blogs. It’s considered a major faux pas if you don’t read and comment. Eventually I abandoned my garden blog. It was too much trouble.
I’ve started using Microsoft Office OneNote at my job. OneNote is a virtual notebook with apparently no limit on the number of pages and sections that you can create. I have created a notebook documenting everything I do at work and shared it with my coworkers. I can also email pages to anyone with a one click. I can add photos, screenshots, videos and weblinks to any page.
This year, I’m going to try OneNote as a garden journal. I’ve already started with a section devoted to the veggie garden at Rutgers Gardens where I grow cucurbits with a partner. I have created pages devoted to the seeds that I am ordering, planting diagrams and questions I want to discuss with my partner when we have our planning meetings. Soon I will be creating sections for my home gardens with pages on my seed and plant orders as well as my notes as the growing season progresses.
Your garden journal is your most important garden tool. It is a record of your gardening life and a repository of all of your hard-won gardening knowledge.