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Tips on Keeping a Garden Journal

Garden Journal

Garden Journal

Spring is around the corner or very close to it. How close? What can you expect? What should you be doing in the garden? The answer to these questions and many more can be found in your garden journal if you kept one. Yes, you should start immediately. Perhaps you should have started January 1, but it takes the first hint of spring to motivate me to get my book out and start writing.

I try to write in my garden journal once a week. In the early spring that seems like a lot but in mid summer it is not nearly enough. In other words I don’t have a set schedule. I start each entry on a new page (right hand side of my book) and put the date on the top. If there have been unusual climate conditions I include them under the date. For example, I would note high wind, long period of drought, a hurricane, unusually low temperatures, or snow in March.

I use my journal to record a big variety of material that I think might be useful next year. I think about what I wish I had written last year and that spurs me on to take notes on those things. Initially I noted the beginning and ending of bloom for each species of plant in the garden. Gradually I realized I cared more about how long the plant looked good in bloom, and then how attractive the plant was before and after it bloomed. Some plants earn their keep but others don’t so I write comments that would let me evaluate the plant in my garden over the whole gardening season. I also include selected comments on plants and gardens in the neighborhood especially concerning bloom date and good plant combinations. These comments give me good ideas for next year.

The source of my seeds and plants is important so i record what new plants or seeds I buy, where I buy them and how much I paid for them. Since I buy a huge number of plants every year from vendors at the local Farmer’s Market I note the vender and any information I might get about the vendor so that I can contact them even if they do not come to the Farmer’s market again. I also make a point of visiting and noting purchases or finds at Home Depot and Loews because I usually manage to find some great buys at both of those stores.

I include suggestions for next year based on the problems I see and solutions that occur to me at the moment. These are not written in stone; I often make multiple suggestions for the same area as the season proceeds and end up taking none of them. In order to find the suggestions easily during the winter when I am planning the next year’s garden I circle them. I have also thought of highlighting them but that would require an additional writing implement and it is easier for me just to make a circle around them.

Some years my journal writing has been a lifesaver. Last year, some friends decided to get married in my garden on September 25th. My garden journal provided me with the necessary information to plan ahead and create a great fall look. I am now using last year’s journal to plan for a visit from the local garden club.

What kind of book is best for a journal? The choice is really very personal. I have used all different kinds including composition book (the kind with black and white covers used in elementary schools), spiral notebook, and true journal with pretty cover. Some books have been lined, others not. I have found that a pretty book is more fun and so I tend to write in it more often. I also like unlined paper but can’t give you a good reason because I usually like the opposite. Maybe the reason is that I can jam more on the page when I have to. A journal with a hard cover is better than one without because the cover supports your writing. A small book (5” x 8”) is better than 81/2” x 11” because it is easier for me to manage as I walk around the garden.

I love my journal!

Let Us Know:

What information do you find most valuable?

What kind of journal works best for you?