Ideas For Creating Your Garden Journal

Last week I shared seasonal journal prompts, this week I want to share with you how you can create your own garden journal. I am sharing topics/headings you can add to your garden journal to help you keep track of your gardening journey, goals, setbacks, planting times, etc. You may think that you will remember, but trust me, you will want to write it down. Creating your own garden journal allows you to remember the things that are most important to you. My way of journaling about the garden and what I plant has changed many times over the years. Some years I didn’t keep a journal, others it was just planting or seeding dates on a calendar, but once I created my own journal with the topics that I wanted to remember, that’s when I really started learning from my own gardening journey. I urge you to create your own garden journal, looking back you will be able to see trends, wins, fails, etc. Below you will find a list of topics to possibly add to your garden journal. Pick and choose what is important to you. You can do this digitally or you can use paper and pen. (Get as creative as you want, whatever helps you keep logging your journey is best.) You can create a full page for each plant or digitally you can add more columns to your table for expanding the information you want to keep. You can be as detailed as possible or you can write simple keywords, whatever works for you and will make sense for you even a few seasons from now. Don’t forget to add space for pictures if you want!

  • Garden Sketch – A basic drawing of your garden beds and what is going where for each season. I have made a template and print blank copies for each season and fill them before I even start seeds.
  • First and Last Frost Dates – These are a must when you’re planning to grow any plants that are frost tender. There are plenty of plants you can grow outside of this time period, but a lot of annuals are grown within this window. (Tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, etc.)
  • Plant Family – Knowing this can help you learn more about your plants needs and desired environment, sunlight and spacing, etc. (Most plants in a family like the same temperature, water needs, etc.)
  • Plant Size – This is helpful for determining how many plants you can fit of each variety into your beds. It also helps with plant placement, you do not want to put a large and long/tall plant in front of a shorter plant. You’d end up blocking the sun from the shorter plant, causing it to not grow to its full potential. This also gives you an idea of how long it will take to reach harvest.
  • Plant Spacing – This also helps you plan how many of each plant you can realistically grow in your garden. Even with intensive planting, you still need to give each plant proper room to grow and allow for air circulation. I utilize Square Foot Gardening spacing guidelines when planting out my garden beds.
  • Growing Season – If you follow the Arc of Seasons as taught by Nicole Johnsey Burke of Gardenary, you will want to take note of which season each plant likes to grow in, this is where knowing the plant family is helpful. (As a certified Garden Coach Society coach, I teach this in my classes and with clients.)
  • Growing/Sowing Method – Direct Sow or Start With Seeds or Transplants – Some plants will do much better when directly sown into the garden bed, think roots, corn, anything with sensitive roots. Other things are better grown when started from seed in either soil blocks or trays. This is especially helpful for long or large plants that require a longer growing period. It is also helpful to start from seed when you have a shorter growing season or if you plan to succession plant.
  • Approximate Time To Sow – Knowing when it is the best time to sow seeds whether by direct sowing or starting plants is crucial for having success in the garden. If you wait too long, you may not get a harvest before the temperature changes and you lose optimal growing conditions, etc. If you start too early, you may stress the plant and stunt it, plus you will need to keep potting up your transplants, creating more work for yourself. (Most seed packets will tell you the optimal time to sow seeds and whether they should be direct sown only or not.) This is a general weeks before/after frost timeline.
  • Sowing Dates – If you know your sow by date or succession sow by date, you can write down the dates to have each plant in the garden by. This will help you stay on top of things in the height of the season. Make sure to do this for a fall garden to, usually by mid summer. (These are more exact dates versus the previous topic which is general weeks before frost timing.)
  • Days To Maturity/Expected Harvest Time – This is usually on the seed packet and will tell you approximately how many days from germination to maturity there are. This helps with planning harvests and succession plantings.
  • Germination Days – This tells you how long you will have to not so patiently wait for those first little sprouts to pop up. It is help to take note of any seeds that didn’t germinate and sow more seeds if you have passed the days to germination window. (Give it a few days longer, a lot of things can stall germination.)
  • Where Purchased – Whether you purchase seeds or transplants, it’s a good idea to keep track of where you purchased them from. You can even track cost under this heading.
  • Germination Needs – Depending on what you are growing and especially true for medicinal herbs, you will want to make note of any germination needs. These include whether the seeds are light dependent, if they need scarification or stratification. This will greatly help you have success with seed starting and planning.
  • Lifespan – You may want to include whether the plant is a perennial, annual or biennial. This is especially helpful for medicinal herbs.
  • Hardiness Zone – This is for any perennial or biennial plants.
  • Harvest Amounts – You may wish to keep track of how much produce you were able to get out of the garden from each plant. Scales are helpful in weighing your harvests. In time this will help you see what you want to plant more of or less of.
  • Watering Days – You can log the days you water each plant or garden bed.
  • Weather – This helps you know if there were any days that were unusual as far as temperature, precipitation, sunlight, etc, which can change growth and harvest times later in the season.
  • Pests and Diseases – Keeping a log of pests in the garden will help you make future plans to better handle them. You can take note of when they were first spotted, what you did, and how the plant(s) faired. In time you will see a trend in when certain pests or diseases show up.
  • Feeding – Whether you use compost or another organic food for your plants and soil, it is helpful to keep track of when you applied them. You may think you’ll remember, but I can assure you that you will forget.
  • Recipes – Making notes about what recipes work well with each plant can be helpful. Log the recipe name, author and source of recipes. (Website address or name of book and page number.)
  • Successes and Failures – Taking note of these will help teach you how to garden better. They can also help spur you on when times are rough in the garden. Looking back you will see just how wonderful and successful you were! The failures will teach you what not to do and can help you see where you can make changes in the garden. You will kill plants, and it will make you a better gardener. 
  • Additional Garden Information – This can be a miscellaneous section to add anything that doesn’t fit under the above topics. Examples include: amendments added to the garden, compost details, season extension tools, etc.

This list can go on and on and is highly dependent on what is useful information to you. Keeping a garden journal is a great way to track your progress as a gardener over the seasons. It is something you can go back to and learn from time and time again. It can help you plan future gardens, see weather patterns, etc. I hope that you decide to create a garden journal that works for you. The above are suggested topics/headings and you don’t need to use all of them, you can if you want. Just as long as you create a system that works for you. Log the things that are important to you, in a way that you’ll want to keep doing it. You also have the option to purchase garden journals, I have done this in the past. There is more freedom in creating your own, but tracking your garden journey is what matters most. If you plan to create your own garden journal, let me now in the comments. Share which topics you will include in yours!

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