How to Keep a Gardener’s Journal

Old black binder

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© 2014 Shanna Lea

Have you ever kept a garden journal? I have kept several over the years whenever I had a garden. Usually it was a spiral notebook or 3-ring binder, encrusted with dirt and mud, since I always had it out in the garden with me. Every year, I drew squares and rectangles to represent the garden beds and what I planted in each one, and what was planted next to what.

I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was always trying a new method in the garden or trying new seeds. Companion planting was something I tried to remember to do, and sometimes remembered to write it all down.

Keeping a garden journal keeps you inspired every year, and also helps you keep better records. Cultures all over the world have kept records of their gardens. From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to those in Rome during Caesar’s era or the garden journals of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in America, keeping a garden journal has been an essential part of keeping a garden.

What to record in a garden journal

If you’ve put in even a small garden, you know how much work is involved and that there are some expenses. What if you kept records of all this every year so when the next spring came around, you could pre-plan for your garden? Whether it is just a few potted plants on the balcony or putting in a garden for full-scale food production, keeping records helps you in many ways:

Garden journals image

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  • List of things to do
  • Tools or seeds to buy
  • Paperwork for internet seed orders
  • Receipts
  • Info on seed packets
  • Seed catalogs
  • Pictures of your garden
  • Plant details—heirloom or hybrid?
  • Pests and what you did about them
  • How much you harvested
  • Rainfall
  • Mulch you used
  • Reflections on your garden throughout the season
  • Nature observations—when the sparrows built their nests, or when the Mississippi kites came back for the summer
  • Landscape site analysis—sun/shade, wind direction, soil
  • Calendar of planting dates
  • Recipes from your garden
  • Woodworking projects
  • Website URL’s, books, magazines you want to revisit
  • Wish list for next year
  • And to look through during the long winter months for inspiration, memories, and motivation for the coming season

Much of this information is thrown into drawers, in a box in the corner or stuffed into gardening books on the shelves. By having one convenient place in the garden journal for all your records, pictures, notes and info, it can save you time and money when the next planting season rolls around.

There are many different types of gardening journals you can keep. You can throw everything in a box for later, use a cheap spiral notebook, or fancy leather-bound journal or stuff everything in large envelopes.

What do you keep in your garden journal? Leave a comment below to share your ideas!

Also, check out the books below on Amazon for great ideas on types of garden journals, what to put in them, setting them up, and how creative you want to get.

Books from Amazon

Gardener’s Journal—Mary Engelbreit

Garden Journal and Planner: Your Garden Records, Thoughts, Plans and Pictures Complete in One Package

How to Keep a Garden Journal

Moleskine Passion Journal

Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book

Founding Gardeners:  The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation

A Rich Spot of Earth:  Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello



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