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Starting A Garden Journal

If you don't already keep one, fall is a great time to consider starting a garden journal. Now that things are winding down for most gardeners, you may be able to find a little more time to organize your thoughts and reflect on the successes and disappointments of the past season. A garden journal doesn't need to be complicated, but you'll find that keeping a few records from year to year can be rewarding as well as saving you a lot of time and frustration.


The Best Kind of Garden Journal (In My Humble Opinion)

There are probably as many types and styles of garden journals to choose from as there are gardeners . I think the most important aspect to remember when selecting or creating your journal is practicality. I'm not suggesting that style isn't important. It's wonderful if you find a journal that's aesthetically pleasing to you, but if it's not functional, it isn't really practical. It's my humble opinion that a simple three-ring binder makes the best garden journal. It's cheap and easy to create, and it allows for flexible record-keeping (you can add lined paper, graph paper, pockets, dividers and photo pages). If you're worried about aesthetics, there are binders available with clear pockets on the front and back covers allowing you to personalize it according to your style. Another plus is durability-you can take it with you outside-a big advantage for those of us who seem to forget our thoughts on the walk from the garden to the back door.


Free Journal Templates

If you like the idea of using pre-printed forms for record keeping, most software for the home office (like MS Office or MS Works) comes with some type of feature that will let you create journal pages or spreadsheets from pre-designed templates. There are also several free sources available on the web. Here are two links to get you started:

More Ideas For Journals

  • personal diaries
  • photo or shoe boxes (like a garden "junk" drawer).
  • garden blogs (You can start one here at
  • computer software (I like the simple, yet useful features that come with the My Garden Journal Record Keeping Software For Gardeners. You can download it and play with it for 30 days. If you decide you like it, you can purchase the license to keep it for $14.95).

The Nuts and Bolts of Record Keeping

The first rule of keeping a garden journal is that there are no rules! It can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. Besides, if you're like most gardeners, you would probably rather be spending time out in the garden than taking copious notes in a journal. Even so, recording a few key bits of information can save you a whole lot of time and frustration in the long run and help you maximize the enjoyment you get from all of your hard work each year. Because conditions can vary so much even within each growing region, your own records will always be your best source of information.

Key Data to Record:

  • planting & transplanting dates (don't forget to record locations!)
  • harvesting dates
  • soil treatments (fertilizer applications/quantities, modifications, fertility & pH)

  • weather conditions (abnormal patterns, frost dates, rainfall amounts)
  • growth observations (flower and fruiting details)
  • pest & disease problems (dates, damage and management solutions)
  • month by month "To-Do" List (pruning, fertilizing, planting, etc.)
  • plant & seed inventory (including planting and growing information)
  • successes & failures (what worked and what didn't)
  • supplier notes (receipts, warranties, etc.)
  • shopping list (tools, accessories)

Not-So-Key Data (but still fun!):

  • useful book and web resources
  • recipes & craft ideas
  • inspirational thoughts
  • equipment service records (oil changes, belts, blade sharpening, etc.)
  • supplier information (helpful contacts, bad experiences, etc.)
  • costs
  • gardening events (plant sales, seed swaps, extension classes, tours.)
  • wish list
  • stories and jokes
  • visits to other gardens & visitors to yours (including wildlife)


Photos are a wonderful way to streamline your record keeping, document your observations and tell your garden's story. Set aside some pages in your journal (or in a photo album or on your computer) to keep pictures of your garden's progress.

Ideas for Photos:

  • before and after pictures (plantings, seasonal changes, landscaping projects)
  • insects, diseases, and weeds you want to identify
  • blooming flowers and vegetable crops
  • visitors (family, friends, pets, wildlife)
  • favorite flowers, birds, butterflies and other garden critters

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

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