All our attempts at gardening are more or less personal experiments and there is no book written on gardening that will prove more helpful to you than the one you write about your own garden.
Everyone’s journal should be as different as gardens are different — and that’s part of the wonder of gardening.
A garden journal can add to your gardening success and enhance your enjoyment of your gardening activities. Depending on how much effort you want to spend on the journal, it can record as little as what you planted and when. At the other extreme, it can record every minute activity you perform in your garden, such as trimming, fertilizing, watering, and recording rainfall, temperature and hours of sunlight. It's up to you how much information, or how little, you keep. It also depends on what you expect to do with the information later.
There are three main choices for garden journals: paper, online or computer with or without software. (For a full review of all three options, visit www.mankatofreepress.com/features.)
As a rule, it is a lot easier to start and keep motivated as you begin your journal if you split your big tasks into manageable smaller ones. Go with as much control as you can deal with combined with the amount of data you find most compelling. Remember journaling should be fun and not another chore of the garden.
If you are using the paper or computer spreadsheet choices of garden journals, there are several methods, and you should consider which one would likely best meet your needs.
Shoebox: This broad category includes everything from nuts to bolts, kept in a shoebox, bag, storage box, or any other format where retrieval is on a 'dive-in' basis. These types of journal works best for people who want to save 'stuff', just in case, but have no idea what they'll do with it.
Garden planner: This type of garden journal includes current gardening information and planning tools such as garden layouts, visual references such as pictures, and detailed information about bloom time, requirements, color and design issues as well as gardening activities and observations.
Garden organizer:The garden organizer journal is grouped by plant type or location, by color or season or in another way that makes sense to you. Contents are organized in the chosen order, rather than recorded sequentially in date order.
Personal journal:The best example of this a personal diary. For each day that you choose to make an entry, you start a new line right after your last entry. You make entries daily, weekly, or as you get to them. Usually, pictures and additional information is not included.
Photo Album: For avid photographers or gardeners who want to look at their garden even in the winter, this form of garden journal lets you store garden pictures, plant details and activities. A popular use of this type of journal is to take digital photos of your plants through each stage of their growth, inserting new pages as required. This can provide you with a visual image of what your perennials look like when them emerge from the spring soil, vs. what weeds look like, so that you remove the weeds only.
Record Keeper: The record keeper format permits the most detail to be kept on each plant in your garden. It will likely include complete plant details, all activities, and permit as much detail as you want to enter. This style need not be in a binder, but could be index cards in a shoebox, in alphabetical order, for example. It could also utilize an address-card filing system.
You may find it helpful to divide your garden journal into sections. As with all the other choices you'll make regarding your journal, your choice of sections depends on how much information you plan to keep. Think about the gardening information you currently keep, and why you might consider a change. Then consider how to achieve this. You can record as much or as little as you want, in your garden journal. Just make sure it's a fun activity, rather than a chore. A pdf garden journal may be found at Garden Journal-Homestead Harvestsite (wayzata-homestead-harvest.com/GardenJournal.pdf).
Some suggestions for the kinds of information you may want to include are:
Garden calendar; budget and spending ecords; to-do lists; garden maps; plant profile; soil preparation and maintenance; seed started indoors; planting dates both direct seeding and transplanting; plant propagation, cuttings and division; fertilizing and side dressing schedules, weed control, pest control, disease control, wildlife sightings such as animals, birds and insects; daily/weekly/monthly observations; harvest reports (amount harvested, disbursement of harvest and seeds saved); reflections and reminders for next year; wish lists for seeds, plants and tools; references, clippings and online articles.
Also, to create a garden map, begin with a rough, hand-drawn garden plan of your yard. If you have a large yard, it is easier to break it down into sections. Transfer individual beds on your main plan to separate drawings on graph paper; the beds can be measured if you desire accuracy. Map the plants either individually or by groups. If you plan to keep records on each plant or type of plant, create a separate page for each plant. An alternate method is to use a spreadsheet to assemble the data with columns for botanical name, common name, date planted, source (purchased or propagated), mature size, garden location, leaf and bloom color and any other information you may want. Take pictures of your garden and of the individual plants. Record your activities.
For reviews, tips and more information about garden journals, visit www.mankatofreepress.com/features.