Keeping a Garden Journal0
I’m not a scientist by trade or education, but I have to say that I nerdishly enjoy experiments. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I enjoy continuous improvement and believe that trail-and-error lessons are one of the best ways to make things better.
Gardening is no exception to the “learn from your mistakes” rule. In fact, some of the best gardeners I’ve met tell me that their ‘secret’ is to simply observe nature and do their best to follow it. Observation is key to good gardening.
All the same, if you’re like me you’re likely to forget next year what you observed this year. Enter the garden journal!
Why Keep a Garden Journal
A garden journal is a tool you can use to keep track of important garden stats and observations such as temperatures, rainfall, planting dates, fertilizer applications, pest control measures and more. Being able to look back on this information will help you to plan for next year (“Did our pest-control methods work or not?”) and it will help you to identify patterns in your garden that you otherwise wouldn’t detect. In general, a garden journal allows you to record your successes and failures and details that may have impacted the outcome.
How to Keep a Garden Journal
There are many ways to keep a garden journal. Your journal can be as simple as a notebook you make daily observations in or a complex binder with sections for different topics. The main purpose is to provide you with relevant data that you can use to plan (and improve!) next year’s garden. Start simple. That way, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. And after you discover the value in garden journaling, you can always add more detail later.
Buy a Garden Journal
Not sure where to start? You can buy a pre-made garden journal. Check your local garden supply store or browse the large selection available at Amazon.com. With so many to choose from, you’re likely to find one that fits (or mostly fits) your needs. If $FREE is more your speed, check out some of the printable garden journals compiled here.
Make Your Own
I’m a details person so I made my own garden journal. It captures all the data I want to track. I created forms in Microsoft Excel which I’ll print as needed and keep in a three-ring binder. I like electronic tools but based on last year’s experience, it is much handier to be able to write a note down while I’m actually in the garden than to try to remember details to record on the computer when I get inside. (Taking the computer out to the garden doesn’t work well for me either.) My garden journal has the following sections:
- General Notes. This is a place to jot down anything noteworthy that can’t be captured elsewhere.
- Main Garden Journal. For info regarding the 28 beds in the Main Garden, including temperature highs and lows; rainfall amounts; water amounts/sources; natural fertilizer amounts/sources; and natural pest-control measures used on each specific bed. (See image below.) This part of the journal also tells me what is planted in each bed.
- Fenceline Garden Journal. See above.
- Main Garden Fence Journal. After adding spaces for 28 beds to the Main Garden Journal, I ran out of room. Meanwhile, I have plantings along the fence that surrounds the Main Garden and I want to track those as well. This journal section tracks the same things as the Main Garden Journal, only for the West, South, East and North fences.
- Harvest Journal. This journal allows me to track harvest date, harvester, pounds, which bed the veggies came from and other processing details. The Harvest Journal is part of our farm’s traceability program which is an important program to have when we’re selling to customers. If I were growing veggies just for my family, I would probably only track date, pounds and which bed the veggies came from.
- Inspections. We perform certain self inspections as part of our Food Safety and Sanitation Plan and those are tracked here.
- Seed Starting. I’m tracking this electronically. You can find details about my seed starting spreadsheet (and download it for yourself) here.
Track Your Garden Electronically
If you’d rather trade notepads for iPads, you’ll be happy to learn that there are many programs and apps that allow you to track your garden electronically. I recently reviewed several great garden apps for your mobile device – click here to learn more.
Here are links to a few other online/electronic garden journals (some of them are FREE!) that you can try:
- Dave’s Garden Journal
- PlantJotter (this one looks especially interesting to me)
- Green Thumb Journal
- Garden Organizer Deluxe
There you have it! If I find that my homemade garden journal works well, I’ll probably post a free, printable version mid-season. Till then, does anyone have tips on garden journals or journaling methods that work well for them? Have you used any of the electronic journals listed above? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with the rest of us!