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Why You Should Keep a Garden Journal

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Most people hate journaling. They were introduced to journals in school, forced to write in them every day and then hand them in to their teacher. It felt more like a report, than a personal document. Well, you can relax. A garden journal is nothing like those journals you were required to keep in school.

Garden journals are easy. You don’t have to write in them every day. You don’t have to worry about spelling and grammar. You don’t even need to write in complete sentences. And you don’t ever have to show it to anyone. It is for your eyes only.

What You Should Write in a Garden Journal

So what do you write in a garden journal? Anything that you want to remember for the future. What you planted. When you planted it. Where you planted it. Seed germination rates. The condition of plants on arrival from mail-order catalogs. Which plants did well and which did not. Pests. Diseases. How you handled them. What worked. What didn’t work. The weather. Rain. Frosts. Extreme temperatures.

By the way, did you notice the lack of sentence structure there? And yet I managed to convey a lot of information, didn’t I? This is how you can write in your garden journal. There is no need to write in complete sentences or organize your writing in paragraphs. Brief notes are fine as long as they are clear and when you read them in the future, they make sense.

Your garden journal doesn’t have to be just an historical record. If you like to write, your journal is a great place to record your thoughts, or it can be where you write essays or poetry inspired by your garden. If you are artistic, you can add drawings and paintings of your garden. There are no hard and fast rules. Your garden journal should be a reflection of you and how you garden.

Why You Should Keep a Garden Journal

The value of your garden journal will become clear in a few years. Each year you should make a point of re-reading your garden journal from previous years. You will start to notice trends in weather. You will become more selective from whom you buy seeds and plants. You will adjust your watering schedule. Prune more or less. Your garden will start to look better and yield more each year as you apply the lessons from previous years.

3 Cheap Ideas For a Garden Journal

Garden journals are sold by most garden supply companies. They can be beautiful and expensive. Here are three great inexpensive alternatives.

A spiral notebook is a great alternative to the expensive gardening journals available from garden supply companies.

A spiral notebook is a great alternative to the expensive gardening journals available from garden supply companies.

1. Spiral Notebook

A spiral notebook, that staple of the classroom, makes a great garden journal. It’s cheap and durable and you won’t care if you get it dirty. You can write in it, sketch in it, and staple in photos and seed packets. Just be sure to label what year(s) you used it.

Garden blogs are a great way to connect with other gardeners as well as posting about your garden.

Garden blogs are a great way to connect with other gardeners as well as posting about your garden.

2. Garden Blog

I have arthritis in my hands and fingers making writing very painful. I can still type so years ago I hopped on the blogging bandwagon. I loved my garden blog! I could write, add photos and links, and even share experiences with fellow gardeners all over the world. I quickly got caught up in following other blogs, reading and commenting on other blogs every day, keeping a blogroll, participating in special events like posting pictures of what was blooming in my garden on certain days. Eventually I abandoned my garden blog. It had become too much trouble and wasn’t providing me with the information that I considered important.

But don’t let my experience stop you from garden blogging. There is a whole gardening community out there that you can connect with, learn from and share your garden with. You can get started with no initial investment using one of the many free blogging sites.

OneNote is a program included in Microsoft Office.  It is a virtual notebook that you can customize to suit your needs.

OneNote is a program included in Microsoft Office. It is a virtual notebook that you can customize to suit your needs.

3. Microsoft Office OneNote

Now I am using Microsoft Office OneNote as my garden journal. It is part of the Microsoft Office package that I purchased with my laptop. I have it on my laptop and the app installed on my phone so that my garden journal is with me everywhere I go.

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Read More From Dengarden

OneNote is a virtual notebook with apparently no limit on the number of pages and sections that you can create so there is no need to purchase a new notebook each year. I just add additional sections and pages. I have created a notebook documenting everything I do in my gardens. I can add photos, screenshots, videos and weblinks to any page. I have separate sections for each garden that I tend, including the public gardens that I work in. Each section has pages devoted to the seeds and plants that I am ordering, planting diagrams, questions I want to discuss with other gardeners, ideas for the future as well as the usual notes on the current year detailing the weather, what worked and what didn’t work. As the years have passed by, my virtual notebook has become invaluable.

No matter what form your garden journal takes it is your most important garden tool. It is a record of your gardening life and a repository of all of your hard-won gardening knowledge.

© 2014 Caren White


Caren White (author) on February 02, 2014:

Thanks for reading DDE!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 02, 2014:

Why You Should Keep a Garden Journal is an informative hub and is definitely still a useful trick

Caren White (author) on January 12, 2014:

Thanks so much, Leslie! Enjoy your journal, so glad I could help.

lesliebyars on January 12, 2014:

I have never thought of keeping a garden journal but, I can see where it could be a great help. It would be good to know how the weather and bugs effect the plants and it would be a great reference to go back to when trying to decide what to plant the next year.

I pinned it, voted, useful and interesting. Great hub!!

Caren White (author) on January 12, 2014:

Happy I could help, Rebecca! Thanks for reading.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on January 12, 2014:

My Dad to use to keep one years and years ago! Thanks for the reminder, great idea!

Caren White (author) on January 12, 2014:

I agree, Wiccan. If I could still manage to write, I would keep notebooks myself.

Purl, thanks for pinning! Glad you enjoyed it.

Donna Herron from USA on January 12, 2014:

Love this idea! Pinning now :)

Mackenzie Sage Wright on January 12, 2014:

I'm old fashioned; I still like to use a notebook and pen. It really is a useful tool to have-- especially trying to remember things from year to year. Great hub.

Caren White (author) on January 12, 2014:

Hi Stephanie! So glad you found this useful. Sounds like all you need is a photo or a diagram. A garden journal isn't just words!

Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on January 12, 2014:

I think this is an excellent idea. Every year I run into the same issue of remembering where exactly I planted something new from the previous year or around what time it bloomed. If I just stuck to keeping a brief journal, then I would only need to maintain it after the first year.

Caren White (author) on January 11, 2014:

thanks for reading, Jackie! Email folders are a great idea! I love anything that I can keep on my computer or in the cloud.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 11, 2014:

I use to do this years ago and was thinking this year I need to start up again because I have a batch of fertilizer brewing that is suppose to be fantastic and I want to do some major planting and I am getting terrible remembering where I put what and I like most of what I put down to be perennial so I will know what comes up where the next year too.

I really like email folders to keep info in, they can never get lost. I mean the CIA may wonder what code that is but so what? lol

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