Keeping a garden journal is one of your most important garden tools. You’ll learn about your soil, your micro climates, which plants thrive and which plants don’t. Most of all, it will keep you from repeating mistakes.
For years, I was the kind of gardener who didn’t keep a garden journal – I simply planted things and did my best to remember locations and conditions. My results were fine, but there were times when I unintentionally dug up bulbs and lost track of where I had applied compost and manure to the garden beds. As my garden grew, there was more to remember and more to forget.
The first year I lived in my current home, I grew the most unbelievable sweet corn – I had so much of it that my family couldn’t eat it all and I ended up giving half of it away. I enjoyed giving the extra corn to my friends, but unfortunately, I didn’t make a note of the specific seed I used and have been on a search for those same results ever since. That corn was so good it was ridiculous.
I also lost track of where I moved my daffodil bulbs when I renovated the garden. We were working so fast that they got scattered all over the garden and until they bloomed the following year, their location was a mystery. Unfortunately, I planted other bulbs too close to the dormant daffodils and things became a bit of a mess the following spring with lots of transplanting required.
Seeing The Light
I decided to take the advice of gardeners more experienced than I and started to keep a garden journal. I have seen the light, my friends.
Reading through my 2009 journal today, it was fascinating to see how my plans evolved throughout the spring and summer and how many details were in the journal which I would have otherwise forgotten. I also used it for ideas for future designs, sketches and plantings as they occurred to me, ideas which I’m sure would have been forgotten.
A garden journal is excellent for making note of which types of vegetable seeds you’re planting (their technical or patent names), so if you have spectacular success, you’ll know which seed and company produced it. This is especially handy when dealing with a plant like sweet corn which has literally thousands of varieties.
What I learned from my garden journal this year
- I started my pepper seeds too late (indoors).
- The specific type of creeping thyme I planted (coccineus and pink chintz). This will help when I add to those plantings next year.
- I planted periwinkle I picked up at a spring nursery sale and totally forgot about. I planted it by my Quince tree on May 13 and weeds in this little-tended part of my garden overtook it.
- The corn seed I used this year was Burpee’s Super Sweet “Sweet Perfection Hybrid”. Results were okay, but not outstanding, so I’ll use a different seed next year and compare the results.
- The beans I planted (Burpee’s Bush Snap “Greencrop”) produced magnificently and I’ll use this seed again next year.
- The date the rabbits decimated every pepper plant and spinach leaf (June 10)
- Dates I applied compost tea to plants (6/6 and 7/5) and the results which followed (clearly perked them up)
- The dates I planted each phase of Daikon Radishes for winter cover crops.
The most important things to keep track of in your garden journal
- Type of seeds/bulbs/annuals, including technical names of the plants as listed on their tag, bag or seed packet.
- Where exactly everything is planted
- Germination rate of vegetable seeds (how many days until the first leaves appeared/how many of the seeds produced crop)
- Quality of the fruit or vegetable
- Significant weather events
- Soil test results
- Were the fruits or vegetables ready on the scheduled harvest dates as listed on the seed packet? If not, by how many days were they off? Best guess as to why?
- Ideas for changes in your designs for the following year.
- Dates of applications for organic controls of pests and diseases. Were they successful?
Every time you do anything significant in your garden, anytime the weather does something significant, anytime your plants show a significant change (improvement, growth, lack of growth, disease, infestation, etc), record it in your garden journal, because it will be an important reference source for the following year and years to come.