An important part of gardening is keeping track of what has happened in your garden from year to year. A garden journal is a perfect place to keep things organized.
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For years I read about keeping a garden journal, but I’ve always been really proud of my memory and was determined that I didn’t need one. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed I just don’t remember the details anymore. Sometimes I’m not even sure what and where I planted seeds! So a few years back I decided I had better keep track of what I was doing. I wish I’d started years ago! My garden journal has become a great resource for me each year.
What is a Garden Journal?
A garden journal is somewhere for you to record information about the crops you are growing. It is also a great place to keep track of notes and handouts from various gardening classes. I keep my garden journal in a three-ring binder with dividers for each section. My garden journal is nothing fancy, just a place for me to keep things.
My garden journal is divided into 7 main sections. The first 4 sections are: current-year crop records, past-year records, crop rotation maps, and seed-starting records. The last 3 sections are cold frame notes, class notes/handouts, and a section for garden goals.
Current Year Crop Record
This section of my garden journal is where I keep track of what’s going on this year. Included on the first page is somewhere for me to keep notes of the big weather events. I always keep track of my last spring frost and my first fall frost. Also, I like to keep track of snow and really hard freezes. I usually, try to do a wrap-up of the year on this page as well. An important part of all this weather stuff is knowing what garden zone you live in. If you would like to find out more about garden zones check out this post!
Also included in this section of my garden journal is my planting record. Here I keep track of everything that gets planted out in the garden. I keep track of plant varieties, when & where they were planted, how much I planted and when the plants germinated if planted by seed. I also have a section where I keep track of the harvest. I’m interested in knowing when I harvested the first produce from the planting. I also have a section for notes about the variety and what I thought about this year’s performance.
Past Year Records
I hang on to all past years planting information in my garden journal so that I can use those notes as a reference for the current year. I’m amazed at how often I refer back to my past year’s notes. It’s always great to be able to see how things did last year or the year before!! This is why it is important to keep some detailed notes. You will refer back to your past year’s notes a lot, so be sure to hang on to them for at least 7 to 10 years.
In this section of my garden journal, I have some simple hand-drawn maps of all areas of my garden. This helps me keep track of where things were planted. I try really hard to move things around and not plant for too many years in the same spot. Having these maps has really helped me when I’m planning the current year’s garden. Often the years kind of blend together, the maps help me keep it all straight! Learn more about crop rotation in this post.
Seed Starting Logs
An important part of my garden journal is my seed starting log. I try to grow most of my own seedlings and I have found my seed starting log really helps me keep track of things. It helps me plan my planting dates and helps me remember how things have performed in the past. It also helps me remember when I put seedlings out in the garden. I can compare this information to my planting journal and adjust my starting dates based on how last year’s seedlings produced.
Extra Sections for Your Garden Journal
The first four sections listed above are must-haves for your journal. I have 3 other sections that I use most years to help me keep track of some very specific things in my backyard garden.
Cold Frame Notes
We have 3 garden cold frames that we use most years from October until April. We have had a lot of great success growing in cold frames and have done a lot of experimenting over the years. I try to keep a lot of notes on what happens in our cold frames each year.
The more seasons I grow in cold frames the more valuable these notes become. We are up to 10 seasons now of gardening in these cold frames. I keep a pretty good record of what’s happening in the cold frame and when. This helps me remember what I have done in the past that failed and succeeded. My journal has really helped me with my Year-Round Gardening efforts.
What gardener doesn’t love learning new information? Over the years I have gone to a lot of gardening classes. I keep all of the notes and handouts all together in this section of my garden journal so I know where they are when I need them.
I also have a section in my garden journal where I set a plan for next year’s garden. This usually gets done towards the end of the year when I have a little downtime over the holidays. I like to make a list of all the crops I plan on growing in the upcoming season. This list helps me later when I’m buying seeds and mapping out where everything in the garden is going to be planted.
My garden journal has really become an important tool in helping me be a successful gardener. If you don’t already have a garden journal I would suggest you pick something up and start keeping track of your garden!!