Kevin Fogle
February 2, 2015

Start a Garden Journal

Winter is the perfect time of year to review the previous year’s garden journal to help plan for the upcoming growing season. Flipping back through the dirt-stained pages, you can easily find when you planted your spinach the previous year and which of the tomato cultivars did the best. Keeping good garden records can help make you a better gardener, too, helping you learn from your past successes and failures.

What to Record

A garden journal can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. Think about doing a short daily entry during the growing season giving a general description about what’s happening in your garden. Some of the basic information to record includes:

  • weather conditions, including the high and low temperatures for the day
  • seeds or starts you purchased, noting the exact varieties and where you purchased them, especially if they’re unusual cultivars
  • how crops are started (sowed directly from seed, seeds started inside or from purchased starts) and the date they’re planted in the garden
  • where crops were planted—a simple sketched map can be helpful
  • when the harvest began and ended

Some gardeners take it to the next level, recording every detail of their gardening lives:

  • rainfall amounts and how often crops need watering
  • timing and size of fertilizer applications or other soil amendments
  • when each plant began to flower and set fruit
  • average size of each harvest
  • tasting notes for various cultivars
  • types and timing of insect attacks, along with treatment for them, including application date and success of treatments
  • discussion of plant diseases encountered and any attempted treatments

Find the Perfect Journal

You can find a plethora of commercial notebooks designed especially for garden journaling at your local nursery center, a bookstore or online retailers. However, you certainly don’t need to buy a commercial product. Many folks make due with a small, ring-bound notepads or use a repurposed diary. For this year’s garden journal, I’m planning to repurpose one of the many personal journals sitting around my office gathering dust that I seem have accumulated over the years. Every one of these old journals is virtually 95-perfect blank with a few random entries in the front of the book. While I prefer pen and paper, there are also software options aimed at gardeners that will let you track your garden data on your tablet or home computer. No matter how or where you keep track of your garden observations, even the most basic notes will allow you improve your harvests year after year.

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