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Garden Journaling

A garden journal is a diary of your growing space; it can be a way for you to hone your gardening skills to better connect with nature. Garden journaling is growing in popularity with seasoned and “budding” gardeners alike, as it is a very useful tool for recording weather conditions, plant observations, pest issues, soil test results, crop rotation and more. Keeping a record of your garden can help give you a sense of accomplishment by tracking your successes.

A garden journal can be as simple as a handwritten spiral notebook or three ring binder; or a digital recording on a computer, tablet or phone app. There are also books specifically designed for garden journaling; some have archival paper that won’t yellow or fade over time or pockets for seeds. It’s all about personal preference. Whether basic or intricate, the most important part of garden journaling is being observant and consistent.

Once you’ve chosen a paper or digital format, take note of the date when you start journaling, and include weather conditions such as high and low temperature and rainfall totals. This recorded information will help you choose the plant varieties, whether heat or cool tolerant, you will need for your garden, and give you a better idea as to when to plant them. Also note planting dates, bloom time and harvest dates. Take notes at the same time each day when recording plant observations to keep your data consistent.

It is often useful to include labeled visual aids in your garden journal. Sketch a map of where your plants are located to keep track of what you have planted from one year to the next, noting which plant varieties were successful and which were not. A map is also beneficial for recording crop rotation in a vegetable garden and determining how much space you will need for future planting. If you feel inclined to do so, in addition to a map, include hand-drawn illustrations of your plants, photos that you’ve taken with your camera or cell phone or imagery from seed packets or catalogs. Some people include pressed flowers from their garden within the pages to not only help remember what they previously planted, but also add a nice decorative element.

It is also recommended to have soil test results recorded in your garden journal. This will help you learn which plants will thrive in your garden, and provide information for adding fertilizer or soil amendments as needed. (If you need to have your soil tested, information on how to do so is online.) Be sure to record the soil amendment brand used, amount applied and when and where you applied it.

Keeping a monthly calendar to track seasonal tasks is another great way to use your garden journal. It will help you prioritize chores, especially during the busiest months of spring and summer. Tasks may include planting, fertilizing, weeding, composting, mulching, deadheading, pest management, harvesting and cleaning tools.

You may also take note of plant health in your garden journal. If there are diseases or pests present, this may also be a time to take pictures. If you can identify but can’t solve a problem, it could be helpful to submit any questions and photos you may have to the Ramsey County Master Gardener Ask a Master Gardener form. Record the answers and recommendations in your journal for future reference. If you are able to solve the problem on your own, recording how you came to the conclusion would be good to refer to later.

As the season develops, taking note of mature plant height and width is often recommended. Growing plants too closely together may cause issues with competition for nutrients, water, and sunlight.

Garden journals are also great for keeping track of any mistakes you’ve made or tips you’ve gathered to avoid future mistakes. It may help you budget expense totals for any future special projects planned for one growing season to the next. However you choose to use your journal, remember to make it your own and have fun with it.

Author: Mindy Johnson



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