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Monday, February 19, 2018

Ideas for Creating and Keeping a Garden Journal (Plus New Freebies!)

As promised!  We've updated our free mix-and-match garden journal printables to include a wider variety of different options for planning and tracking your plantings and garden tasks, and we've put together a comprehensive overview of ideas on creating a garden journal, examples with our worksheets, and tips for avoiding some of the common pitfalls and procrastination bumps of journal keeping.

A garden journal can be whatever you want it to be - a basic record, a quick reminder for upcoming activities, or a detailed fine-tuning tool to help you customise what works/doesn't and how to grow better in your specific garden.   A garden journal can be as simple as some sketches and notes on what you are growing and where, or as comprehensive as a full file of your landscape plans, plantings, harvests, weather, pests, soil conditions, and more.

For my own journal, I try to keep a simple binder with basic notes on what I plan and like/dislike for better future garden planning and growing. It's a basic hardcopy file (I currently use a pocket folder) of notes, sketches, and little tidbits like packets, labels, garden calendars, and guides, all supplemented with mobile phone photos. Simple and effective! 

Depending on what you're growing and how in depth you'd like to journal, ideas include:

Garden plant information:
  • Garden layout and plant locations
  • Plant tag information and/or seed/bulb packet information
  • Successful plants and favourite edibles
  • Unsuccessful plants (failure, invasive, pest-prone, or other)
  • Germination, transplant, bloom, harvest, and/or seed/propagate timelines (with planned vs. actual)
  • Care, feeding, treatment, and/or pruning timelines
  • Pests, diseases, prevention, treatments, and timelines
  • Suppliers and expenses
  • Harvest yields and value
  • Photos, pressings, or sketches
Garden task information:
  • Planting, sowing, and transplanting 
  • Crop harvest and seed collection
  • Propagation schedule (lifting, division, cuttings, etc.)
  • Preventative spraying and treatment plans
  • Feeding and amendment plans
  • Deadheading and pruning requirements
  • Staking and training requirements
  • Netting requirements
  • Mulching
  • Repotting
  • Maintenance tasks 
  • Special projects
Garden health information:
  • Location specific climate information, such as local zone, actual first/last frost, unusual conditions, etc.
  • Crop rotations
  • Soil condition, issues, amendments, and treatments
  • Pest and disease issues, prevention, and treatments
  • Rainfall and supplemental watering requirements
  • Active wildlife (desirable, undesirable, or other) and any actions to be taken
Garden planning and dreaming:
  • Future planning layout grid/sketches
  • Favourite plants, variety, and preferred aspect
  • Newspaper and magazine clippings
  • Info sheets and brochures
  • Supplier leaflets and business cards

I don't track anywhere near all of this info.  It's far too comprehensive and time consuming for my personal journal style (and laziness). Don't feel like you need to track everything. Records for records sake are just a pain and when journaling becomes a pain, you're less likely to keep it up over time. Stick with what you want to track. 

Planning your garden to-do list can happen at whatever level of depth and timeline best suits you, so personalise your journal.  You can use electronic calendars, apps,  notes on traditional paper calendars, or specific journal pages.  As a general rule of thumb, only plan to the degree of detail where you feel it's adding value as opposed just creating extra record keeping work.  If you're keen to create your own journal, our freebies include a whole range of different summary, calendar, and planning templates from yearly to season to monthly down to the nitty gritty of specific tasks.

Recording your garden plant information can happen in a variety of ways, and you might find it helpful to combine a few depending on your journal style and approach.  The record keeping trap that I fall into ALL the time is failing to keep the details of exactly what is  planted and where. Sure, I know generally, but that isn't going to help me when I want to buy another of the same peach tree for the new house, replant the interesting upright zucchini that grew perfectly in our space and conditions, or make sure I never again buy the total flops.  To help avoid this, I use my mobile phone to snap photos of seed packets and plant labels until I get around (lazy journal habits once again) to writing out my notes. Keeping track of specific plant names and sources can save a lot of money and frustration in future planting cycles.

Over the years, we've had reader requests for more detailed planning sheets to help keep track of specific tasks, annual timelines, and other speciality trackers.  Detailed task planners can be use to compliment the simpler to-do lists for specific activities or you might prefer to just keep a detailed eye on a few special tasks than create a to-do list for general garden activities by the month or season.  Again, it's all about individual preferences and value add.  When we created these new additions to our free garden journal pages, we specifically tried to do so with flexibility for recording and user options on how they choose to fill in the sheets.

Individuality is key. I can't stress enough how important it is to create your journal in a way that works well for you and goes to a depth that suits your needs. Be it a few notes on a calendar, a speciality app, a lovely bound journal, a binder of worksheets, a file of notes and paraphernalia, or other, if it works for you it works!  Whatever format or style you choose, if you keep it fun and interesting you're more likely to keep it up in the long term.  Only take things to a depth where they add value to you and your garden aspirations, not just create a record keeping burden.

What are your top tips for keeping a garden journal? Favourite resources?  Go-to tools? Helpful tips? Goals and ambitions for future journalling? Success stories? Tales of woe?  Leave us a comment. :) We'd love to hear your stories and ideas. If you have your own blog/website or a favourite read you'd like to share and would like to leave a live link in the comments, just use the following format as a guide: <a href="">text you want shown for your link</a>

Wish that something was added to the coordinating garden journal printable pack?  Leave me a comment and I will see what I can do. :) Don't be shy - if you want it, there are probably others who do as well, and I might find it handy for my journal too!  

I openly confess that I haven't been stellar about keeping my records up-to-date, and that's led to my losing track of some important information and missing some opportunities in the garden. Making the format work better for me has been part of the freebie revamp. I'm starting to record more, getting great results from my mobile phone cheat (noted above) I'm going to start incorporating more visual elements in my journal, since that's something I really enjoy and find useful.  Some mindfulness sketching and colouring might help keep me a little more motivated to keep my records up-to-date.  


  1. Thank you for all the printables and especially for the examples of using the pages. It was hard to read them on my screen but much better when I clicked open the picture to see large. Thanks!

    1. You've very welcome. Sorry about the tiny text on some of the examples with the way our post pictures format width/height wise, but yes it should be easier to see if you open the images. :) If you have any questions, just leave a comment ro send a message and I'll try to help.


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