Make a Note of It

On May 20th, 2012, we ate our first homegrown lettuce of the season. In 2014, I harvested 44 pounds of tomatoes, 21 pounds of potatoes, and 20 pounds of beans. In April 2016, I planted twelve blueberry bushes in seven varieties. In 2021, we had seven inches of rain in one week at the end of May and harvested over 40 pounds of blueberries by the end of the season. And this year, the tulips bloomed over a week earlier than last year. So how do I remember all of this? Do I have an incredible memory that should place me in the Guinness Book of World Records? No, my memory is not incredible, but my garden journals are! I’ve been keeping a garden journal for over ten years and don’t know what I’d do without it.

Harvest Dates Are Kept in My Garden Journal
As Well as the Dates That Plants Were Purchased
I Also Make Note of Harvest Totals

Whether you use a paper notebook, a digital graph or spreadsheet, a binder, or a phone, keeping notes about your garden is essential. Over the years, as I’ve evolved from gardener to farmer, my journals have evolved as well. A few pages in a spiral notebook at the beginning of my gardening journey have now expanded into a yearly two-inch binder with hundreds of field notes. Of course, gardeners can keep it as simple or detailed as they want, but a few key elements should be included to make the most of your journal.

My Binder of 2022 Field Notes

Here is a list of items you may want to keep track of each growing season:

Garden Goals:  Jot down what you want to accomplish this season and whether you want to learn or try something new. Do you aim to produce a certain number of tomatoes so that you can make sauce? Make a note of it in your journal. Creating goals is a fun way to start each growing season, and at the end of the season, it is exciting to see what you’ve accomplished.

Site Characteristics: A garden journal is a great place to make notes about your garden site. Which areas have full or partial sun? Are there wet and dry areas? Note the location of the hardscape, buildings, large trees, etc.  What is the composition of your soil? Include any soil test results, amendments added and what they were, the source, and the amount.

Garden Plans:  If you’ve made and used any bed map or plan, include these in your journal. This is especially helpful for planning crop rotation and remembering plant names and where they’re located.

Bed Plans and Maps Are Kept in My Garden Journal

Weather: Note rainfall amounts, temperature, and frost dates to record how they affect the plants.

Rainfall Amounts and Other Weather Patterns Are Noted in My Journal

Plant profiles:  Keep track of your plants’ scientific and common names. Write down where and when the plant was purchased, when it was planted, and essential information such as mature height, fertility or environmental needs, and observations. Record when you pruned or fertilized and take photographs of the plants throughout the season. Record harvest dates, yield, and disease resistance. And don’t forget to add seed starting dates, transplant dates, and seed-saving notes.

Seed Starting Dates Are Helpful Information to Keep In Your Journal

Insects/Disease:  Record pest infestations or diseases, when they occurred, their control methods, and the results. Note the location, especially those requiring rotation the following season, like tomato blight.

Projects:  Record your garden project start and end dates, supply list, sources, and expenses. This will help you in the future if you need to find replacements.

Expenses: This is tough because we may not want to know how much we spend on our garden. But recording garden expenses and information such as price, quantity, source, and quality can help with future purchases.

Garden Tasks:  Record tasks such as when you thinned plants, added row cover, and fertilized. Note whether doing the job at that time was effective.

Making Note of When You Covered Plants Is Helpful for Future Seasons

Failures:  Don’t be afraid to record failures. Every gardener has them, and they are how we learn. Write down the circumstances and note what worked and didn’t for the future.

Questions:  Have a special section to jot down questions that arise, and remember to research the answers later.

New Plants Wishlist: Add a section to jot down varieties you’d like to try the following season. Then, use this list when ordering seeds or plants.

Now that you’ve kept track of all these items, how do you use what you’ve recorded? This seasonal garden information will guide you in making future decisions about such things as plants, pests, & design. Use your journal to:

  • Make seasonal chore lists based on when you did chores and when they were successful.
  • Use recorded bloom time information to ensure you have something blooming all season long and fill in the gaps if needed.
  • Look at when pest pressure occurred so that you can add prevention before they arrive.
  • Plan crop rotation.
  • Seed ordering: know which varieties were successful in your garden and which ones to avoid.
  • Fertilization schedule: when to add soil amendments and fertilization.
  • Look back and see all that you’ve accomplished over the years!
I Love to Look Back at All That I’ve Accomplished in the Garden Over the Years

Garden journals are an essential tool in the gardener’s tool belt. I would even say they are just as important as garden gloves and trowels, perhaps even more so. Not only is it enjoyable to look back at your garden journey throughout the years, but the information in your journals can help you succeed in years to come. So, if you haven’t started garden journaling yet, I highly recommend you try it. Start by setting your garden goals for the season and go from there. So, happy journaling, and remember, Thistle Be the Day!

4 Replies to “Make a Note of It”

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