Garden journals help with building creativity

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 | 12:07 p.m. CDT; updated 5:53 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Do you keep a garden journal? Lots of people garden by trial and error, and one way to take the guesswork out of gardening is to keep a journal. With spring coming on, it is the perfect time to start. Keeping a journal will help you understand what kind of gardener you really want to be.

An important thing to do when planning your garden is to figure out what you want out of it. Some questions to ask yourself are: Do you want fresh vegetables? Do you want your yard filled with seasonal flowers? Where will you put all you want to grow? Is there a new plant you’d like to try? Do you want to start your plants from seeds? Do you have time to take care of all of the plants you want to grow?

Once you decide what kind of a garden you want and have purchased the necessary seeds or plants, then you can record that information in your journal and keep track of how well each plant does in the spot you placed it in. This is helpful because if you forget what and where you planted something, the journal is a helpful reminder. It is also useful if you find out the plant doesn’t like where you planted it, and you can make a note not to plant it there again.

A journal will help with crop rotation, changing the types of vegetables and flowers that are planted each year. Rotation discourages soil nutrient depletion, pest outbreaks and soil-borne diseases. By recording each year’s seasonal happenings, such as precipitation patterns, odd weather, the date the first crocus blooms and the first frost, etc., you can compare different years and see what performs best and when.

A journal is also a good place to keep track of the amount of money you spend on seeds, plants, garden tools and fertilizer. Your journal will also help in creating a chores calendar because you can see how long it took to complete each step of growing and maintaining your garden.

A garden journal is also a good tool to use in planning next year’s garden. During the growing season, write down what you like, what’s not working, what needs to be removed. Does the strawberry bed need to be moved? Are the perennials getting too big and need to be divided? Maybe you’ve seen plants at friends’ houses or around town that you’d like to try next year. All through the growing season, keep your eyes open for new ideas and write them down. In this aspect, a garden journal is a good place to dream. Find pictures of the plants you’d like to try and put them in your journal.

As the gardening season winds down, note the temperature changes and the first frost date. During winter, it may seem there is no gardening going on but that’s not really so. Winter conditions affect the following growing season. Journal all season about the temperature highs and lows, sun, rain, snow and wind. Make notes about any compost pile you started or moved.

A garden journal is also a nice way of remembering a plant that a child or a friend gave you and where you planted it. You can also record any plants you plant in memory of someone or of a beloved pet. A garden journal is not just a record of what plants worked or didn’t, it can be a type of diary and an expression of your creative spirit for both children and adults.

Barbara Michael has been a Master Gardener since 1993, and she serve as the Master Gardener’s liaison to the Community Garden Coalition as well as serving on its board. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at

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