I must say that until this year I didn’t even consider a garden journal. I mean when I’m out there I’m just trying to grow stuff! But this year my garden has taught me that in order to do better next year I must keep track of what happened this year. So I pulled out my trusty bullet journal and started to turn it into my garden journal.
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Below are seven bang-up reasons you should start your garden journal today. It really doesn’t matter what time of year it is as you can still tackle at least one of these right now! So what are you waiting for? Let’s take a look at my 7 reasons and then you can be the judge.
1. Track plant information
A garden journal is a great place to keep track of what you grew in the current season and all the relevant information that goes along with it. Some of the things I like to track are noted below. I’m sure there are others I may have missed, leave me a comment if you think of any that I didn’t mention. Then I can update my garden journal as well!
- What variety did you grow (include the scientific name if you want to be fancy)
- Would you grow it again next year?
- Soil requirements
- Square foot gardening requirements
- Companion planting information
- Do seeds need to be saved this year?
- Was it subject to any diseases?
- Was it subject to any pests?
- Does it require crop rotation?
- Succession planting requirements
- Anything you would do differently next year?
2. Start a seed inventory
If you’re anything like me then you have seeds, like lots of seeds. Keeping track of them all can be a task. Plus, there is nothing worse than opening a seed package when you are starting your seedlings and finding it almost empty. A seed inventory is also a great way to keep track of when your seeds expire. Along with how many you have or if you need to save seeds this year. It also prevents you from ordering seeds you already have. Well ok, only if you remember to check it before you order of course. I myself have been known to get a little seed happy and order things I didn’t need.
It also comes in very handy if you are part of a seed exchange group. You are part of a seed exchange group, right? If you’re not currently part of one then here are 5 reasons you need to join a seed exchange. Honestly, not having to buy seeds or seriously reducing the amount you need to buy is pure awesomeness! I love trading a few seeds for something I don’t have yet. Then being able to plant them and turn those few seeds into an abundance by saving seeds from them at the end of the season. I won’t subject you to me singling the Circle of Life from the Lion King…but you get my point.
3. Track Important Gardening Dates
There are three main important garden dates that come to mind, for me at least. They are as follows:
- When the plant your seeds
- When to harden off your seedlings
- When to harvest your bounty
Get any one of these wrong or god forbid all of them and your dreams of harvesting copious amounts of food can be easily dashed. So you can keep track of all these dates in your garden journal. Another alternative is my free garden date tracker which you can get by clicking on the button below. It has all the data points you will need to stay on top of those important dates. You will need to know your last frost date, days to maturity and what you plan to grow.
4. Track Yields
Gardening for fun and gardening to grow your own food do have overlaps but they also differ in how you should approach them. Up until this year, I was gardening more for fun, with the side benefit of also growing some food. But from this year forward I am looking to grow enough food to feed my family. I hope to only go to the grocery store for items that I can not grow. That said I am currently attempting to grow a mango tree from seed, so the sky is the limit.
So in order to grow enough food for my family, I need to keep track of yields. That way I can grow tomato plants that provide the most tomatoes. That means more salsa, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes for my pantry. So with this in mind, I weigh all the tomatoes, potatoes, beans, onions etc that come out of my garden. I note it all down in my garden journal and then at the end of the season I can make some decisions. Now just because something had a lower yield does not mean I won’t grow it again, there are more factors that need to be considered. But it is something to consider when making decisions for next year.
5. Track plant diseases and issues
In my garden this year I had more blossom end rot on my tomatoes than I have ever had before. My tomatoes also had some leaf curl that I never did find the root cause of. Then there was an unfortunate bout of powdery mildew on my squash. Noting down in your garden journal what varieties were impacted by what diseases and issues can help in two ways. One, it helps you to get to know what diseases/issues can be expected in your area/garden. Two, knowing what varieties are prone to disease can help direct what you plant in your garden next year.
Knowledge is power, so once you have that you can make better choices for your garden. As a micro homesteader, my goal is to grow food to feed my family and reduce my trips to the grocery store. So knowing what varieties are prone to more diseases/issues is important so they can be avoided and ensure a bountiful harvest.
6. Plan your garden layout
As I mentioned I use a bullet journal for my garden journal. I love doing this because it has dotted pages that are just perfect for planning out a garden. It is especially useful if you use square foot gardening, as I do, and you really should cause its a game-changer for gardening in small spaces. If you are curious about it I have a post just that very topic called The Beginners guide to square foot gardening. Anyway, dotted pages make planning a square foot garden way easier! It’s just a matter of connecting the dots.
7. Track garden pests
It can be hard to remember to track garden pests when you are up to your eyeballs in say Japanese beetles but it is important. If you want to know more about common garden pests and how to deal with them then this is the post for you. In my garden this year I have battled with leaf miners, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, three-lined potato beetles and a bunny. A garden journal is great for tracking what pests are in your garden as well as what plants they are attacking. When did you first notice the pests? When did they disappear? How much damage did they do? What mitigation tactics worked and what ones didn’t. The additional benefit is if you keep your garden journal going year over year you can see trends.
So there you have it, 7 reasons why having a garden journal is a powerful tool in your gardening arsenal. It becomes the repository of all your gardening knowledge and experience. And with that my friends you have power, the power to make good gardening decisions. So there really isn’t a better time to start your own gardening journal (I mean unless you had already started which would obviously be better).
Do you have a garden journal? What do you keep track of in your own one? Let me know in the comments!