27 September, 2008

Garden Journals

All our attempts at gardening are more or less experiments and there is no book written on gardening that will prove more helpful to you than the one you write about your own garden. Gardening, I heard said, teaches one to think ahead a few months in meal planning – I would reflect that in some ways, if you buy that statement, that gardening even would push someone to plan ahead in terms of years about what’s eventually for dinner.

There are more ways to keep a garden journal now days than there are varieties of apples to grow.

Everyone’s journal should be as different as gardens are different and that’s part of the wonder of gardening. And garden journaling.

Some possible choices for a garden journal:

An internet based format
A computer based format
Or a good old fashioned ‘write with a pencil and glue in photos from a camera’ kind

An Internet Based Garden Journal

One site is actually called “The Garden Journals” – at http://thegardenjournals.org/. They provide nothing more than a blog kind of template that you can use to record your garden’s progress online.

Or you can just create a blog with any one of over a dozen sites that host blogs. Just so we are on the same page a blog is only a log of your thoughts or observations and can be on any subject your heart desires. They couldn’t call it a “log” as that word already had a specific meaning, so the ‘b’ was pulled off the word “web” and appended to “log” and that’s how we are all talking about ‘blogs.’

Blogspot, of course, hosts this blog at http://lagarden.blogspot.com/, but there are many others one can use. Blogspot has the most robust tool kit and easy to use interface – that’s why I use it.

I also use the Kitchen Gardeners’ International site; and this has place for your observations too. The Learning Garden’s space is http://my.kitchengardeners.org/profile/TheLearningGarden – and, though it’s not, it could be used as a blog/journal for gardening information.

If that seems a little too much information to share to the world at large, there are other ways to create a garden journal that is useful to you.

A Computer Based Garden Journal
As in all categories, there is a lot of variety in how one can use a computer to construct a garden journal.

Unlike the internet based journal, this one is more private and you have a variety of tools to make this a viable journal.

I like a computer based journal, I use a Word document, because I can paste digital photos; I can include web links and make tables and import data and charts from Excel. If I choose. Typically most of my journal is text because I am a writer and that’s what works for me.

Others who are much more detail oriented will find Excel, brimming over with pinpoint control in every cell, fills the bill. That’s just too much work for me. If you use Word 2000 or later, the link below lists a lot of templates you can use to create your journal in Word.


Some overtly techie gardeners have used software available for the Palm computer platform.

The Hand Written Journal

The advantage of using a hand written journal is that it can be taken into the garden easily without fear of expensive computer parts being destroyed. It isn’t ‘nice’ to get water all over your garden journal, but computers are positively allergic to dirt and water and expensive to repair or replace – and a hassle if anything goes wrong.

I have used three ring binders, spiral bound notebooks and special little notebooks that are very artsy-craftsy. The latter can be very fun, but aggravating to use over the long haul because they tend to be smaller and, while artistic, about as practical as storing charcoal briquettes in the freezer.

With the three ring binder, I had several different tabbed sections; one was devoted to seed starting, anther to suppliers. But the bulk of it was composed of tabs by month in which, I made entries (nothing like daily, but that was the goal) in what was happening today in the garden.

In those leisurely days, I cut out the “Local Weather” column from the LA Times – there was the minimum/maximum temperatures, as well as the forecast for the immediate future. Next to that pasted in information, I wrote my observations. Also pasted in were the plant tags for plants I had bought (the descriptive sales tool tag with all the information about that variety) and, every so often, the pilfered tags of plants I intended to buy.

The Homestead Garden website offers a free download journal template in the Portable Document Format (PDF), which you cannot change, but you can print out and create your own garden journal. Once you have downloaded the file, you can print off multiple copies of the pages you need the most. In fact their list of pages provides a wonderful glimpse of what one can put in a garden journal, as follows:

 Seed Starting Journal
Dates, days to germination, varieties, quantity, seed packets’ information, planting mix used… started indoors or direct sown?
 Catalog Wishlist
Not only for seeds and plants, but also tools!
 Monthly Journal
Which presumably would be a monthly collection of “Daily Journal” entries?
 Plant Description Journal
Divided into “Plants I Want” and “Plants I Have” – most useful to ornamental gardens
 Printable Garden Sayings
As opposed to “unprintable garden sayings?”
 Daily Journal
 Layout and Design
Every garden journal needs some place for even rudimentary drawings
 Plant Information
This would be a helpful division for information on trees or perennials.
 Garden Contacts
Specialists you might need (tree pruners, specialty growers) – your fellow classmates? Garden clubs nearby – other resources…
 Future Reference
 What's Blooming
Wouldn’t this be a part of the daily journal entries?
 Garden Chore List
Likewise this… Besides, I always thought making a chore list was such a chore… I mean, I do make a ‘chore list’ but I refuse to call it a chore list.
 Wildlife Sightings
Many gardeners get into birding – I look for smaller ‘wildlife’ – like cabbage looper, Lady Bugs and so on… Ma Possum making her “run” through the garden…
 Garden Reference List
Whatever you like to refer to…

Here is the link to that download:

Other pages they don’t include that I would include:
Books – to read and have been read
Magazines – those that are helpful
Grafting – what I used and what was successful and what was not
Cuttings – as with seeds, this is one way to get a LOT of plants
Harvest report – amount harvested, was it tasty? Different parts of the garden vs. other parts; different years production
Recipes of what to do with the harvest
Insect control – dates and weather information of infestations; observations on beneficial insects in the garden

Garden journals of the artistic often include drawings of wildlife in the garden as well as plants or layouts. For myself, I am grateful for the advent of digital photography which affords me a wonderful tool to circumvent my lack of drawing talent. Alison Starcher turned her drawings of insects she found in her Santa Monica garden into a book – a lovely little book too on beneficials we find growing in the Los Angeles basin.

But all the pages in the world do nothing if you find it too cumbersome to use. Go with as much control as you can deal with combined with the amount of data you find most compelling and you’ll begin to suss through the myriad of choices to arrive at Your Garden Journal.


1 comment:

  1. Hey David...just saw your post leading to your Blog...I enjoyed reading it and getting ideas on the journalling. I have a blog you can check too. It's www.kirbyplant.blogspot.com

    Oh, by the way...I'll pull for the LA Dodgers too, because...they started in Brooklyn and Manny Ramirez plays for them. Believe it or not, Manny played for a little league team that used the same field in Brooklyn as my son. He used to come all the way form the Bronx to Brooklyn to play for YOuth Service league, probably the best team in NYC. I like Joe Torre too...another Brooklyn connection. Hope all is well with you. Ellen Kirby