Thinking about starting a garden journal? Have a journal that needs a refresh? Struggling with staying motivated? We’ve put together a comprehensive overview of ideas on how to create and keep a garden journal, tools and techniques. We’ve also shared tips for avoiding some of the common pitfalls and procrastination bumps of journal keeping. Plus, we have free printable mix-and-match garden journal pages to help. Yay!
What is a Garden Journal?
A garden journal is a record of information about your garden. There is no right or wrong way to journal. It can whatever you want it to be – a basic record, a quick reminder for upcoming activities, or a detailed fine-tuning tool to help you grow better in your specific garden. Your 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.
Although keeping key records consolidated in a binder or folder can be handy, the journal can actually be a combination different record keeping tools. It all depends on what works best for you. You can use photos, apps, calendars, notebooks, folders, etc. See below for ideas on tools and techniques.
What Type of Information Gets Recorded and Tracked?
Whatever you want to track can be recorded in your journal, but don’t feel like you need to track everything. Depending on what you’re growing and how in depth you’d like to journal, potential content might include:
Garden plant information:
- Garden layout and plant locations
- Plant tag information and/or seed or bulb packet information
- Successful plants and favourite edibles
- Unsuccessful plants (failure, invasive, pest-prone, or other)
- Germination, transplant, bloom, harvest, and/or seed or propagate timelines
- 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
- Maintenance tasks
- Special projects
Garden health information:
- Climate information, such as zone, first and 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
- Wildlife (desirable, undesirable, or other) and any actions to be taken
Garden planning and dreaming:
- Future planning layout grid for sketches
- Favourite plants, variety, and preferred aspect
- Newspaper and magazine clippings
- Info sheets and brochures
- Supplier leaflets and business cards
Determining Your Garden Journal Approach
Why do you want to keep a garden journal?
Are you interested in keeping track of what you’ve planted and how it grows (or doesn’t)? Do you need a hand making sure that you hit the right windows for seasonal planting, pruning, spraying, and other garden tasks? Are you interested in a more mindful connection with your garden? Understanding why you want to journal can help guide what you record, the level of details, and how you do it.
What information (and level of detail) is important to you?
To keep you motivated, focus on what adds value for your awareness or future planning. Records for records sake are just a pain and when journal keeping becomes a pain, you’re less likely to keep it up over time.
What suits your time, commitment, and personal preferences?
What you’d like to record and why, consider what types of journal, records, and tools might best help you track that information in a way that suits the time you’d like to invest, how committed you are to the idea and effort, and your personal style. Customise your journal to work for you, and adapt it if/as needed with time.
Customise Your Journal to Work for You
Individuality is key. I can’t stress enough how important it is to create your garden 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!
Add interest and value. Whatever format or style you choose, if you can keep it personally 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.
Commit. Read to start? Set aside some time in your day, week, or month to keep your records updated. Starting a new routine and establishing habits can be difficult, but the more time that passes the more difficult it will be to catch up on forgotten dates and details or transcribe a backlog of tags and notes.
Grow and adapt. As you settle into journalling, you might find different aspects more enjoyable, certain information more or less valuable, or prefer different tools. Evolve your journal to continue to suit you and your garden.
Garden Journal Tools, Techniques, Templates, and Tips
Garden Journal Books or Worksheets
There are many options, ready made or DIY, for garden journals. From a simple notepad to a specialist garden journal, there are options to suit any style or budget. We have free mix-and match printable garden journal pages if you’d like to make your own.
Although many of us rely on the calendars in our devices these days, paper calendars still seem to creep into our house through magazines and business promos. These make easy jotters for brief diary notes and garden task planning/tracking.
Whiteboards / Dry Erase Boards
It’s not something most of us think about when it comes to garden record keeping, but I have an old dry-erase calendar/note board in my glasshouse (also works for a garden shed, garage, or mudroom). It’s a handy way to make very quick notes, if needed, and can either be transcribed to a journal later or photographed for future reference before being erased.
Mobile Phone Photos (or Cameras)
I use my mobile phone all the time for taking “notes” in the garden. It’s very handy for plant tags and packets. Instead of keeping a giant mess of empty packets and labels shoved into sleeves or in a box, I snap photos and periodically transfer them from my phone to a computer file for ongoing records and reference. Photos are also a great way to track growth and development. If you have a friend with a drone, an aerial photo of your property could be a handy reference, and also a nifty way to see you garden grow and change over time. Maybe someday!
Sketches and Drawings
If you’re intro drawing, sketches can be a beautiful addition to a journal, whether as records or simply just for enjoyment and mindfulness.
Layouts and Diagrams
Although I prefer to sketch my layouts on a computer, graph paper makes a great grid for scale garden drawings. I keep a graph paper pad with my journal folder for ready use.
Binders, Folders, and Sleeves
Consolidate your paper records in a binder or folder. Sleeves or envelopes can be used to group like items or to corral small items like packets and tags. I use a simple elastic-closure folder that has pockets front/back.
Email and Other Computer-Based Records
Your entire journal could be kept as an electronic diary instead of paper notes; however, even if you love paper journals, you could reduce waste and effort by keeping some of your records in a paperless file. I keep a file with my online order receipts, which tracks suppliers, items, costs, and quantities for anything I’ve bought online for the garden. I find this particularly handy for seeds.
Garden Journal Apps
There are apps that can be used to supplement your journal; however, I’ve not personally used any of these to make a recommendation. Check the features carefully as you may need to use a combination of tools to capture the records you want for your garden.
Our Free Mix-and-Match Garden Journal Printables
Our free garden journal printables 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. The freebies also include a variety of plant information templates, from basic to detailed. Many of our readers love these (glad we could help!), but I use a slightly different approach for recording plant information for my own garden, and I’ve shared that at the end of this post.
My Personal Garden Record Keeping Approach
For my own garden records, I keep both a small hardcopy folder and an electronic file. I don’t track anywhere near all of the potential journal information listed above. It’s far too comprehensive and time consuming for my personal journal style (and laziness).
Hardcopy Garden Record Folder
The simple elastic-closure pocket folder folder is home to a small hardcopy file of basic notes and simple layout sketches of the crop planting locations in our edible garden beds to help with tracking and rotation. I also keep little tidbits, like garden calendars and seed catalogues.
Electronic Garden Record Files
I use an electronic file to keep copies of key receipts and invoices. When I started buying seeds online, I began keeping the records electronically instead of transcribing or printing. Very simple and efficient. It also negates the need to keep seed packets. I also keep a variety of photographs filed.
Label and Tag Photographs
My mobile photo has, unexpectedly, become my go-to tool for record keeping. When we were in the early stages of planting the from-scratch garden at the new house, there were so many plant labels that I took photos as a reference to transcribe. Then I decided not to transcribe at all! Instead, I created a folder where I keep the reference photos, including description and growing guides if on the tag.
Garden photos of various sorts are incredibly useful to me, both for tracking and for personal interest. Photos are a great way to track growth and development over time, seasonal changes, proud harvests, and more. I also find photos handy for monitoring plant health over time and inspecting for issues. Macro photos are particularly helpful in checking for and identifying small pests. Plus, when my brain or records fail, they can be used to identify insects or plants using an image look-up tool online.