Reflecting on the Value of Garden Photos and Records

Muddy black gumboots
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It’s officially been a year since we arrived at our new home. Where does the time go? So much has changed, and yet there’s still so much to do. The value of taking photos of the garden over time really shines through when reflecting. Even the mucky or then mundane can turn out to be special in hindsight. I’m glad to have these little reminders captured in photos along the way.

Reflecting on Our First Year in the New Garden

Our first year has been a big one. From the sad soggy mess of a mud garden to the excitement of seeing my long wished for glasshouse going up, the joy of shopping for sooooo many new plants to the sadness of sitting on the lawn with our ailing senior cat Tiger to give him some happy outdoor time in his final days, it’s been a year of highs, lows, and in-betweens in the garden.

In the midst of the chaos, hard work, and many changes over the past year it’s sometimes hard to see the evolution from house to settled home or bare dirt to growing garden. When I feel frustrated with my unfinished to-do lists, it helps to look back through photos and see just how much progress we’ve made. I wanted to share this post for others that might benefit from the same. Give your future self a gift and take more photos. Don’t underestimate the value of being able to click/swipe through the past to present, and feel a little more excited about the future. 

Collage over time from muddy soil to lush green grass
Collage over time building and using a glasshouse

Photographing Your Garden (and More!)

If you don’t already keep photo records of your garden (short or long term), it would be my top recommendation. Give it a try – it costs nothing but time and a little battery power.  Nothing fancy is required for taking garden photos (unless, like me, you also love photography for the joy of it). Many of my garden work and progress photos are simple iPhone snaps. Easy to have on hand for a quick snap and safer too, especially in messy or wet situations. 

Using Photos to Track Garden Changes Over Time

Photos can create a visual journal of the development, growth, and evolution of your garden. As noted above, it’s incredibly rewarding and motivating to see photos from then vs. now, and different stages of (very hard work) in between. 
 
Take photos not only as a basic before-and-after, but the whole way through. Good, bad, ugly, mucky, messy, successes, fails, laughter, and tears. They’re all part of your future “remember when…” Gardens are ever changing, even just with the passage of time, so take a few snaps whenever the mood strikes, not just during major projects.
 

Don’t forget to be in a few of those photos yourself – mucky garden gear and all! As someone who is usually behind the camera, I’ve been consciously trying to be in a few more photos. I wish I had more with Tiger and I before he passed away, and have been making the extra effort with our pets and people since. 

Cat sitting on windowsill looking at new muddy garden

Using Photos for Quick Records and References

On a smaller scale, photos can be used to track individual plant growth and development, with or without additional journalling.  If needed, you can also take advantage of the embedded metadata in your digital photos to cross check dates on planting, blossoming, fruiting, or other key stages.

My mobile phone is one of my garden record keeping go-to tools. I find quick photos extremely helpful for keeping track of plant tag information until if/when I get around to properly filing tags or filling in my garden journal records. A quick photo of the tag on my phone, no scrawled notes required. Perfect!

Using mobile phone photos to supplement garden journal records

Using Photos for Garden Health Monitoring

I also use photos for growth monitoring, health check comparisons, and as a reference for looking up information, such as leaf discolouration, issues, identification of insects, etc. You can use it as a visual reference for your own research, pop the image into a reverse photo-look-up, consult a forum, show it to a gardening friend, or ask for advice from a helpful staffer at your favourite garden supply store. 

If you have a zoom or a macro, it can also give you a magnified image if checking for small pests, like mites on the underside of leaves. This can be much handier than a traditional magnifier, especially in the sizzling sunshine. Plus you have all the benefits of a reference for research or asking for help without bringing along an actual sample leaf,  branch, or bug.

Small black bug on a flower bud

Taking Garden Photos Simply for Pleasure

Patient stationary subjects (wildlife and wind not withstanding) and ever changing options make the garden a great place to take photos just for pleasure. I love photographing pretty plants, busy bees, and other subjects in our garden.  If you love it, do it and have some fun! If you’re just getting started or looking to grow your skills, check out our tips for improving your nature photography.

Bee on bright orange flower

A Footnote on Other Garden Records

While I’m reflecting, in confession, I’ve been terribly slack with my garden journal record keeping recently. I do have all of my planting maps, notes, and photos to fall back on in my quest to get organised. Someday. When I find the time! Retaining the information, however, has already been very helpful for cross-checking varieties and care, reordering supplies, tagging and labelling, and much more. In particular, I love (love love love) my DIY custom painted garden markers. It wouldn’t have been possible to make or correctly apply these without my records.

Although my journal notes have been lacking recently, I’ve been getting great use out of my seed packet labels. When I’ve purchased seeds or orders have arrived, I’ve labelled them straight away with any extra information before storing/using. This helps avoid my tendency to procrastinate on record keeping. Haha! The notes were very handy when planting out the autumn/winter garden for quick reference on sowing and spacing. I do need to overhaul my seed packet storage though, as I’ve outgrown my old containers and now have bundles of seed packets stored in a box in my pantry. 

Reflecting on the Value of Garden Photos and Records

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