Garden Journals for Gardeners and Non-Gardeners

A Non-Gardener’s Guide to Keeping A Garden Journal

Keeping a Garden Journal Can Help You Enjoy Your Garden All Year Long

Have you ever wondered how you could extend your enjoyment of the time you spend in your garden? Try creating a garden journal. 

For gardeners, a journal is an efficient way to document what you've done in the garden from year to year – what you planted, where and how you planted, what worked, what didn't. You can include sketches of planting beds, paste or scan inempty seed packets, add photos of before-and-after results, whatever helps remind you of your work and enjoyment in the garden.

A garden journal can also be an outlet for recording your thoughts, observations and personal connections to the outdoors. It can be an excellent way to record and revisit memories and delightful experiences in nature. This makes keeping a garden journal a perfect tool even for non-gardeners.

Your journal can be factual or dreamy in recording your thoughts about your garden. It can contain notes, plot plans, ideas for the future; there are no rules or limits to what you can include in your garden journal.

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Here are some thoughts and tips for keeping a garden journal for both gardeners and non-gardeners.

First, Keeping a Garden Journal Should Be Fun!

Try to write something every day even when you’re not actively working in your garden. The act of writing down your observations can help you understand what is working in your garden, what’s off-kilter, and what you’d like to change. You can keep your journal on your computer or sit and write your thoughts in a beautiful dedicated notebook. There are as many ways to keep a garden journal as there are gardeners.

The first hurdle: Avoid looking at your journal writing as a chore. It's not an “assignment,” it's a tool to be used as you see fit. Some gardeners like their journal to be detail-oriented, keeping track of dates, high and low temperatures, rainfall, maybe even barometer readings. The value of details is being able to look back. Ask yourself how you’ll use your garden journal - as a reminder of what you planned and what happened, as a reference to guide your plans, as a tool for making better future decisions?

If reader-friendly is more your style...

Or you may prefer a more reader-friendly form of journaling. You may want to include your opinions as well as your observations. If something out of the ordinary is going on with your garden, make a note. Jot down how the sun reflects off certain flowers in the morning dew, or note your pleasure at the cardinals chirping in the flameleaf sumac trees at the end of the day.  

Maybe you prefer tracking changes with photos...

One plus of keeping your journal on your tablet or laptop is the ability to easily add photos of your garden as it progresses throughout the growing season. If you've been keeping track of your gardens using pictures over several years, your journal is a great way to compare changes in the garden over time. This is really valuable if you want to note plant changes due to climate. And if you are transitioning to a more ecological approach, shifting to an all-native plant mix with shrubs, perennials and annuals, photos in your journal can reveal how the plants are adapting, even moving to find their preferred locations for soil, sun, moisture and plant communities. Keeping a photo journal is a great way to compare your garden year to year, or season to season, and it's a fun way to go back in time to when you started to track your gardens and see how they've matured.

Three Great Reasons to Keep a Garden Journal and Connect with Nature

Even if you aren't an active gardener, keeping a garden journal can be a therapeutic experience. Here are three great reasons to start.

1. The perfect journal and tools

Many unique journals are available on the market with pages ready to be filled with your notes and musing. From Target to Etsy, you'll find a fantastic array of journals. You can choose from something inexpensive with a printed garden illustration on the front, try a notebook with water-resistant pages for jotting down thoughts in the rain, or find a book filled with beautiful handmade paper for its blank pages, covered with decoupage of dried flowers. Or make your own with a selection of the lovely scrapbooking options from craft stores.

Add the perfect writing instrument – a handcrafted cedar pencil, a fountain pen filled with green ink, or even a set of colored pencils for writing and sketching. Having a lovely journal to write in and savor later can be an incentive to get a garden journal going.

2. A scientific reference and memory book

Maybe you've noticed that the redbud trees bloom about the first of March on your street. So wouldn't it be interesting to record several seasonal events each year? The redbuds may bloom earlier or later from year to year. You can use your journal to track bloom times, rainfall, when the leaves fall in autumn, the first and last frost dates. It can be fascinating to look back and notice seasonal patterns and how they change from year to year.

You may also find that garden events start lining with your memories of other activities in your life. You may have forgotten the details of Maria’s fifth birthday by the time she’s 20. But a look back in a previous garden journal at September’s notes for little bluestem grasses suddenly brings to mind the little “corn maze” of ornamental grasses you grew for her special party that year.

Or, say you begin tracking when the daffodils bloom. Your journal gives you a way to remember natural events in your garden from spring to spring or summer to summer. And, in mid-winter, cracking open your journal provides you with something to look forward to. Is it February 21st? Ah, not too long ‘til the redbuds bloom!

3. Finally, your journal is a record of your connection with nature

You can use your journal to document how you feel about your garden each day. If it's gray and cloudy, write down how you felt when you saw the new doorway garden near the patio door. Note if you were enticed to sit on the porch and listen to the pattern of slow-fast-slow raindrops as a storm moved through. Or you sat in the side yard for a change and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on your shoulders because the light hits at a different angle through the trees in April compared to August.

Maybe you're a more tactile person, and you spent some time slowly feeling the shapes and textures of the various rocks at the top of your rock garden. Your journal can be a collection of your thoughts about how each felt, plus your ideas for finding smoother rocks, or feeling textures when the stones are hot from the sun, or icy with frost.

In short, a garden journal is a way for gardeners and non-gardeners alike to take pleasure from a garden. Use it to explore profound ideas by adding your thoughts and sketches. Find delight in exploring this new way to acknowledge and re-live your experiences and memories. 

Are you ready to start a garden journal? Share your comments; we always love to hear from you! 

Ann Yakimovicz