Master Gardeners: What’s in your garden journal? –

Many of us in the world of horticulture possess an essential tool of the trade: the gardener’s journal. The purpose of the gardener’s journal can be as unique as the personality of the user.

For example, some gardeners will use their journals as precious keepsakes to record their feelings, challenges and successes against the backdrop of each passing season. Less esoteric are the sowers who use their journals to record the exact location of specific plantings and to identify which plants do best in a given area of their landscapes.

Here’s a quick summary of how gardeners may choose to use their journals:

• As a planning guide to document current and future areas for plant selection, location and growth potential.

• As a seasonal book of remembrance to catalog the caretaker’s victories and challenges in the garden as well as to record personal thoughts and feelings along the way.

• As a purchasing guide to list and describe various sources of plant materials and supplies as well as pricing information, sales receipts and vendor data.

• As a project management tool to record specific plantings, growth and survival rates, cost data, hours invested and expenses.

• As a historical record of the garden to provide a plant inventory, record of localized conditions, planting data, sun exposure readings, soil analysis and key planting dates.

As you can see, the gardener’s journal can be as unique as its author. In addition, the focus of the journal can be further expanded or customized with the addition of schematics, artwork, spreadsheets, poems, diagrams, instructions and even recipes.

In addition to the intended purpose of the gardener’s journal, it might be helpful to take a look at various journal formats available:

• Traditional formats: The spiral-bound notebook represents a trusty paper format which is convenient, easy to use and won’t break the grower’s bank. Likewise, the three-ring binder with pockets is also a very traditional format that can provide pockets for photos, removable reference listings, to-do lists and information that can be organized by plant or garden location. Finally, some gardeners may opt for a simple index card file which offers both great flexibility and ease of use.

• Electronic formats: There are a number of electronic formats that run the range from low-tech to more high-tech options. Software-based journals provide an electronic format that can provide tools for organizing data, spreadsheets, plant inventory lists, weather data and plant identification information. Another option is an online journal which allows the user to gather and share information, plan landscape designs, update task lists, generate reminders and link to other garden websites via the internet. Mobile journal applications can provide on-the-go plant identification, specific garden location information, take and receive photos, obtain weather forecasts and reference other horticultural resources.

Whether plant growth is viewed as an art or a science, or both, the gardener’s journal provides an excellent tool to document not only one’s victories and occasional challenges but also the joys and personal growth derived from the act of nurturing crop success.

I’ve covered here a number of general uses of the journal, such as providing a memoir of personal garden remembrances or using it as a more scientific compendium of specific garden characteristics and soil data. I’ve also shared thoughts on both traditional and electronic formats which offer a variety of features to consider such as the ability to store data, cost considerations, added convenience and the ability to archive illustrations.

In the end, it is up to the grower regarding how they use a garden journal. The determination will rest with the intended use of the journal, while the personal needs and preferences of the gardener will help guide the specific format selected.

No matter which choice you make, a journal of your garden’s life will be a lasting treasure as well as a handy guide from season to season.

This information is provided as a service of the Henderson County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer program. Got gardening questions? Call 828-697-4801 or email for answers.


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