Whether you are a seasoned gardening veteran, or a rookie just getting started, keeping a gardening journal is very important for the productivity and efficiency of your garden. Our gardening journal is half the reason why our garden continues to be more and more productive every year, last year landing us with about a pound of produce per square foot in our mixed vegetable garden.
What should be tracked in a garden journal?
I keep track of what varieties we planted, how many we planted, how many germinated, where we plant each plant (map), how much we harvested, what we spent on the garden, when I started each plant, when we harvested from each plant, weather and wildlife activity that effects the garden (specifically when the migrating swallows arrive and leave), notes about pests and disease for that year, and a general to-do list of what to do and when for garden maintenance.
I then use the information from previous years to plan the next year. I can easily see which varieties performed best, which locations in the garden they liked best, whether I feel like I started them too early or too late, what changes need to be made to deal with disease or pests, how much we harvested per square foot of garden, how the weather effected the garden and any possible changes that need to be made because of that, and how much money we spent on average per pound of produce.
Your garden journal can just be a spiral notebook that you jot notes in as you go through the season, or it can be a store bought garden journal, or you can make your own on the computer. Because of our cold-climate I was unable to find anything to purchase that would be right for our unique gardening situations, and a blank notebook just wasn’t organized enough for my brain. So I created my own on the computer. At first it was 8 1/2 x 11 inches, but that was just too big to be hauling around the garden all summer, so I made it half sheets (5 1/2 x 8 1/2) and put it in a half-size binder. That works much better.
During the winter garden planning, I sit down and type in the new dates for the next year, the list of what to plant when, and the harvest list. I use previous years journals to decide if there need to be changes made to these lists. After a few years of perfecting the journal I don’t need to do much each winter except change the dates for the new year because I leave the planting and harvesting dates from previous years experience.
Here is an example of pages in my garden journal:
There is a box that has a list of what needs to be planted that week. I type that in each year based on previous years success and failure. After a few years of keeping the journal, those dates don’t change much because I figured out when worked best to plant what. To the right of that box is a box where I write down what I actually planted that week. It doesn’t always match what I was supposed to plant, for various reasons, specifically weather. So I write what we actually planted in that section.
The next section down on the left is for tracking progress of plants. This is where I write germination notes, or if something is doing poorly, or particularly well. How things are progressing in the garden. To the right of that is the To-Do/Misc. section. It has notes on garden maintenance that needs to be done to help remind me. I don’t usually write much in there, but if I do something that isn’t already typed in I jot it down. I also keep track of garden effecting weather and swallow migration patterns in that section.
The bottom left is the list of what should be ready to harvest at that point. Again, that section is pretty permanent and was created after I had journaled for our garden for a few years so I knew when each item was usually ready to harvest. To the right on the bottom is where I write down what we actually harvested that week. Sometimes it matches the ready to harvest box, sometimes it doesn’t.
Here is another picture of the journal from later in the season.
The journal also includes pages where I list what specific varieties we are planting that year, what we purchased and how much we spent, how much we harvested of each variety, how much we canned or froze, and seed saving notes.
If you haven’t started garden journaling yet I strongly suggest you start this year. Even if you forget some, or start strong and then stop, having ANYTHING written down will help the next year. You will be amazed at how keeping track of these things helps increase the efficiency and productivity of your garden.