Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why and How I Keep a Garden Journal

This is the first season I've kept a garden journal. This season my garden is doing better than it ever has. Is this a coincidence or a byproduct of taking conscious, careful notes? I can't be completely sure, but I do know that keeping a garden journal has made this growing season more productive and organized on my end, as well as even more enjoyable. This year my focus is only on my food production (I haven't really included anything about flowerbeds or trees -- we'll save that for next year) and keeping a journal has really helped me stay focused on our goals.

In years past, I've done half-hearted attempts at garden journaling. I'd get a three-ring binder, draw up some plans for my garden boxes, stick the plastic tabs that came with my transplants in the binder, and that was about as far as I got. Then early this year, the instructor at my beekeeping class stressed the importance of taking notes and keeping a beekeeping journal. I figured it was as good a time as any to get serious about garden journaling.

One thing that kept me consistent: this cool journal I found I on Etsy.

It's made from an old gardening book from the 1940s. Interspersed between the blank pages are pages from the old book. There are few things I love more than old books. So it follows that writing about gardening (another love of mine) in this notebook makes me pretty happy. I actually look forward to writing in it! 

So here's how I've gone about setting up and keeping my garden journal this season:

On the very first page, I've written a sort of inventory: what seeds I've purchased, and information about our chickens and bees. On the other side of this page I listed the existing food plants (like our berry plants) in our yard.

The next page has a map of my garden, showing what is growing where. It's nothing fancy and certainly not to scale or anything, but it has been a real help in helping me keep track of what is growing where. I've got all my garden boxes on here, as well as the containers on my patio, the laundry baskets I'm growing potatoes in (more on that in another post), the green bean teepee in the yard, and the berry bushes along the fences. I'm especially glad I did this with my tomatoes since they all pretty much look the same (to me) before they start sending out fruit. (Turn red, green tomatoes! Turn red!)

On the other side of that page, I've made a list of goals for the season: things I want to plant, where it's going to go, ideas for around the yard, and things I want to look into, research, and read about (that I may or may not do this season). I like this because it helps me keep all the ideas in my head straight (this is as organized as my Type B brain gets) and it's ever-so-satisfying to put a little check mark next to the things I've done.

The rest of the pages are my garden journal, the day-to-day things I've done and observed in the yard. It started out fairly concise, with simply the dates things were planted and how they were progressing...

...but it evolved into something a little more...well...journal-like. Sure, I still mention what's sprouting in the garden or what the weather's been like (dry dry dry), but there's a lot of wordiness in there, too. In the pages, there's anxiety at the prospect of installing thousands of bees into hives, the surprise that the laundry basket potatoes are actually working, giddiness over my mini-greenhouses, annoyance at my failed seed tape, a mention of the birth of my twin nephews, the discovery that Betsy was a rooster, my mom's advice about praying for my garden, fantasizing over the prospect of more tomatoes than I know what to do with, and even quotes from my oldest boy ("No eggs today, Mom. I think it's the chickens' day off.").

The day-to-day journaling has already been helpful because I know when things were planted, how they're progressing, what has worked, and what to do differently next time. The inventory helps me keep track of exactly what I'm growing (and which plants I should save seeds from), where everything is, how long it took for the chickens to start laying, and how quickly my honeybees are working. It also helps me keep things in perspective -- one failed carrot crop isn't reason to give up on homegrown carrots altogether and another planting will work out better.  Plus, it's a record, a sort of personal and family history.

Really, I should have started this garden journaling thing sooner.

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

{This post is linked up to Your Green Resource, Homestead Barn Hop, Little House Fridayand Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways


Betsy Escandon said...

You are an inspiration to us all. For reals.

Megan Hutchings said...

Oh yes, PLEASE share about your laundry basket potatoes! I've been researching ways of growing potatoes (tires, chicken wire with straw, etc.) but feel like I can't get any good information on how the harvest of such trendy growth styles has worked out (our own potato tire only grew about 7 small-ish potatoes)! I'd love to hear how yours is working for you!

Heather said...

I'll write about them soon on here -- I'm just waiting to see how my harvest turns out. The plants are growing like crazy, they've flowered, and now I'm thinking they're barely starting to die back (which is part of the process, as far as I understand). I'll post about it once I've seen it through!

Heather said...

And thanks for the nice words, Betsy! I truly appreciate it!

Gabblehatch said...

Hi - so nice to see how you're using this journal! You bought it from my etsy shop, and I always love hearing that folks really use these journals and are inspired by them - great post!

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