Gardening seems like a pretty physical job. What does keeping a journal have to do with it? In the summers I spent working on small organic farms, the farmers kept extensive, detailed journals of what they had planted, where they had planted it, and what their daily activities were, as well as what the temperature and daily weather was. They did this because they needed to track what was working, what wasn't, and why it did or didn't work. What I learned from their garden journals was how important it is to keep a log of daily activities to look back on year to year.
Although fancy garden journals are on the market and ready to be exchanged for your hard-earned cash, they're not necessary. What you really need for a garden journal is a spiral bound notebook, a clipboard, and either a pad of paper or a bunch of pieces of scrap paper that you staple together. The spiral bound notebook will be your daily log. The pad of paper on a clipboard will be your garden map.
In the notebook (your daily log): Every day, you'll write the date, the time, the temperature, and the weather. You'll write down a list of everything you did that day in the garden. You'll also list observations (i.e. worms are eating the broccoli; tomato plant yielded its first fruit). There's no need for flowery language; a simple list will serve you fine. On the clipboard: You will draw a map of each of your garden beds, on which you will mark what you planted.
Once the summer is over and the harvest time has passed and you've "put the garden to bed" for the winter, it's time to get out your garden journal to help you plan the next year's garden. Were any of your plants great successes? Were any of your crops a bust? It's time to analyze the fruits of your garden in light of when, where, and how you planted each crop.
Keep your garden journal in a place where you'll have quick access to it, like a potting shed, greenhouse, or the place that you store your garden tools. Or, keep your garden journal next to a favorite chair so that every night when you sit down to relax, you can enter the day's garden activity (even if there was none) into the journal.
Related gardening stories on MNN:
- Hugelkultur: The ultimate raised garden bed
- Can you grow vegetables in the shade?
- 5 herbs that belong in every kitchen garden