How to Start a Garden Journal

Starting a garden journal may sound overwhelming, but it is the best way to get organized for the upcoming growing season. It not only organizes your preparation for the growing season, but it is a great way to keep track of how the plants are growing, how much rain you’ve received, and so much more! The next growing season will be even easier since you’ll have notes to look back on.

It is extremely easy to get your journal started, and can be started with just a few materials. What you’ll need is: paper (i.e. notebook) and a writing utensil. Other fun items to add in would be plastic photo sleeves, blank pages, permanent markers, calendar, and photos of your garden. Now, all those items might sound a little overwhelming at first, but they all serve a purpose in the journal. There are some companies that have garden journals that are available for purchase. I have one from Office/by Martha Stewart that has multiple accessories including a stencil and ruler. It is a discbound planner format so you are able to add in calendar inserts easily. I personally prefer my sketchbook layout that I have created, and do most of my documentation by hand. My journal also doubles as my Nature Journal. I always prefer a pen and paper so I can take it out in the field for quick notes, but there are programs that allow you to journal on your computer. You’ll test out a ton of different options before finding what works best for you.

Let’s focus on the paper. A binder or notebook will be the base for all the magic. Make sure you have one that will be large enough to hold all of your materials and accessories that you would like. The first section of your journal should be a rough sketch of your garden. You want to make sure you document the entire layout of your garden, including the dimensions. Creating a grid, or using grid paper, will be extremely helpful in this step. If you are planning a vegetable garden this is a great way to start planning ahead on how many seeds and seedlings you’ll need.

The next section of your journal should be focused on your seeds and plants. It is essential to document the variety of seeds and transplants you intend to plant. You will also want to record the date they were planted when you get to that point. You can utilize the plastic photo sleeves to store the seed packets. It is important to keep ahold of the packets since they have valuable information. It is always tough to go back and dig for the seed packets later in the summer, or try to remember when you planted something. Mixing a calendar into this section would be a great idea!

After that, you get to your traditional journaling. You’ll want to keep a log somewhere in your journal as a section to document when you fertilized, added compost, how much rain you received, when you planted seeds in the beds, weeds you’ve removed, insects found, and so on! I like to document the temperature, moisture, humidity, and cloud coverage in my journal. It is interesting to compare various growing seasons to each other.             

If you’re looking for a way to keep your garden organized this upcoming growing season try out journaling!


Katelyn Brinkerhoff
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach—Region 5