One of the best tools a vegetable gardener can have in their arsenal is a garden journal. A garden journal is an excellent way to keep track of your day to day activities in the garden. It is also very useful for keeping data on new tricks or tips you may have come across. Having a garden journal is like having your own personal gardening helper.
What To Use for a Garden Journal
You can use whatever you would like! You can go to an office store, such as Office Max, and purchase a special journal just for gardening. You may decide to just use an ordinary spiral notebook or tablet. Some gardeners prefer to use computer software or perhaps an online blog. You may choose to use all of these - the choices are unlimited.
I use two garden journals; one is just an ordinary five-subject spiral notebook; the other journal is kept using a Microsoft Office program. I will discuss this program in more detail a little bit later. A blog (such as this one) can also serve as a garden journal. You can use whatever type of journal that suits your needs and accomplishes your goals.
How I Use My Journal
I have found that the best thing to put in a garden journal is everything about your vegetable garden. Some examples could be - write the steps you took while performing a certain duty, document how your vegetable plants are doing during different stages of growth, or highlight some new discoveries you found that day, and so on. Everyone has different goals that they may want to accomplish in their garden, and the garden journal can be a wonderful tool towards reaching those goals.
Take A Picture
Another item you want to include in a garden journal is lots of pictures. You can jot all the notes in the world, but it doesn't do your journal any justice without adding some visual elements. Having images to go with your notes can go a long way towards reviving your memory if you are looking back at previous notes taken, especially if it has been several months or years.
You should not need photos of each individual note taken, just the main points and highlights. I do recommend taking photos during the progression of your garden. It is nice to have photos of your garden, or maybe even individual plants, at different growth stages.
One easy way of implementing your photos into the journal is to print them out them glue or tape them onto the pages.
I mentioned earlier that I use a five-subject notebook as one of my journals. I like the five-subject type of notebook so that I can split my journal into different sections (or subjects).
Here is how I use the five-subject notebook as a garden journal:
I title the first section "Plants". This section contains everything about the vegetables I am growing in my garden. I list the name of the plant, which cultivars I am growing, how I plant them, whether I start directly from seed, or purchase the seedlings at the nursery, and how the particular plant is producing. Basically, I create a profile about each individual plant in my garden. This can be very useful if you run into problems later on with a particular plant.
The next section I label "Methods". This section is just that - the methods I use growing each vegetable. I document how I watered the plant, how the vegetable was planted (depth, spacing, etc.), the types of fertilizers, compost, or mulches I may use and much more.
I record everything I can about the techniques I use to grow the vegtables, and what the end results are. If I have a plant that does not grow or produce well, then I know to try something different the next time.
Pests & Problems
The third section is labeled "Pest & Problems". This is the not so fun part of the journal - listing your failures. Every gardener has had problems at one time or another. It is the wise gardener that records the issues and tries to learn from mistakes. Your garden journal plays an intricate part in doing this.
I record any mistakes I have made - planting two vegetables too close together, not properly watering a plant or over-watering, not having my garden space in an optimum location for sunlight; the list goes on and on. You want to record mistakes in order to hopefully not repeat them during the next season.
This section also covers any pests that may attack my vegetables. Whether it is some pesky bug or a hungry rabbit munching on your carrots, you want to record them and what you did to keep them away. Did you use any pesticides? (which I do not recommend), how was it applied?, and mostly did you find an organic way of treating the pest? Maybe you need a small fence around the garden to keep critters out of the garden.
Also, I record any diseases my plants may encounter and how I treated them. I take real good notes of the treatments and the end result. Those will surely come in handy in the future if you happen to run across it again.
The fourth section I call "The Lab". The Lab is an area of my garden where I try out new ideas, or plants that I have never grown before. It is my testing grounds. I pay special attention to detail in this area in case I want to grow a particular vegetable again in the future. This way I know exactly what to expect and what steps to follow to ensure success. Anything that I am trying that is new for me, I put in The Lab section.
The fifth and final section is called simply "Comments". This is where I write down all my ideas, my "what ifs", the shoulda, coulda, wouldas and so forth. In a nutshell, this is my brainstorming section. Also in this section, I jot down the weather for each day while my garden is in action. I write down the date, the temperature, and whether it was sunny, cloudy, rainy, etc. If you notice I have the temperature and current weather at the bottom of every post I make. I do the same in my garden journal.
Getting It All Organized
Once every week I sit down at the computer and transfer what I write down in my journal into a program I have, so that I can keep a digital record of my journal. The program I use for this is Microsoft Office One Note. One Note is a very handy note-taking program. It features notebooks that you can set up with different sections.
I have a notebook in One Note titled "My Vegetable Garden". The "My Vegetable Garden" notebook is divided into five sections, just like my written journal. I then go into each section and type up what I wrote in my journal for the week. The great thing about using One Note is that each section you create can be broken up into separate sub-sections and sub-pages. This enables you to organize your notes for maximum efficiency.
Keeping a digital record helps to keep all my notes organized. Of course, One Note is not something you absolutely need to assemble a great garden journal. You can craft your garden journal any way that you please. You can customize it to your particular taste and needs.
If you are interested in Microsoft OneNote Home and Student 2007 it is an invaluable tool. It is ideal for creating lists, drawings, outlines, and just about everything you would need to create an awesome garden journal.
All of this may sound like a like of writing and note-taking, but on the average week, I may spend 15 minutes a day writing in my journal, and about 30 minutes during the weekend transferring those notes to One Note. Once you get into the habit of keeping a garden journal, it doesn't take much time at all.
The Beauty of a Garden Journal
The great thing about keeping a garden journal is that you can share it with family or friends. Having this daily record of your gardening adventures can bring back fond memories of times in the garden with loved ones.
Having a garden journal is just another avenue to enjoying your vegetable garden in a whole new way!
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