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Why Every Gardener Should Use a Garden Journal 

The Most Important Tool Used by Gardeners

This is the second step in Planter Box Gardening 101 series: Create a Gardening Journal. 


What makes gardening such a beloved past-time is that it's is a lifelong hobby; it isn’t something that is mastered overnight.  Ask any experienced gardener if they "have it all figured out," and chances are they will chuckle and say, "Not me!"


That's because, from year to year we learn more about our yards, our plant preferences, our abilities, and most importantly: what we love about gardening.  The most talented gardeners I’ve ever met are those who have had lots of trials and their fair share of failures. Gardening is a true act of patience, humility, and downright tenacity


Talented gardeners have taught me that one of the most important tools used for gardening are Garden Journals.  That's because gardening is the ultimate example of learning from our mistakes. From year to year, season to season, it's easy to forget those small details that make a big difference.


Therefore, there is no greater tool for growing as a gardener than to keep track of your trials, errors, and those many successes. Best of all, a Garden Journal give you a fun, creative place to track your learning and plan for your best year yet - the next one!

Keep reading to learn how to quickly and easily create and use a Garden Journal.

herb garden seedlings sprouts in modern pots

"A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust." — Gertrude Jekyll

Why I Love My Garden Journal

As an educator, I love learning!  It’s what I live for and work for every day.  The frustrating thing about learning in the garden is that we sometimes run out of time in one season to demonstrate we’ve learned from our mistakes.  


For example, I live in the high desert of the Western United States. One late spring, packrats in the nearby high desert came and mowed down my already-sprouted dahlias.  UGH, packrats.  Those little vermin nibbled my budding sprouts down to the ground, and I was devastated.




However, that year my dahlias did grow back - and better than ever! As I reflected on what was different, I realized that the packrats achieved what I was supposed to be doing all along - pinching back my dahlias when they were a few inches high. This pinching-back process encouraged more blooms and stronger plants. VIOLA! Learning!


Learning in gardening means you may not be able to correct the issue until next growing season.  And I don’t know about you, but that’s a long time to remember what I learned last year, or the year before.

A Garden Journal, I’ve come to believe,  is a wonderful way to document all the little lessons that you learn along the way!  Garden journals are not like shears, seed-heating mats (see my secret weapon in action here!), or wildlife attractors (see how I bring in songbirds).  However, it is truly one of the most important tools used in gardening.

Read on to see how you can create one today with items you already have in your home

sample garden journal with dahlias and lilacs information

How I Started My Garden Journal

In 2017, I started recording various elements of my gardening experience.  Here’s my first EVER Gardening Journal. This experience has made my thumb SO much greener, so I’m sharing it with you today.  I hope you’ll take the leap and create one, too!

First, it’s important to remember that there is no perfect Garden Journal. The perfect Garden Journal is your Garden Journal! It’s one of the most important tools used for gardening because it’s personal to your life. If you’re looking for the perfect methods, this is a great way to practice acceptance. Gardening is full of trials, successes, and plenty of failure. Your Garden Journal should not fall into the “failure” category in your mind! If you have a garden journal, then it’s a success.

So be kind to yourself, my Fellow Gardening Friend! And just get started. 

cover of garden journal

The Supplies You'll Need

I am a very frugal gardener, except when it comes to choosing high-quality seeds (here is my absolute favorite brand for organic veggies, flowers, and fruits).   

You can buy a ready-to-use Garden Journal from places like Amazon. Click here to see a list of beautiful options, ready to ship and use. 

Others like to create their notebook from scratch; that's what I did for my first Garden Journal. 

All you need is the following quality supplies (tip - don't skimp on these supplies/brands! You want this Garden Journal to hold up against the elements and your often-dirty gardening hands):



The first thing I did was decide on my sections. Then I split my Garden Journal up, leaving lots of room for new ideas. 

I used packing tape and an inspiring image to create a "tab" for each section. I taped the image to the edge of the page so it stuck out, making it easy for me to access. Then I illustrated the cover page for each section.

It's that simple to create a Garden Journal from scratch! Again, there is no perfect or "right" way to make it. The best way to make it... is your way. 

inside view of a garden journal demonstration

Setting Up You Journal Sections

When I started my Gardening Journal, I set out having two sections:  Flowers and Edibles.  Those were the two things, at the time, that most interested me.  I created tabs for these two sections.  As you can see from my image above, I have certainly branched out along the way.  

Some people like to start new notebooks for each area of interest; I like to have everything in one place and really don’t like to waste paper!  Plus one of my favorite road trip activities is to add illustrations to my Journal, so it’s nice to have everything in one place for now.


You can see that my interests have expanded since I created this years ago!  I now have a tab devoted to my favorite flower, dahlias.  They are so versatile, complex and interesting, I decided it was time to dedicate a whole section of my Journal to them alone.  

I’ve also added a section called “Chickens” because they, too, are complex!  Creating the right habitat and choosing the right breeds for our family is very important, so it goes in here, too.

It's your Garden Journal - make it however you like. 

sample inside garden journal with pictures of swan island dahlias from catalog

What do I include?

There is absolutely no right way to create a Gardening Journal.  They’re as unique as you are!  The possibilities are limitless, which makes them really exciting.

My Journal includes the following elements:


Be sure to leave generous amounts of space between your sections, additions and notes.  I find myself going back all summer long, adding small details (such as bloom times and plant heights).  I use different pen colors intentionally so I can see where I learned and added a detail.  

Getting Creative

My passion for gardening is definitely genetic (thanks to Grandpa A and my mom).  I start getting really antsy in January, and have been known to start my seeds WAY too early, just to satisfy my urges to grow things.  (I don’t recommend that…)

My Gardening Journal helps calm this urge to start my seeds too early.  While the Earth outside is still covered in snow and temperatures rarely get above freezing, I can dream about “what next,” make plans for this season, and reflect on my lessons learned in season’s past.  

Another way that I've learned to satisfy my desire to garden in the Winter is with winter sowing, but more on that later. 

I have special markers, fine-tip pens and colored pencils I keep hidden from the kids, so that they stay nice and are in quality condition when I work on my Garden Journal.  These markers and colored pencils sit with my Gardening Journal and help me channel my creative energy toward an awesome growing season.  

Information on potatoes handwritten inside a garden journal notebook

Other Tools Used for Gardening

Thanks to my years of documentation in my Garden Journal, I can proudly say that I have cracked the code on how to start plants from SEED!  I am not exaggerating when I say that I’ve killed hundreds of plant starts, wasted a ton of money, and even more TIME trying to start plants from seed.  Check out my secret seed-starting formula on the link below:

I’m also the proud owner of my very first greenhouse. Check out which one I selected (entry level!) and how I chose it.  

The Next Chapter

One of the best things about my Garden Journal is how unorganized it is, in the traditional sense.  As a working professional with Type A tendencies, this definitely doesn’t fit my typical style!


But neither does Mother Nature.  

I’ll continue adding to my current Garden Journal.  I leave more space now on pages, because I like to add notes (like week-to-week updates on blooming seasons, challenges I had, etc).  I hope you’ve come to see how a Garden Journal is one of the most important tools used for gardening.  I’m clearly convinced!

I’d love to see photos and hear your reflections of your journey with a Gardening Journal!  Feel free to drop a comment and let me know what works for you!  

Happy Planting!





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