Embrace Garden Journals for a Happier Life

How does a gardener remember anything without a garden journal?

I’ll admit, there was a period of time when I didn’t keep a garden journal and those years are now lost to me, they exist only in my mind and in a few faded photographs, like this one from my first garden some decades ago.

But not the last eight years!

For the last eight years, I’ve written down snippets of gardening facts and observations in my 10 year gardener’s journal so I can go back, review them, and remember!
Everyday, I can look back at that same day, all the way back to 2001, all on the same page, and see what was going on, what the temperatures were, what I did, what I harvested and other interesting tidbits.

Just look at all the fun facts and observations for August 26:

2001 – 83/67
2002 – 83/65 Harvested last of zucchini, tons of tomatoes, peppers
2003 – 92/67 Picked a few cherry tomatoes. Very dry, Watered in evening.
2004 – 81/67 Rain overnight
2005 – 80/67
2006 – 86/68 Harvested tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant. Spread some mulch, made more salsa.
2007 – 82/63 Picked a few tomatoes & more grapes. Made grape jam. Found an orchid in bloom – Brassia rex ‘Barbara’
2008 -

Many gardeners don’t embrace garden journaling and spend valuable journaling time coming up with excuses!

They don’t have the right kind of journal. Their pens are the wrong color, size or are completely out of ink. They worry it won’t be perfect! They’ll mess it up somehow. They’ll skip a day or two. Then what’s the use, it’s not a complete record?

Or they think that no one will care about it. It’s a waste of time. They’ve never been good at writing.

I don’t accept any of those excuses. I say embrace garden journals for a happier life!

Here are five tips to get past that feeling of seeing that blank first page of a brand new journal and wondering what to do.

Don’t wait for the perfect journal to write in. While some of us bloggers, including Robin, Mr. McGregor’s Daughter and Phillip, have Lee Valley’s 10 Year Gardener’s Journal, it’s not necessary to have that particular one to embrace journaling. Any blank book or paper you can write on will work. I think Elizabeth Lawrence even used 3 x 5 index cards.

Don’t strive for perfection. You’ll miss some days, you’ll write illegibly sometimes, or you’ll write incomplete sentences and incoherent thoughts occasionally, after working yourself to exhaustion in your garden. None of those reasons should keep you from trying it. Just accept that life, gardens, and garden journals, aren’t perfect.

Don’t stress over ‘what’ to include. Include whatever comes to mind, whatever you want to remember. I record daily high and low temps, if it rained/how much, first blooms, first veggies, what veggies I harvested, first frost, last frost, and what I did in the garden, to name a few things. And I record when I mow the lawn, or at least have done that for the past several years, and for the past two years I’ve kept track of how many times. But your journal can include whatever you want to include.

Don’t worry if others will read your garden journal. Your garden journal should be for you, the gardener. If you are concerned others will read it, hide it! If you want others to read it, leave it out where they can find it. But write it for yourself and don’t worry if it makes sense to anyone else. It’s your journal.

Don’t think you have to wait until January 1st to get started. When starting a journal or diary, there’s always the temptation to start on the 1st day of the year. But the best time to start a garden journal if you haven’t started one is today. Just start writing and if you keep at it, after a month or so, journal writing should be a habit, and you’ll do it without thinking.

Embrace garden journals for a happier life!


Other Embraces for a Happier Life…

Embrace weeding
Embrace bugs
Embrace your weather
Embrace your soil
Embrace mowing
Embrace botanical names
Embrace never finished


  1. Good points all, Carol. The thing I like about the 10-year journal is that the few lines for each day are short enough that I don't feel the pressure to write a great prose novel. Here are some recent entries from my journal to show you how short mine are:

    8/21 - Japanese knotweed is blooming.
    8/22 - Visited Susan Harris's garden. Watered lawn where dogs pee. Watered garden deeply. Found bagworms on the H. Nishiki Willow
    8/23 - Found bagworms on the K. Cherry Tree

    I know that I'll find these entries useful in future years.

    Robin Wedewer
    Gardening Examiner

  2. Carol - I have not been able to keep a garden journal for all the reasons you mention in your post. I fantasize about keeping a journal that some young novice gardener will find generations from now and tell all her friends about. But the fact of the matter is that I'm lazy and have poor follow-through. grrr

    Maybe if I buy a pretty one that'll encourage me to write in it? What keeps you writing?

  3. Good morning Carol,
    Thanks for the encouragement. I've often thought I should, but haven't. I like the 10-year journal idea. I'm off to check it out!

  4. Glad to see someone else keeps a garden journal. I have been journaling for years. I usually sit out on the patio early on a Sat morning with coffee and write. I include pictures, cuttings, seed pacets and anything else that I may have to help me record. Blogging is relatively new to me, and I really enjoy it, but I still cherish my journals and use them all the time for reference.

  5. Keeping a journal is good way to remember all those gardening milestones, and it's good for the soul to jot down one's thoughts along the way. :)

  6. I'm using my blog as a gardening journal. I should really start a binder of sorts to keep track of a few things and to put seeds packets & plant info in.

  7. I'd be lost without my journal. It is the compendium of everything to do with the garden: where I bought each plant, the name of each, colors of many, where some of them are, bloom times. I'm not worried about anyone reading my journal - I have a hard time reading it myself! Thanks for the link love.

  8. Carol, I think Lee Valley should take photos of a few pages of different people's journals, to show how informal and wonderful they are, and then put them on their website and then give you and BB a commission.

  9. Carol, it might be time for me to embrace journaling, too.
    I've used blank books in Austin to keep notes about making borders and buying plants, even taping in the tags, but I haven't been keeping day-by-day rainfall and weather...after all, isn't all that stuff on line?

    But when rain finally came to our area this past week, and the Austin garden bloggers reported on their rainfall, I realized that no two gardens got the same amount - and the rain fell in different parts of town on different days, and none of us matched the entry for Austin in the newspaper.

    Official records can't tell me what happened on my own quarter-acre - and they can't tell me the first Oxblood Lily opened on August 22nd, either. But a journal could do that.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. Thanks Carol for your idea. I never think to make a garden journal. So, I always forget when I have bought plants. Thanks again Carol...

  11. I keep an online journal at davesgarden.com - it's an excellent, completely flexible journal based around plants that you can organise to suit yourself. After working in the garden, I usually update my journal straight away, but if I can't (or forget) it doesn't matter as you can add entries retrospectively. It's handy as you can view an individual plant's entries, or view all the plants for a location etc depending on how you organise your journal.

  12. I used to have some lovely garden journals which I wrote in when I lived in Austin. Now that I live in a different state, looking back on them isn't as useful. And since I can hardly write longhand anymore (too many years of working at a computer I guess), I've chosen to have a simple MS Word journal. I have it arranged by year for each bed and pots, with names of plants and their eventual outcome for the year (or half year).

    All the suggestions are great ones, but the 10 year journal sounds wonderful. Too bad you can't type in it! ;-)

  13. I've kept a garden journal for many years, long before and still in addition to my blog. It's just for me and not pretty or well written, but it contains all sorts of useful information that I've referred back to many a time.

  14. I thought I would sort of use my blog as a journal, but that ten year journal of yours sounds mighty interesting.

  15. I like the idea, maybe even paralleling it with your own life, gauging progress and blooms and weather occasionally with milestones and emotions and family intricacies, tying life in all with the garden.

  16. How did I miss this post? I've kept journals for some years, but don't have one now. I think I'll ask for one for my soon to be celebrated birthday. Better yet, I'll purchase said item for my birthday and say it's a present.

    E. Lawrence did use index cards, and there were two card cabinets in her house. It was amazing.~~Dee

  17. Very good advise, Carol. I keep a daily journal, but I really love the idea of a 10 year journal with daily temperatures included. You've inspired me to look for one.
    Sometimes I have several days of my journal to catch up on, and then it seems like a chore. I need to be more consistant.
    Well, I'm off to freeze corn. Happy gardening!

  18. You may get two posts from me! My first one disappeared! What I said was your suggestions and reasoning may be enough to break my resistance to a journal! Thanks, Gail

  19. I have just started the 10yr journal like yours this year. I can't wait to have several years to look back on.

    I still keep my rambling journal. I am just too wordy and like you say sometimes it is incoherent.

    I especially like using colored pens. I like to change the color of pen with my mood. Don't ask me to explain a purple or red mood as opposed to a green or turquoise or pink mood. tee hee...

  20. Gosh, I'm glad I got over here today. I have one of those Lee 10 year journals and I couldn't get motivated to use it. Instead I have illegible scrawls on one page with a map of the veggie garden, and NO information about my flower beds whatsoever.

    This is a bad thing. There are things I planted that I now do not know the names of; I should have mapped them when I put them in the ground.

    You have convinced me. I must get out that book and start using it, I know I will be glad I got in the habit.

    You should see what came out of my garden in the last 24 hours. . .pictures at my blog.

  21. Well, better late than never, right? I'm glad you shared this for the Design Workshop, Carol. Like Annie, I've been thinking it would be good to keep track of our local rainfall, and frost dates too. Your tips may be just the inspiration I need to get started.


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