I never kept a garden journal until about fifteen years ago when I kept losing track of what was a plant and what was a weed. (Time flies, it took me a moment to realize what year I started. What a surprise to realize how many years had passed.) Journaling came about after I’d ‘weeded’ several expensive perennials from their growing spots. I decided I needed a method. My memory wasn’t good enough.

Labels don’t work. Kids, dogs, cats, deer and gardeners trip over them, pull them up to look at them, break them putting them back or place them on the wrong plant. They just don’t work for me.

So my first journal experience began when I started drawing maps. When I planted something, I noted its name and location on my garden map. It worked! Then I became a flower show judge and needed to keep track of botanical names for entries into horticulture classes. So I created a list to add to the map.

When I move to Michigan I started a new garden. I wanted more information! So now I keep a diary of what, when and where — what I buy, when I bought it, where it came from, where I plant it and all the particulars about the plant’s growing needs. Then I started keeping track of when plants bloomed, when they finished blooming, what grew successfully and what didn’t. This extended into winter when I started keeping track of snowstorms and conditions in the garden.

After eight years I don’t know how I ever gardened without a journal. Now I know what cultivar is where (if I remember to put it in the journal — consistency is important!), when I planted it, a photo of the plant, and notes about where I’d like to move it, how often it needs division, etc. I can even cheer myself by checking in my journal to know when something is due to bloom! In the winter months I like to pour over my journal to see what I’d like to add and plan ahead for the coming garden season.

So here’s my method. On my computer I have a garden diary broken down by month/week of the year. Under each week I make yearly entries about what I planted and where, what is blooming or finished blooming, what needs to be done. I have a notebook with maps. I name my gardens (orange ledge, yellow ledge, fruit-herb garden, vegetable garden, heart garden, white garden, window garden, circle garden and the green garden. You might notice I’ve divided my gardens by color and use type. That doesn’t mean other colored or type plants don’t end up in each garden, it’s just a guideline for what predominates. I have a map of each garden and where each plant is placed. Often photos of the plants are taped onto the margins of the map. This lets me see how other colors and plants will fit into the garden as a whole.

That’s it! Fairly easy, but you might find a better method for your needs.

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