Much like everything else that is homestead related, there is no one size fits all approach to a garden journal. I wish there was because it would make it easier to just have someone tell you what to do and it work 100% of the time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The next best thing that we can do is try different things until something works. Today, I’m going to show you how I set up a garden journal and give you the high points of how to start yours.
What Is A Garden Journal
A garden journal is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a journal that details your gardens throughout the years. Yes, years. In the first year, you may notice a high infestation of Japanese beetles. In your journal you would make note of the beetles, an estimate of how many beetles, when you first noticed them, what plants they were attracted to, any treatments you did to get rid of them, etc. The next year as you look through your journal, you remember that you had a problem last year, and you can be proactive this year.
How To Set Up A Garden Journal
Everyone will have a different set up based on what they are growing, where they live, and so on. But here are some starting points. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can purchase my garden journal printable in our general store.
I think that the best thing you could do is to purchase a binder for your garden journal. I use this binder because I like that it doesn’t take up a lot of space on my desk. Plus, when I am down in the basement working on seeds or out in the garden, it’s not this huge bulky thing. I also like using a binder because I can move pages around from year to year.
I used to have a bullet journal and while I loved it, it was hard to find what I was looking for since it was chronologically done. Not a bad thing, but if I couldn’t remember when I did something, it was lost. Being able to look back and see that last year I planted 100 tomato seeds and only 80 germinated tells me a lot about the seeds, soil, watering, etc if I have that information available.
I have a TON of dividers in my garden journal, but again, I want simple and easy to find. I use these mini dividers to match my mini binder. For your dividers, you need to think about the things that you want to track. Do you want to track how many seedlings you bought? Or are you planting your own seeds? Do you want to keep track of your soil tests? What about expenses? These are all things that you need to think about so that you can keep track accordingly.
I like to know what seeds I started and when. Then I want to know my soil tests, pests and what seeds I saved. When our orchard stops getting attacked by goats, I would like to know when I pruned, harvested, and more.
I use loose leaf sheets to take notes, brainstorm, etc. I get the college rule and blank to make sure that if I want to design a garden bed, I can design it on a blank sheet and write on the lined sheets. I store all the excess paper in the back of the binder. I also use sheet protectors on the important pages.
For example: If I go into the basement and I am working on transplants, I don’t want the pages to get dirty. Or if I have designed a garden bed, I want to be able to take that page out of the binder and take it with me to the bed. By having a sheet protector on it, I don’t have to worry as much about it getting destroyed.
Using Your Garden Journal
After getting your journal set up, you should start filling it out with the information you have. In your soil test section, you should fill out previous years soil test results. Be sure to separate years with a line or something so that you don’t get confused. If you don’t have that information anymore? Or this is your first garden? No worries, do the best you can.
When you start your seedlings, be sure to write where you purchased your seeds from. This will help you decide if that was a good buy. If you buy seeds, make sure to put where you bought them from. In your Pest section, make sure to keep track of what pests came when and how you treated for them. This will help you because next year, you can say, “In 2022, the Japanese beetles came in April and only hit the apple trees.” In 2023, you can make sure to have beetle traps or other treatments already in place.
I am the type that will write down everything because I will forget it. We had a great pepper harvest last year, but I know it could have been better if I had known only water them every 4-6 days. Because of my garden journal, I know not to water the peppers as often.
Another cool thing about my garden journal is that I have a harvest/ preservation section. This section tells me how much food I need to harvest and preserve from my gardens. I know that we eat a TON of green beans. Like, I can 100 quart jars of green beans and it’s usually gone by April. That tells me that I need to harvest at least 200# of green beans. Because I know these things, I know I need to plant a minimum of 200 pole bean plants. Same with corn and peas.
Lastly, in my garden journal, I have a list of monthly chores that I need to do. This helps me stay on track with the needs of my garden. Because our goal is to reduce our grocery bill by 75% in 5 years and our feed bill by 80% in 2 years, I need all the help I can get. It not only tracks the weeding, watering and planting, but it also tells me when exactly when to do those things. In April I have final till of the garden, lay final layer of compost, plant after April 15th, weed weekly until seedlings are established, and so on. That way there is no guess work about what I need to do.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can find my garden journal printable in our general store here. There are a ton of different planners on the internet but none of them fit the style that I was going for, so I created my own.
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