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Creating a garden journal

Keeping a garden journal allows a gardener to collect a great deal of useful information in one place. But finding a system that works for you may not be easy.

By Helen Yoest / March 17, 2011

Here's a sample page from Helen Yoest's garden journal. It includes botanical and common names, as well as other information on plants she grows.

Courtesy of Helen Yoest

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Keeping an accurate garden journal is the second of my series of wishing I could mash a few gardening do-over buttons. Over the years, I’ve made a few starts at keeping a garden journal, only to abandon good intentions with thoughts like, it’s too hard, it’s too much work, or why bother?

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I’ve even purchased really cute journals, thinking that if it’s pretty enough to make me want to pick it up, then I’m more likely to write in it. Alas, that didn’t work for me, either.

What I needed was motivation; to get motivated, I needed to better understand the purpose of journaling.

The purpose of garden journaling

There are many levels of and reasons to journal. Most of us probably begin by writing about what we did in the garden that day. It’s a fun way to relive the moments allowing us to feel a great sense of accomplishment and giving some closure to the day.

As we became more experienced gardeners, we probably found we wanted to journal more information, like bloom times, moisture requirements, and listing both botanical names and common names.

It’s not long before we get to the point where we want to add photos, links, pronunciations, note successes and failures, who we shared a plant with, where we got a plant -- passed along from a gardening friend, a plant sale, a visit to a great garden center, a garden tour, or the like.

Quickly, we see that journaling -- writing about our day in the garden -- can be fun, but a paper journal can also limiting.

Blogging as journaling

About the same time I was giving up on my last paper journal, I discovered the mother of all journaling -- blogging. When I started blogging, a whole new world opened up to me.

There are many reasons people blog, but for me, it was just a way to write more about my garden. Blogging became my garden journal. I could easily upload photos, add links, and basically had unlimited space to express myself.

But even journaling by blogging wasn’t enough for my growing appetite to document my garden, Helen's Haven.

Finding what works

After I named each of my gardens, I set up a spreadsheet for each garden name and began listing the plants, first by botanical names and then by common names. I also included a column for the plant’s origin; but this column is slow to fill in.

As I add or move plants, or as they go to the better to have loved and lost than to never have planted at all place in the compost pile, I mock up the printed version of the spreadsheet and update when I get a chance.

Now I have a complete journaling system.

Do you see how advanced I am? I have now gone from a pretty journal to pick up and hold to a blog and spreadsheet that I’ve printed out, placed in a three-hole punch folder, to -- guess what? -- pick up and hold.

If I could mash my gardening do-over button, I would have found what worked for me faster. There is no right way or wrong way to journal. What is important is to journal. To relive your moments in the garden, to share or to keep close, but to express yourself in ways only working the soil brings.

As for blogging, I’m thankful journaling was my reason to blog, allowing me to step through the garden gate of the world.

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Helen Yoest lives in North Carolina and writes about Gardening With Confidence. She's a garden writer, speaker, and garden coach. She's also a field editor for Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens magazines and serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum. You can follow Helen on Twitter and Facebook. To read more by Helen here at Diggin' It, click here.

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