Trades such as gardening and farming have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth for hundreds of years. This is such a sweet way to give and gain knowledge, but if there’s a gap in the generations or a new hire on the land, or if the gardener’s memory starts to slip, where does all of the valuable information go?
Cue the gardening journal.
It’s a simple way to write down what you did day-to-day in the gardens or out in the field. You may write down which seeds you purchased, when you sowed them, which plants you bought as seedlings or fully grown plants, how your soil test was, how much it rained and even where you stored your tools before winter.
I was hired at a 100-year-old estate several years ago. I love my job, but unfortunately the original gardeners have long since passed and their day-to-day knowledge is long gone. Thankfully they kept daily logs of what they did from the 1930s to the 1970s. That’s forty years of daily knowledge of the same land! I cherish even the simplest instruction from my predecessors, because it helps me not reinvent the wheel.
I’ve found a few things quite helpful to have in my daily log journal.
1. The date – including the year.
It may seem ridiculous to put in the year, but it helps me keep track of the little differences that occur from year to year, especially with the weather (2 years ago in Duluth we had several inches of snow still on the ground in April, and this year the ground was soft and workable!).
2. An overview of the who, what, where, when and why of what I’ve done that day.
I live in a location that has a relatively short growing season. When the time comes around to plant, all rationality goes out the window because I am so excited to get back in the garden! I have purchased seeds that didn’t work well for me the year prior. I have planted the same thing in a bad spot twice because both times I thought it would “look cool,” and it died both times. If I’d referenced my journal, I would’ve saved myself some cash and headaches. In this section feel free to draw out how you planted crops or a garden bed in the beginning of the season, where you stored your favorite pruners or where you planted all of those fall bulbs at the end of the season.
3. New ideas I have for a space.
Get creative! Even if I can’t execute a dream within the season that I’m in, it’s great to have those ideas all in one book. Also, when I write new ideas next to daily info, it gives me a better foundation to start my future projects. It helps me remember the “why” or the “spark.”
4. The daily weather.
I know I’ve talked about the weather a bunch already (I am a Midwesterner and it’s our favorite topic!), but keeping track of the temperature, precipitation and cloud coverage gives me insight into how my landscape is changing due to climate and environmental change. Since I’ve been alive, Duluth has changed nearly a whole USDA planting zone.
Add anything else to your journal that suits your situation! I keep a daily Glensheen journal as well as several other journals. I have a different journal for every “zone.” Each vegetable bed has its own journal. The grapes, formal garden, honeybees and annuals bed all have their own journals. My brain is wired like a filing cabinet system, so parsing zones out is helpful for me, but you may thrive with one journal that encompasses everything. I’ve learned that just having a space to have collective information is important. I promise you that your future self will thank you!
5. Your journal doesn’t have to be fancy.
I use a Five Star 5 Subject notebook. I know other gardeners and farmers who use a wall calendar to keep notes on. I have not found favor with this since I can’t draw all over a calendar!