5 BENEFITS OF KEEPING A GARDEN JOURNAL
Written by Nikki Ridenour
A garden journal is one of the most useful tools for your garden. Record-keeping isn’t just for large-scale agricultural producers and researchers - it can be valuable to everyone. Whether you’re a home gardener, hobby gardener, market gardener or small-scale production farmer, your observations can provide real value.
WHY WE KEEP GARDEN JOURNALS
Keeping a garden journal is a fun and relaxing practice for some and a necessary and valuable one for others. Depending on your goals, you may need different levels of detail from your journal. Many gardeners record their observations to create a historical record of what happened in their gardens. It’s enjoyed as something to remember and reflect on, or even to share and pass down. Some want to use the data towards future improvements, like increasing harvest yields or reducing costs. Other gardeners are on a quest - they love to measure, experiment and tweak things for the thrill of the chase.
The benefits of keeping a garden journal are worth the maintenance cost. The reality is, we probably won’t remember as much as we think we will. Often at the end of the season, we're left with general impressions and no actual data points. Depending on your goals, that may be all you need or want. If you’re trying to make decisions for future action though, it might not be enough to rely on a memory.
It’s hard to remember such small details from months ago and look for patterns that apply to your current situation. But that’s with anything. It’s so crucial with gardening and farming because we have a limited amount of tries per season or per year... sometimes just one! It's worth the effort to improve each try as much as possible, considering the long production cycle. If you feed your family, compete in shows or sell your products as a business - it’s even more crucial to capture the details.
FIVE BENEFITS OF KEEPING A GARDEN JOURNAL
There are many benefits to keeping a garden journal that are different for each gardener. For example, in my own record-keeping, my goals are improvement, enjoyment and efficiency. Efficiency includes reducing time thinking about routine tasks and making planning easier. These are the top five benefits I see to keeping a garden journal...
You can focus on the art of growing
Growing plants is an art and a science. A garden journal is made up of all kinds of observations and some of those observations can be translated into data points. Useful data is readily available to get us started with the basics. A look at the seed packet can tell us when to seed indoors, light requirements, pruning timing, fertilization schedules, and more. When we start to play with those inputs, we’re designing processes unique to our needs. So much enjoyment from gardening is in experimentation. Using data to free up time from the routine tasks allows for more freedom to work on the creative parts of growing.
You can save resources and enhance experiences
Making informed decisions can reduce mistakes and eliminate rework. How many times do we look up the same information for plants we’re growing? Sometimes multiple times per season! If we don’t remember how we did something last year, or the amazing advice our friend told us to try next June, we could miss out on that chance to make an improvement leap instead of crawl. If your garden or farm is a source of food or income, or one of your goals is efficiency, keeping a garden journal will save time, money and energy. A well-used garden journal can enhance and build on your successes, improving enjoyment of both the process and the result.
You can make improvements over time
How do you know if something worked or didn’t work? Sometimes a gut-check is satisfying enough. But sometimes data can provide an interesting opportunity to evaluate if things are as they seem. Keeping records can reveal patterns over time that can be used towards your growing goals. Knowing what went wrong allows you to avoid repeating previous mistakes. Knowing what went right allows you to replicate those successes. Knowing what went ok is an opportunity too - many are always looking for even incremental improvement.
You can become an expert of your domain
There are so many subtleties of your growing area that only you will ever see, fight with and celebrate. Sometimes growing recommendations don’t provide the best outcome and you need to make up your own. Maybe you can’t grow something the same way friends and family have so much success with. Maybe you're able to grow things not normally recommended for your planting zone. Many inputs can be unique to your space: microclimate, weed pressure, soil composition, or pest and wildlife threats. There are unique things that you do to get the most out of your growing area. Your data is the only record specific to your experiences.
You can make planning easier
Planning for the coming season is fun! There’s so much hope and excitement. There’s also a lot of time spent researching and making decisions. Many growers plan their entire season at one time. They include when to seed, transplant, rotate, fertilize, harvest and more. Some of this information stays the same from year to year, making doing it over and over again each time tedious. Some things change based on information gathered from previous years. Managing growing data, notes, observations, wishlists, next-time lists, suppliers, advice, costs and all the other fragments of information throughout the season is valuable for future planning.
USING WHAT YOU'VE RECORDED
Getting the most out of these benefits relies on a critical step that is often difficult and time-intensive to follow through on - evaluation of the data you collect. Collecting the data is one thing, but it needs to be translated into something useful.
This is where I’m at in my farming journey. I know there are clues I've missed the opportunity to capture that could have helped me with what I’m working on next. I have data buried in notebooks (both physical and digital), spreadsheets, camera photo rolls, post-it notes and in my head. It would be so much work to process all this scattered information. Even with knowing it would save me time, money and energy and improve my next growing season.
This challenge is at the core of why I created Plantalytics. Garden journals can do more for us. We should have digital technology options available to us as home gardeners, hobby gardeners, market gardeners and small-scale production farmers.
- They shouldn’t take a lot of time to maintain.
- They should look and function like other products we use every day.
- They should be flexible to our unique needs and preferences.
That’s the baseline of what should be available. They should also present us with valuable insights that make their upkeep worthwhile. They should do the work of presenting us with patterns, timely reminders and templates for routine tasks.
I believe there's a way to make keeping a garden journal a valuable asset and not a chore. If you're looking for a modern way to keep track of your garden or farm, check out Plantalytics!