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Keeping Track

May 2nd, 2012

Jefferson’s garden diary, or Garden Book, is an enduring expression of Enlightenment. Begun at his boyhood home, Shadwell, on March 30, 1766, with the notation “Purple hyacinth bean begins to bloom,” the Garden Book concluded on Septebmer 15, 1824 with the completion of his vegetable garden Kalendar and the planting of the Winter spinach and Brown Dutch lettuce.

Peter J. Hatch from “A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello

One of the areas I really need to work on as far as gardening is keeping track of what I’m growing and doing in the garden. I’m really good at taking photos, so generally when I need to know when I planted something, I look through my photos. That’s how this blog got started originally, it was going to be my garden journal. Garden journaling is something I really struggle with. I have a file on my laptop and I try to remember each evening to write down everything that I did, more often than not, I completely forget until it’s been too long to remember exactly what I did.

A garden journal can be a valuable tool, especially if you note the dates for seeding, germination, transplanting, harvest, fertilization, etc. I’ve tried a variety of methods, from a spreadsheet to a simple text document, so far I can’t seem to do any of them with regularity (besides writing this blog). I also have a binder where I keep old seed packets, interesting articles, and other garden related things.

At least I do have photos and I write planting/seeding dates on my plant labels so I can note days from seeding to harvest. Someday I hope to be diligent enough to keep a good journal to document the things going on in the gardens of Chiot’s Run.

How do you keep track of what’s going on in the garden?

17 Comments to “Keeping Track”
  1. Sue from Ky. on May 2, 2012 at 6:11 am

    I am not a book keeping type of person. I am sure my entire life, in every area, would be more orderly and organized,if I were.I admire,to a certain extent, those who have that ability,for my helter skelter way of doing things gets really cluttered and tiresome.I do what I enjoy, even if it means jumping from one thing to another in a heartbeat,but even that method wears me out at times.

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  2. daisy on May 2, 2012 at 6:33 am

    I struggle with this too, Susy. I think it’s because the joy of gardening comes from the doing of it and then sharing it with others through photos.
    It is an important endeavor though, to document the progress through the seasons. Maybe you’ll help me figure out how best to do that!
    Enjoy your time outside.

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  3. Kathi Cook on May 2, 2012 at 6:37 am

    I have a nature journal which I purchased several years ago. It is meant for sketching and recording nature. It morphed into a garden journal 6 years ago when I sketched my first vegetable garden layout in it. Although I do not write in it very often,I usually have the highlights recorded ie. when things first bloom,the day the ruby throated humminngbird returned,general weather of the season etc. I find it both enjoyable and helpful to refer to. Since I do not keep a personal journal,I have startded recording some of this info in as well ie. special trips,,graduations etc. as little notations in the margins. This year I want to try getting watercolor pencils and sketch from the garden. (I am not at all artisitic).

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  4. Kate on May 2, 2012 at 6:46 am

    I struggle with this too. Last year I tried keeping a journal but that only lasted a couple weeks. This year I made a spreadsheet to help me keep track, at the very least, planting dates. Though come to think of it I forgot to update it this past weekend, so we’ll see how long I keep that up. My photos are the best record I have of the garden, and this year I decided to start a blog for the same reason.

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  5. Mich on May 2, 2012 at 7:36 am

    I have a big jotter that is used as my vegetable planner in which I have years of past crop rotations & the varieties planted.
    I also get given a freebie big diary so I tend to use it to write down garden info…dates seeds sown/ success and failures/ veg garden purchases.. Future ideas..
    Oddly tho, I only do this for my vegetable beds; the flower borders just wing it!

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  6. Misti on May 2, 2012 at 7:50 am

    This is one of my biggest problems too. Before we sold all of our stuff in FL I was going to go around and take a photo of each and every thing and write it down—but I didn’t. I did keep some tags and receipts so eventually we can find them again.

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  7. Melissa on May 2, 2012 at 8:23 am

    Pictures are my garden journal! And occasionally I blog about my garden, but that’s about it. I try to take pictures at least once a week and make sure they are categorized by date.

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  8. Allison on May 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I definitely seem to rely more on my photos to remind of of what I did when, what bloomed when, and what I planted where :0

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  9. S on May 2, 2012 at 8:50 am

    I do the same thing with photos, I look back at the dates since I’ve last updated my gardening journal and try to reconstruct. I have a few spreadsheets with seed lists and maps of the garden, and theoretically they all go into a binder at the end of the season. But I struggle with keeping the journal updated too. When I go back to compare with previous years, there are always gaps where I wish I had written more! I can certainly tell when we’ve been busy, ha.

    I was thinking of having a page in a binder for each garden bed (or maybe area) where I jot down notes as things are planted/harvested, cover crops, and inputs. I’m not sure if that seems easier or harder!

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  10. KimH on May 2, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I used to use a dedicated spiral notebook but this year I switched to a hard bound diary type book that I also keep my essential oil recipes in.
    I’ve always drawn out & recorded what I planted & when.. I rarely go back & add anything other than when & where with a picture of the layout. I do this with seed starting too.. this way I know exactly what I have and where. If they get transplanted, they have an ID sticklet in them with their name & growing habit. If I need more info than that, I refer to my book.

    Btw.. I had to just go ahead & order “A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello. I got it yesterday, I’ve been waiting for this book all of my life. ;) ♥♥ Thanks! ♥♥

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  11. Maybelline on May 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Photos, blog, and notes on the seed packets.

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  12. Songbirdtiff on May 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I will keep a few records but for the most part I don’t. Once I have to keep detailed records it becomes very much like filing paperwork or balancing the checkbook…things I hate. It would greatly reduce my love for gardening and I’d rather re-learn what I’ve forgotten than make myself keep detailed records. Some folks like that sort of thing, though, and I wish I did!

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  13. KimP on May 2, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I use a three-ring binder. I have a sketch of my garden plan on graph paper (which may or may not be strictly adhered to, lol), my seed/plant receipts (so I remember what I bought from where), and lined paper for my records. Each year has its own section. I usually start out pretty well, but as the growing season heats up, I end up too busy to be really faithful about it. Even with that, I find it very helpful to have a visual of what I planted where for crop rotation purposes, when my growing season officially started, when my hard freeze hit, and when I planted certain items so I can adjust as necessary the next year.

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  14. alison@thisbloominglife on May 2, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Hmm, the bane of gardeners the world over. I have met gardeners with complete notes of every plant in their garden. I had hoped that blogging was going to be my journal but somehow there are never quite enough hours in the day!

    Reply to alison@thisbloominglife's comment

  15. Fawn on May 3, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I have a notebook I use to document a diagram of my garden (with spacing and plant variety as well as the source I got it from). I also document how I amended the soil so I can figure out later what makes a difference with my soil type. I document an problems I have with a plant and any insects I deal with.

    Additionally, I have a binder where I have print outs of the seed varieties I use, organized with alphabetically tabs, so I can refer back to them for expected harvest dates if needed. In that binder I also include a year long calendar and do my own “almanac” documenting when I expect to plant, to harvest and then actually dates of planting harvesting/ last frost. The calendar format makes the process more visual for me and I like that.

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  16. Jennifer L. on May 4, 2012 at 8:46 am

    In theory, I take photos, jot notes down in a small spiral notebook during the day while out in the garden, and then I have a myfolia account online that I mark planting dates, germination dates, etc. This is in theory, mind. Most of the time one or many of these steps get forgotten and I’ll wonder when exactly I planted those daffodils last fall? Still getting my system down, I don’t think I’ll ever be organized enough to remember everything, though.

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  17. Seren Dippity on May 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    I’m a big fan of the online gardening journal site called
    It is a great site for journaling, documenting planting times, harvest amounts and photos of it all. I keep a list of all my seeds in my stash and do some seed trading through them. They also have a great network of gardeners for discussions and getting questions answered. The one thing they don’t have is a visual layout of the garden plot. So in addition to journaling what I did when; I keep a document in photoshop that has all my beds drawn out. I print it out so I can scribble in place where I actually plant any given plant. This can be a great help when the labels fade to determine where each variety of garlic was actually planted. It also helps with long term garden bed rotation.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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