• Keeping garden records

    by  • January 26, 2012 • Garden, How to, Projects • 9 Comments

    Simple Record Keeping for the Garden

    Fall and winter can be good times to settle in and plan for future projects. One thing that helps is keeping records, making lists and collecting clippings all in one place

    Organizer basket

    Organizer basket for my garden records

    A garden journal can help when sorting out a new garden situation.   It is all different gardening in the mountains where the seasons, although still mild, are a bit more extreme than in Southern California, so keeping records is one way to organize new garden information.  The lows are in the teens and the highs in the 100s. Here in our Mediterranean climate, it is wet in the winter and dry in the summer.  In summers we can get 30 days of 100 degree temperatures. All these facts started out as notes.

    Bloom Calendar

    Bloom Calendar

    Bloom Calendar

    My garden journal started with a family calendar on which I recorded when the different plants bloomed. I didn’t know when the flowers, especially our rich variety of wild and native ones would bloom so this list was a great help reminding me. The next year I made a separate Bloom Calendar.

    Sunset Garden marked up

    Sunset Garden marked up

    Sunset Garden Book Notes

    I won’t likely discard my Sunset Garden Book because in it, I have kept notes of most all the plants I’ve grown and ones I’d like to try.  I was taught to never dog ear book pages or write in my books, but apparently I have somehow filled this book with highlighted entries, notes, squiggles and drawings. N = native, D = Drought-resistant, etc.  I’ll have to pass up their new edition out last year.

    Clipping notebook

    Clipping notebook

    Clipping notebook

    Five years before starting the garden here, I had started collecting clippings of naturalistic gardens knowing I would move from a suburban lot to a mountainside acreage. I seemed to lose interest in cottage gardens completely, switching gears, thinking now about a sloped garden with stunning borrowed views. I collected information on deer resistant, drought resistant and California native plants.

    My clipping notebook is divided into sections for Inspiration, Small Projects, Natural landscape, Plants to be cultivated, Resources and Wildlife. Also Native Plants, Fire, Water, Tools and Notes.

    Since my awareness and interests have changed over the years, I go through on Winter days and toss articles that no longer appeal to me. All these notes and records have served as well loved resources over the five years of gardening in earnest in the Sierra foothills.

    Clippings are nearly out-of-date now with the beginnings of a paperless society. Pinterest and simply keeping an Idea File on my computer desktop have lessened my interest in magazines and I rarely clip them anymore!

    Since much of my time is spent online, working at Flea Market Gardening, I easily ‘right-click and copy’ photo and gardening  ideas to that file.

    Plant lists for each shopping trip

    Plant lists for each shopping trip

    List of plants each shopping trip

    Luckily, I started a list on notebook paper of all the plants bought on each plant shopping trip. The common and Latin names and the color and characteristics of the plant were noted.  I included where I shopped and the date and what the objective was if any.

    In the beginning even before we moved, these records show that I planted rosemary and lavender along a retaining wall and also bought a few plant treasures that I had dreamed of growing.  Most of these early plants died from lack of water (we still were coming up to ‘camp’ only once a month and water had to be hand carried to each plant.  Foolhardy, foolhardy…. My notes are evidence of many failures.

    Now, I treasure these plant lists and refer to them often when a certain plant name is forgotten or when figuring the plant age.

    Plant tags

    Plant tags

    Plant tags

    I keep plant tags in a Zip-loc bag, have for years…


    Garden Records 2.0

    Garden records on the computer have been mostly in the form of photo files.  I keep an All Garden Photos file and label them with the plant names.  I also keep a file of Best Garden photos. I use two external hard drives that back up to each other to keep our photos.

    Plant and wildlife files

    Plant and wildlife files

    Entering plants into an online database

    I have about half my hand written plant lists entered into the Dave’s Garden ‘Journal’ database and the nice thing about that is that the plants you enter are linked to their Plantfiles. I find it very easy to search for plant information on the internet, but it’s nice to have their search feature when looking for a specific plant. Note the file for ‘Deceased Plants’.  More evidence, but also a source for remembering past mistakes.

    Idea file on Computer desktop

    Instead of buying magazines any longer, now that they have increased in price from $3.99 to $7.99 or higher, I now keep an Idea file on my computer desktop of photos from garden tours and photos found online. This is where I go first when implementing a new project. It helps me to schedule these projects on my calendar and do them, otherwise why keep a file in the first place? Dreaming to planning, planning to doing. Get’s the job done and the garden beautiful.

    Other ways to keep records are garden diagrams, garden record templates and card files. One garden record I never keep?  Receipts!

    What are your garden records like,…do you keep them?


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    9 Responses to Keeping garden records

    1. Angi
      January 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

      Interesting. I think that you are very organized, and this motivates me to become more organized with my gardening. I have been saving my plant tags in plastic baggies, though, and made notes of plants. A garden journal is a good idea, too. Thanks for sharing.

    2. Jeanne Sammons
      January 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

      Too funny, Sue …that we both were thinking garden journaling the last few days! Love it! (it’s the ‘great minds’ thing, ya know!) In my photo albums where I cut & add the tags, covers, notes, whatever …those small tags tend to fall out alot! (so the zip lock bag is a good idea!) I also have torn out of mags for yrs …& I also write in my books (gardening ones) …they’re keepers, right! Thanks for sharing all this info…you’re organized! Now when your snow comes, pour over these & I’ll be doing the same! Jeanne Sammons

      • January 26, 2012 at 10:31 am

        Thanks, Angi, It’s kind of a fun winter project to organize and plan out future garden beds, and when you write things down you sometimes to remember them better.

        Thanks, Jeanne, we are kindred spirits for sure. It’s sunny now so I’m headed out to sow seeds after our rain, but when it’s cold and snowy I’ll be entering the other half of those records into the computer and looking over my inspiration file!

    3. January 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Love it. Especially the bloom calendar. I actually started my blog to do some of the same things you are doing. I started writing all my stuff down, but my hand started hurting. I can type faster too, so I am going to blog it instead.

      • January 26, 2012 at 7:15 pm

        Thanks, Paul, I started out with the bloom calendar which really should be posted somewhere handy so I can see it every month. Then I did start using the computer and the more I do the faster I type, although I have my own way. I’ll check out your blog….I love salad.

        Thanks for your comment, pobept. It was until i started entering the plants into the online journal with a ‘Deceased Plant’ category, that I realized to my horror that I have killed a lot of plants, maybe like every gardener.

        Thanks Brent. It just started slowly, but yes, I guess I’m a list keeper. 🙂

    4. January 26, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Keeping good garden notes is a real ‘must’ do if you are to learn from last years failures!
      I’m with you, there is a ton of ‘free’ gardening information available in the web..What, when, where and how to information on common and not so common garden and native plantings.

    5. January 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      Bravo! So much more extensive than mine. I blog some of my garden notes, but that’s about it.

    6. January 27, 2012 at 12:29 am

      I habve a great big hard cover book, that is filled with lined pages.
      I just write in it and put in diagrams. so for example there will be a page with a drawing of how the 50 olives were laid out. Then if a couple die maybe,that will be noted and the replacements marked and where they come from. etc etc.
      There is now great organisation to my great big book, but I can find what I want within seconds. And as the info changes on each item or group. I can add to it so easily.
      Currently the book is sitting on the table near my seat. Ready to write in by simply reaching out.

      • January 27, 2012 at 7:20 am

        Kerry, I’m glad to know what you do. I don’t know how many times I have referred to my notebook. I have it right near me just like you. What I aspire to is more of what you’re doing , fifty of something rather than one and two. Ha! I want to be more of a designer and less of a ‘collector.’

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