Want to become better at caring for your yard or garden? Keep a garden journal.
Want a fun project to do with your kids? Keep a garden journal.
Want to become a published writer? Keep a garden journal.
Want to heal your spirit? Keep a garden journal.
Want to leave a legacy to your children and your children’s children? Keep a garden journal.
There are famous examples to draw on for each of these, and I will get to them. Meanwhile, just what is a garden journal? It can be a bound book, or notebook, or loose-leaf, or even electronic diary that you record in on a daily basis. Little daily daily notes or extensive writing or illustrations of the goings on in your yard or garden.
Keep a Journal For Your Garden
Gardening, caring for plants, is a science, and careful tracking of results can help you become a better at caring for your yard and garden. Some ways you can use your journal follow.
Seeds. Plant carrot seeds in November and they didn’t sprout? I can grow them that late in my warm yard – but maybe in your yard the soils were too cool.
Fertilizer. Iris need bloom fertilizer 4-6 weeks before they bloom. But bloom depends on species, rainfall, soil, sunlight, and how protected your yard is. With a garden journal, you write down bloom start each year, then you can scan prior years to discover the average start date.
Pest Control. Tent caterpillars enjoy Texas mountain laurel. If you only noticed the denuded tree on May third of one year, you can remind yourself to look for them around April 20th and get them while they are tiny.
Kids and Journals
Creating and keeping a garden journal helps give kids a sense of time and life’s continuity. Let them keep it themselves and include whatever outdoors event strikes their fancy that day. Plants, the weather, cloud forms, animals discovered visiting the garden.
Words are not necessary. A pre-literate child can be encouraged draw or paint, or to find pictures in catalogs or magazines to cut and paste. Older children can practice penmanship and story telling. The website Kids Gardening.org has more good gardening with kids ideas.
Getting kids involved in a garden journal may lead to great things. Linnaeus, the famous Swedish scientist, started a garden journal at age seven, and included drawings of the animals and flowers he saw. James Audubon drew many of the entries in his young journals. Charles Darwin was encouraged to start keeping a journal at a very young age by his grandfather. He kept one for the next eighty odd years.
A number of published authors started out keeping garden journals. They honed their craft with descriptions of plants, birds flitting through the plants, the sky at sunset, the images they saw as rain drifted down or pounded out of the sky. Zen principles tell us: To be a writer, you must be a writer. A garden journal is an excellent way to be a writer. Devote some time to it each day.
Katharine S. White kept a garden journal in later years. She was a noted editor, and credited with helping shape The New Yorker magazine. Her garden writing was later compiled into a book by her husband, E. B. White. Indeed, “Onward and Upward in the Garden” (1977), has been reprinted a number of times and is still available today.
There are any number of books published which are based on garden journals. Alice G. Miller, a psychotherapist, wrote “To Everything There Is A Season” (Seaboard Press, 2005). The book is about her spiritual journey through the garden, dealing with such things as working on paths and their metaphors for her life, as well as dealing with the death of loved ones.
Recently, I reviewed a pair of books that help you create a garden sanctuary, and keep a journal of the process. Creating Sanctuary and Everyday Sanctuary Workbook, both by Jessi Bloom, published by Timber Press. The full review is here.
Last, but not least, a journal preserves a piece of the history of your life. This legacy is often treasured, perhaps not by your children, but by your grandchildren and those that come after. You don’t need to be a good gardener, or even a good writer to keep a garden journal. All you need to be is consistent.
Consistent. Now there is a New Year’s Resolution to go for!
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico” (Cool Springs Press).
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Note: The books mentioned in this post have links to Amazon and if you buy the book there I might get a few pennies.