There are a number of reasons to resolve to keep a garden journal – and we look at some great reasons this week as the New Year approaches.
cover image is mourning dove by J. J. Audubon.
Journal Your Journey
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.
What is a Garden Journal?
But 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 daily notes of the goings on in your yard or garden.
It doesn’t even have to be one single book. My garden journal is in spiral bound notebooks – they come from the store with 70 pages and that’s enough for 2 months per notebook, so there are six of them. The current set of 6 go back to 2016 when the previous set became mostly full. Each page bears the numerical day of the month. In the left margin I write the year and day of week – then I fill in a quick note or six about what is going on in the garden. For example, for Dec 26 2020 (a Saturday) I noted “Buds on brittlebush and aloe. Still morning. 2 (hot air) balloons drifting silently by in the dawn.”
Keep a Journal For Your Garden
Gardening is a both an art and a science. Science likes to have results you can replicate – and a journal will help with that. Write down what you do, and what your plants do can help you become a better at caring for your yard and garden.
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. The iris I have all start in April, so I fertilize them the first week of March.
Pest Control Example
Tent caterpillars enjoy Texas mountain laurel. If you only noticed the denuded tree on May 10 of one year, you can make a note on the April 20th page and remind yourself to look for them before they eat the tree bare. If you get them while they are tiny they are much easier to deal with.
Journal for Yourself
Once you start keeping a journal – take some time to look back and see what you notice most. It it still life images of the flowers or leaves of many shapes and colors? Is it the motion of bees, birds, and the wind on the boughs? Is if fragrances? Do you find yourself running your hands over leaves of mints or citrus just to breathe in deeply of their aroma? Do you write down the fragrance – or do you write down how it made you feel? Maybe you just taped the leaf into the pages.
Take the time to consider what you notice and how you notice. Ponder this – because it can help you become a better communicator. And face it – to live well as a human being on this earth it is all about communication.
Not all of us are glib with words, nor do we all learn by using words. This makes our modern education system very difficult for certain types of minds. These people end up walking through life thinking they are failures because they never did well in school. Sadly, the people that don’t learn by reading are not reading this – but maybe a loved one in their life is, and can share with them the fact that they are not losers. They just have a different way of processing information.
Journals are Good for All Ages
Get kids started journaling because 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, a pretty leaf.
Words are not necessary. A pre-literate child can be encouraged draw, or paint, maybe just tape a leaf to a page. If it is a dreary day – stay indoors and find pictures in catalogs or magazines to cut and paste. Older children can practice penmanship and story telling.
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 as a youngster simply drew many of the entries in his journals. He didn’t use many words at all. Charles Darwin was encouraged to start keeping a journal at a very young age by his grandfather. He kept journaling for the next eighty odd years, and fascinating reading it is! And just what did it mean when he underlined the numerical date? 3 to 5 times a week…..
Journal to Write Better
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.
Noted editor, Katharine Sergeant Angell White kept a garden journal. She is credited with helping shape The New Yorker magazine and set it on its course. Her garden writing was later compiled into a book by her husband, E. B. White. This book, “Onward and Upward in the Garden” (1977), has been reprinted a number of times and is still available today.
Heal Yourself With Your Journal
There are any number of books published that 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.
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!
Thanks for Reading
May I recommend my (out of print) book? The Month By Month Guide offers tips for your landscape (all types!) in every month of the year. I have a few copies left and am offering them to you – my loyal readers.
I will send you a signed copy!
From the review:
“A great reference book is key to successful gardening in the region where you live. takes the guesswork out of gardening for anyone residing in the Southwest. With this book, you’ll know what to do each month to enjoy a thriving garden all year, from January to December. Chronologically organized, this guide is full of critical gardening when-to and how-to advice, along with illustrated step-by-step instructions.”
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