Taking Notes: Reflect on your Herb Garden

| February/March 2000

As long as I’ve been a serious gardener, I’ve kept a gardening jour­­nal. I use it to record not only plant names and bloom times but also my hopes and dreams for my tiny plot of land. The other day, as I was looking through one of my old journals in search of a salvia’s varietal name because its plant tag had long since disintegrated, I was immediately enthralled by the words, drawings, and photos I had carefully recorded four years earlier. I hadn’t realized how much my herb garden had changed nor—more important—how much I had changed.

Many noted gardeners have kept garden journals just as they would a diary, writing paragraphs at a time about their gardens. This is the type of journal I like to keep. While awaiting the birth of my first child two years ago, I drew up plans for a children’s garden and wrote about collecting miniature herbs such as Corsican mint and creeping thyme. Even Thomas Jefferson found time to keep a garden journal from 1766 to 1824, rarely missing an entry.

You don’t have to be a writer or a former U.S. president to keep a garden journal, though. You are writing only for yourself so relax and have fun. Your journal should be as much a reflection of you as your herb garden is.

Recording your gardening triumphs and tribulations helps improve your production—and can even offer a window into your soul. 

Getting started

There is no right or wrong way to keep a garden journal. Each one is as unique as the gardener who writes it. Some gardeners write every day; others, only a few times a year. Some keep neat, tidy books; others’ are chaotic. What matters is that the information you collect is helpful and important to you.

Choose a format

The first step is to choose a book to hold your information. Bookstores carry everything from fancy month-by-month journals specifically formatted for gardeners to unadorned bound versions with lined pages. After trying several styles, I found that a blank spiral- bound sketchbook works best for me. It lies flat when open and gives me plenty of room to glue in sketches, photographs, and magazine clippings. A very organized friend of mine converted a daily planner into a garden journal. She uses the “to-do” pages to list weekly chores and tucks seed ­packets and order receipts into the ­monthly pockets.

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