Keeping a Garden Diary

Do you keep a garden diary? I do. That probably sounds much grander than the reality. I started with a scribbled notebook and I soon discovered I was in good company when I volunteered to sort through the archives at National Trust HQ.  I found a similar approach was adopted at Sissinghurst during Vita Sackville-West’s time. It was an amazing to find long lists of plants and seed orders plus the corresponding gardening tasks from such a prominent garden.

I also keep a note of some of the key dates in my garden’s calendar such as when the first daffodil blooms, when the overhanging ash comes into leaf (compared with the oak’s up at the allotment), when the first frost darkens my dahlias, and how many flowers are in bloom at the winter solstice.

A thoughtful Christmas present of an RHS diary from a friend one year led to a refinement in my approach to garden record keeping. I entered my notes on the appropriate day – all the day’s tasks, plus my key dates and any other observations I cared to make. I bought a simple rain gauge, so a note of weekly rainfall was added. Soon, there’ll be other weather data to note as I have a shiny new weather station to play with.

Now I have a few years worth of records, I find it interesting to look back to see how my garden differs over time. Having these notes also helps with any plans for the coming year – hence the start of 2015’s seed list you can see in the picture. My diary is very accommodating in its ability to absorb various bits of extra paper.

Having some substantial garden projects added the next refinement to my simple system – the garden scrapbook. Here I have details of my garden’s beds, what’s been planted there and how everything performs. Sometimes I add photos of how the garden is looking and make note of any future projects these pictures reveal.

I have considered the various specialised garden journals available. They’re lovely things and I especially like the versions which have three or more years to a double page spread. On balance, I think they’re too confining – sometimes there’s too much record for the space allowed, especially in busy spring.  My diary has more space and with wonderful botanical illustrations to inspire me when the weather’s too bad for gardening.

This is the approach that works well for me. Your version can be as simple or as complicated as you like. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll help you with your future gardening endeavours.