Making a Garden Journal

When we first moved in to this beautiful old house, it was the middle of December and everything outside was dormant. Slumbering the cold, rainy months of winter away, quiet and subdued. I didn’t pay any mind to the outside of the house until March hit and the yard began to explode with blooms. First the Camellias came, then the Daffodils, followed quickly by bright red Cosmos, fragrant Narcissus, the Daphne bush, pink Hyacinths, red and yellow Tulips and three types of Lilacs. There was a rainbow of color at every turn. I’d never been particularly enthusiastic about outdoor chores in the past, but something about this place just made me want to dive right in. So much beauty, just waiting to be uncovered.

In addition to being beautiful, however, the yard was also extremely overgrown. Shrubbery creeping up the side of the house, garden beds scruffy with in-grown patches of grass and an entire path through the front wall swalloed by ivy. A bit intimidating for a novice gardener. And not too long after spring hit, we learned I was pregnant with Emmett, which meant most of my productive afternoons turned into naps on the couch. Last spring I had a tiny baby to snuggle, so not too much happened for a second year in a row, and here I am three years in and trying to dig myself out from quite a few years of neglect. But happily so, because I’ve discovered there’s not a whole lot I like more than digging in the dirt. I’ve been reading, researching and plotting all kinds of garden goodness and I can’t wait to get some concentrated time out there to clean things up.

After checking out Easy Garden Projects to Make, Build and Grow from the library in February, I decided the best way to keep track of my gardening efforts, both in the raised beds and in the yard at large, was to put together a garden journal. A place where I could keep track of things I’ve put in the ground and how to care for them, chart their planting and progress, and feel a little more organized about the whole thing overall. Though Emmett is now old enough to hang with me outside for a bit and do some digging in the dirt, I still don’t have unlimited time to spend, so I figured being organized about my efforts would make my time feel more purposeful.

I purchased a simple Rifle Paper Co notebook to store my spent seed packets and plant labels in, as well as make little notes and plot out plantings. I’ve created sections for each of my garden beds, sketched out what’s been sown into each bed, and taped in the corresponding seed packets. By keeping little notes on when each was planted and sprouted, I’ll be able to look back next year and see how each plant has done. Instead of buying starts for the garden like I have the last few years, I decided to start straight from seed and use up the unopened packages I’ve had sitting unopened in the mudroom the last two years. I order most of my seeds from Territorial Seed Co., with the exception of tomato starts, which I will probably purchase at our local nursery again this year. Especially this spring, I’m just not sure we’ll get enough sun and heat to get those tomatoes going on time. Maybe next year we can build a little greenhouse to give my seeds a head start. A girl can dream, right?

In addition to keeping track of everything in the journal, I bought a few tiny wooden stakes so I could label each row as I stuck the seeds in the ground. I wish I would have had the sense to do this before I planted the first batch of seeds, because even though a lot of them have popped up already, I still can’t remember which ones are beets vs. radishes, or carrots vs. spinach. They’re just too tiny to tell! Oh well, you live and learn, right? You’d better believe my second round of seeds has been meticulously labeled and plotted out in the journal, and I’m so excited to see them start popping up in the next few weeks! And eventually I’m sure I’ll figure out what’s what from that first go-round. Ha!

In the back of the journal, I’ve added a section for flowers. I didn’t spend to much money on flowers this year, figuring I’d better get a handle on the existing yard before I plant too much new stuff, but managed to convince myself I should put a few new blooms in here and there. I taped in the labels from a few dahlia bulbs, as well as packets from the perennial seeds I tucked into the front rock wall, the tags from the shade-loving plants I stuck in pots for the front stoop, and those from the rhubarb and ranunculus that now live out back. Though I probably don’t have the budget this year, I’m hoping that next spring I can turn the bed outside my kitchen window into a cutting garden. I’ve been pouring over the lovely pages of Cut Flower Garden by Erin of Floret Flowers, who I’ve long followed on Instagram, and I can’t wait to put her tips to use. That book is seriously what my dreams are made of, with gorgeous photos and bloom varieties, not to mention full of super helpful information. Alas, most of it will have to wait until next year. Except for the wall of existing sweet peas I intend to train up the side of our pump house. I’m coming for ya, sweet peas!

In the last few weeks, I’ve cleared out the junk from the front rock wall, weeded most of the front beds, pruned the shrubbery in the front yard and done pretty well on my list from the last Garden Update:

  • Re-wrap the climbing roses.
  • Spread wildflower seeds in the shady little hyacinth meadow under the big trees to the north.
  • Put in some sort of climbing wall for the sweet peas on the west side of the pump house.
  • Put together some shade-loving pots for the front porch.
  • Figure out a watering system for late summer (both garden, lawn and beds). Drip hoses for garden + beds.
  • Put together some hanging baskets for the front porch.
  • Plant a row of sunflowers along the big shed.
  • Patch the hole in the front wall, trim back the ivy and add a few new perennials.
  • Work on a back patio area.

Next up on the list is continuing to clear out the beds in our yard, prune back a few of the overgrown shrubs, start to clear up the daffodil clutter and get the ground around the peonies ready to roll, as they are coming on quickly. I’m also hoping to cross the pots outside the back door and finding some pretty hanging baskets for the front stoop, off my list. Taylor has built me a gorgeous new wood clothesline that’s just waiting for us to get it in the ground, but every clear day around here is spent playing catch up because of the rain, so that may have to wait a bit. I’m not the only one trying to cram as much as I can in while the sun shines. What a spring!

What are you up to in your garden? I only wish I had more time to give! Do you keep a garden journal?

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