Are you a vegetable gardener and want to grow a garden for an entire year, not just one season? Planning is a crucial piece of gardening to make it last all year. Whether you have a small patio garden or a large vegetable garden, making a plan prepares you to plant out for each season.
This is something that I didn’t understand until it was too late one season. As summer was ending, I wanted to start cool weather crops, but it was still too warm to plant broccoli, cauliflower, and other greens.
Before I knew it, the weather had gotten too cold, and it was too late to plant anything that would grow much.
I learned a good lesson that season. If I had a plan, I would have planned out the timing of when to start seeds indoors and when to be ready to plant 6 weeks before first for the fall. If I had used a simple journal, I would have known how to continue my garden into the next season.
With a list of veggies and herbs to grow, a calendar for the timing, and a piece of paper to sketch out your future garden for the next few seasons, you can be ready for what is needed for each growing period.
My First Garden Journal
My first year of gardening, many years ago, I bought a gardening handbook that had a garden journal a part of the book. Every chapter had a to do list for each month in the garden. This journal made the basic information easy to read but my gardening seasons were different than what the planner guide showed.
It confused me to use this planner.
I then printed up a few calendar pages to write important frost dates and a yearlong calendar view where I could see when seeds needed to be started and when the seeds could directly be sown.
This was how my brain worked and it was a clear pathway to understanding when and what to plant in the garden at the right times of year.
All our brains work differently. Each of us will see a planner and use or not use it according to what makes sense for each of us. One huge tip I have is to take parts of different planners to make your own.
Use this blog post as a guide of what you could put into your planner and then see if it makes sense to your brain. If it doesn’t, don’t waste your time using it.
Why is Planning Important?
Planning is an essential part of ensuring success. Here are three reasons why planning is important:
1. It helps you set realistic goals, identify potential problems and ome up with solutions.
2. It helps you to know what you need for each season, what you need to build, buy, or prepare.
3. It enables you to manage time more effectively, stay organized and work more productively. You can stay more focused getting one task done at a time.
Important Elements of a Garden Planner and Journal
Planners can have these 5 important elements to create a successful plan for the year of gardening. Pick and choose the types or styles that your brain works with best.
1. Layout & Format:
Having a clear, easy-to-understand layout makes it easier to keep track of all the details. Make sure to include sections for organizing plants, tracking soil composition, recording irrigation systems, budget pages and scheduling tasks.
I will often use a binder that I can add too easily. Other years, I have had my garden journal bound together so that there are no loose papers, and everything is easy to grab to use and reference too.
I love the flexibility of creating your own or taking parts of different planners to make gardening easier to do year-round.
2. Plant Log formatted into Seasons of Growing:
Have a page that you can add important details to different plants you grow each season. This becomes invaluable as through the seasons you have a record of what worked or didn’t work when growing each type of plant.
This comprehensive page of each vegetable and fruit that you grow throughout the year with detailed information about each type of plant can be the star piece of your gardening journal.
This data can include photos and descriptions that help you know pests to watch out for, when and how to start growing the plant, what season works best, the different types of each plant and how it performed in past growing season.
3. Garden Layout for Each Season:
Take the time to draw out a rough sketch of your future garden goals for each season. Give yourself flexibility through the seasons. Know the size of each plant and how much room it will need in your garden to grow.
When planning out each gardening season, knowing what size your plants will be when fully mature will let you know if you can add more plants as the season goes along.
You can even add successive planting to your garden sketch information. Knowing this could give you even more production in the same area. You won’t be losing out on that space to grow more food. You can squeeze in 9-16 carrots in one square foot, but a tomato plant needs at least 2-3 square feet per plant.
You may have plants that keep growing and you are enjoying the fruit so much that tearing it out to provide room for the next season crops, may not be what you want to do.
Check to see if the plants that are producing at the end of the season will be ones that won’t last into the next season, and you would do better to use that space with plants that have a hardiness for the next season.
4. Calendar Pages:
To keep track of planting and harvesting times, having calendar pages with month-by-month guidelines and to do lists in a garden journal can help you plan when to plant and harvest specific crops.
I like to use planners that let me set the frost dates and the average highs and lows in my area. Then I can take the information that follows my seasons, not the seasons assumed by the author of the guide.
There are going to be some plants that need extra care. Noting that information will help you remember when to look for those details and specifics. This information is invaluable when it comes to maintaining the health and productivity of your garden.
When I plant out lettuce or spinach, I check on seedlings a few times a day for the first few weeks. If these plants are doing well, not getting eaten by slugs or little animals, then I know they won’t need me to be so careful with them. If I do see that slugs are attacking, then I know what to do to stop any more damage.
I add all this information into my calendar pages so that I remember from season to season what to do to keep my garden safe and thriving.
Calendar pages also make it easy to track weather patterns that could impact your plants’ growth – such as frost dates or heavy rains that can cause flooding or other damage.
With a calendar page in your garden journal, you can easily reference past notes about what worked well for different varieties of plants or growing conditions from year to year, so you will know what works best for future seasons.
Finally, recording images throughout the season on the calendar pages is a great way to document your work in the garden so that you can always look back fondly on your successes.
5. Garden Progress Tracking:
The key to success in gardening is being able to measure progress over time. Keeping records of progress such as seed germination rates, fertilization schedules, weather log, and pest control treatments will help ensure that your efforts aren’t wasted.
Use a garden habit tracker to keep track of what needs to be done each day through the seasons. I have created a small course called the garden management system with three types of habit trackers that makes it easy to garden with only 10 minutes a day.
Making a habit of going out to your garden each day, gives you a natural sense of what your garden needs. I also use the habit of going outside to my garden a time to just breathe and enjoy the space in the garden. The habit tracker reminds me to take the time to enjoy the garden using this garden journal.
Use your garden journal to then evaluate for your next year’s garden. Take checklists of what to do in each month like the checklist from September or July to add to your garden journal. Looking at what worked and what didn’t will give you a chance to know what works in your garden and what doesn’t. Your garden journal will become one of your most valuable assets.
Garden journals have such a great space to give you to dream about the future, to evaluate the past, and try for new more effective things for your garden for the future.
How to set up a Garden Journal?
The best garden journals meet your needs and make it easy for you to keep track of the most important parts of your garden. You can have a basic journal or a gardening journal that includes extremely detailed spaces to write information.
Sometimes with setting up a DIY garden journal planner, I’m able to get what is the most important parts of my garden and skip the parts that didn’t serve me or my garden.
Different Types of Journals
Here is space dedicated to the 5 essential elements of gardening. But great to add your own structure to the garden journal planner:
To make your own garden journal, you can use a variety of materials.
Here are some ideas:
lank pages – Get creative with a blank spiral or composition notebook to document your gardening success.
Variety of notebook paper to document your gardening success like grid paper, lined paper, gardening related journal prompts, graph paper, spiral notebook
Calendar pages – Add month-by-month to do lists and guidelines to track planting and harvesting times.
Photos – Take images throughout the season to document your successes.
Graph paper – Use graph paper to sketch out garden layouts or plan for next seasons’ crops.
Specialized pages – There are specialized garden journaling templates available online that help organize information and provide structured prompts for each entry.
Memory keeper binder – If you want an all-in-one solution, consider creating a memory keeper binder with pockets for storing seed packets and photos.
5 Best Gardening Journals
If you don’t have time or energy to create a DIY garden journal, then there are some great options to buy as a garden planner. Many of these garden journals have helpful tips for your garden planning for each growing season.
The gardening process can be confusing, so having your information all in the place in invaluable.
Online and Printable
Garden Journal from Create My Garden– Coming April 2023!
Jill Beginner Garden Journal- Plan and track your garden with this journal and planner. Print up the pages you want and don’t waste time on the pages you don’t need.
My Garden Planner Notebook with butterflys- This planner is simple to use and not overwhelming, yet still has the basics you need for planning out your garden.
The Only Garden Planner You Will Need– Very easy to read and understand. A great space to keep track of your garden.
The Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook- has a more intensive teaching and guide component to the journal. It is in a spiral notebook that has space to write one year of journaling.
The Gardener’s Journal (Outdoor Journals) – This journal provides the space the writer needs to record anything and everything they wish to about their gardening, with bulleted journal pages for writing, space for sketches, or freeform notes.
How do you make a gardener’s journal?
Start with a calendar and plan out when you will plant, harvest, and carry out other activities in your garden.
Add dates of days such as frost predictions.
Create a log section to keep track of what you’re planting each season. Add notes about how plants are performing, any pests that appear in the garden and solutions for getting rid of them, fertilizer applications, watering schedule, and any observations about the soil condition.
Include a map of your garden so that you can track where certain plants are planted from season to season. This way, it’s easier to note which vegetables or flowers have done well in particular areas and make adjustments from year to year.
You can also add sections for sketches.
At the end of each season, review your journal entries to get an idea of what worked well and what didn’t work so well in your garden so you can adjust accordingly next time around.
Having this record helps you become a better gardener over time, giving you the opportunity to fine-tune your methods and achieve success.
What is the best garden planner?
The best garden planner for you is dependent on your specific gardening needs. Different gardeners prefer a detailed calendar-based system, while others may prefer a more visual approach to mapping out their gardens.
There are a few elements that should be included in a successful garden planner like a detailed calendar to track when to plant and harvest; a map of the garden to know where they planted certain plants, sketches or photographs of what certain plants look like at various stages of growth, a list of fertilizer applications and watering schedules, and notes about soil conditions.
Ultimately, it is up to individual gardeners to decide which elements they need in their own plan and find the best tool for setting one up.
How do I keep track of my garden?
Keeping track of your garden is key to making sure it remains healthy and productive.
Start by creating a map of your garden and make notes of what plants you have in each area.
Note dates such as when you planted, fertilized, and watered each plant, as well as other trips to the garden such as weeding or harvesting. Log any pests that appear in the garden so you can determine which solutions work best for getting rid of them, and also record observations about soil condition.
Take photographs or sketches throughout the season so that you can look back on them for reference.
At the end of each season, review your log to assess what worked well and what didn’t so that you can adjust accordingly next time around.
How do you organize a plant journal?
Depending on what kind of gardening journal you have, make sure to have a detailed calendar that breaks down the months into tasks and things to do. This type of garden journal makes planning the next year’s garden more doable.
Next, have the list of annual vegetables that you can add to your calendar depending on the average low and highs for each month. Placing the right plants according to the hardiness zone maps helps plants to thrive.
Finally start making a sketch of what you want to plant for each season, in your garden journal planner. Be aware that you will have the next season coming and you may have to take out plants to keep growing.
How do I keep track of my garden plants?
I start with keeping track of one season at a time. I make a plan of what I want to grow each season and then I enjoy the season at hand and try not to think too much about the next season.
This gets difficult, especially when you need to start seeds indoors like in February for spring and summer plants. But you won’t be planting the summer plants until May, but the spring crops went into the outdoor garden by March. Try to take one part of gardening at a time to enjoy and have fun. The gardening journal is there to help you enjoy the process, one season at a time.