The garden journal is one of the least used tools of gardening. Those who keep a garden journal, often do so because they simply love journaling. Those who don’t journal often find the idea daunting or a frivolous waste of time. But under the surface of this seemingly extra-curricular activity exists a giant underground cavern of insightful gems waiting to be discovered.
Like other historical records, a garden is a place where we can look back to examine the why’s of the present moment–and make better choices for the future.
Why am I having a challenge with this one area of my garden? What’s wrong with my plants? Is it the soil?
If you’re not journaling about your garden and keeping a history, your garden experience will likely be filled with moments when you can’t remember events that happened. Without that history, learning what to do and what not to do becomes more difficult and time consuming than if you had just taken a few minutes to make a few notes.
Sometimes, the insights a garden journal can bring are so profound that it changes your entire journey and launches you the equivalent distance from here to the moon.
I remember waking up one day during my second year of market gardening. I was getting success, but not quite like I wanted. And while I was feeling successful, I was getting burnt out. As the season continued, that exhaustion got worse. I had trouble reaching goals and staying on track. Then abundance season hit and with it, all the pests and disease. I woke up one morning and realized I was so exhausted that I was no longer happy. I felt like I was trying to force nature to cooperate. So I walked. I left the food in the garden and just walked away.
I didn’t return to gardening for an entire year. But when I did, I looked back and realized that so many of my days were filled with journal entries of frustration. How I felt that year was exactly what was happening: I was trying to force nature to cooperate and fit in my box.
That’s when everything changed.
I began to ask questions about how I could partner with nature so that I was letting her do as much of the work for me as possible. I realized that the language I was using for my entries was all about how ‘I was growing a garden.’ So I changed my perspective and started writing, ‘Nature is growing this garden, and the soil is growing my plants.’
And she did. Nature grew my plants. And because I wasn’t trying to grow plants, I could focus on growing the soil and being a steward of the land.
Were it not for my garden entries, I would not have had anything to reflect on to make the connection of how my approach to gardening was creating the very frustration I was working so hard to avoid. Writing down my new mindset to partner with nature and filter my garden choices through that lens helped me set goals properly.
Because of that one insight, gardening became more effortless than ever. Staying on track with my goals became so much easier. Had I not seen those entries of frustration later after I had long ago walked away from my garden, I may not have seen the pattern I was creating. When you journal, positive change is possible and can catapult your journey forward.
A garden journal isn’t just a place for you to look back and gain knowledge and wisdom. It’s a place where others can too. Whether you share lessons you’ve gained from your journaling with other growers in your community or you gift the journals to your grandchildren to pass on your garden insights, mindsets, and recipes, the record of your garden journey is absolutely priceless.
My grandmother didn’t garden, but she did make the most delicious chicken noodle soup! The are many moments in my life that I have wished for that recipe and a photo of her and I enjoying that amazing meal together. But there’s no recipe. There are no photos. And so there is a gap where her smile and her creation should be.
By keeping a journal of your garden harvests and recipes, you are recording the creation of your life. Someday they may become precious to your children and grandchildren.
When you choose to keep a garden journal, so many gems can be found that may otherwise have remained hidden and lost to time. Keeping a garden journal is a way to light your path and the path of those who will follow in our footsteps.
GYOV Instructor and Harvest Club Support
Crystal owns and operates a one-woman wholesale commercial living microgreen operation in the mountains of western North Carolina. After working and managing local restaurants for over a decade, she saw the need for chefs to have access to more affordable, organic food for the delicious creations they craft for our communities.
Crystal hopes to stand as a clear message to anyone who thinks they can’t grow: You can. Anyone can. With the right system, mindsets, and mentor, everything becomes possible.