Spring is here and many of us will be knee deep in compost very soon — if you’re not already — preparing our gardens for what we pray will be a beautiful harvest. After 4 years of pretty serious gardening, I consider my garden beds mature. By now, I have a good understanding of what I should grow based on what my family eats the most of and I know where and when to sow each seed.
However, when I first started out, I had no idea what I was doing. Moving from Georgia to Arizona required a total change in the way I viewed and practiced gardening. Through the transition, my gardening binder saved me from a great deal of discouragement and inspired me to continue on.
For those of you who want to begin a vegetable garden for the first time — or maybe you’d like to add a new bed this year — why not create a garden binder? I’m sure you’ll find it to be an indispensable tool for years to come.
The Purpose for Keeping a Garden Binder
Creating a garden binder — or a garden journal as it is sometimes called — is a super inexpensive and easy way to keep track of your garden.
Gardeners keep records and journals for a variety of reasons. I know my need for keeping a garden binder centers around my inability to remember specific details year after year! Not only do I frequently forget the names of plants that did really, really well — even though I swore there was no way I’d forget — but also freeze/frost dates and general garden wins as well as loses.
What to Record
You can record as much or as little as you want. Here are a few things that I am sure to write down each year:
- seed start and transplant dates
- good local and online sources for plants and seeds
- weather trends (i.e. rainfall and freeze/frost dates)
- various characteristics of plants; such as, days to seed germination, date of appearance in spring, and the emergence of blossoms
- dates of harvest for each variety of vegetable grown
- common pests, their date of arrival in the garden, and effective remedies
- good companion plants
- when and what type of fertilizer were applied to each plant
- miscellaneous observations throughout the growing season
How to Organize the Binder
I keep my garden binder very simple. In order to do this, I use clear sheet protectors and have it divided into monthly sections that include elements of the following:
- seed packets and plant details — these I place in the month in which they were started
- various pictures of crops throughout the months
- clips of magazine or printed online articles appropriate for the growing season
In the back of the binder, I also have a few sections that store:
- a “Garden by the Moon” calendar
- a free-hand drawing of my garden and patio, on plain paper, that shows where each plant was planted and the size of pot used
- notes that include plants to consider in the coming years
- favorite family recipes for the harvest
- a list of suppliers and online websites
- the costs associated with growing our own veggies — this one is important to me because keeping my garden expenses organized holds me accountable and helps me strive for the most savings possible.
When making your own garden binder, of course you can include or exclude any of the ideas that I have listed. Your choice of what to record and how to organize it totally depends on how much information you’d like to keep.
And that’s it! I can promise you…creating your own garden binder will help you stay organized and it will give you the confidence to move forward year after year.
Here’s to recording a wonderful harvest!
So what about you! Do you keep a garden binder? Share your thoughts/tips with us!
This is a great idea, especially for newbies. I am relocating from the south back up north and I will be learning as much as I can so that I can become frugally sustainable. I find that when I am learning new things, I have a tendency to doubt myself, but when I press forward, then I realize that it wasn’t as hard as I originally thought. This is a great article.
Never doubt yourself Neeli! Even when I try something new and it doesn’t work out like I thought it would, I never consider it a failure because I’m always learning something 🙂 And then, if you keep a gardening binder, over the years you’ll be able to look back and see just how far you’ve come!
Thank you for the kind words Andrea! That’s true.
This is a very good idea. I have been gardening pretty heavily for over 5yrs, but never truly sat down and wrote everything that we did. Oh, I took pictures…but I need more information than the visual. Thank you for the inspiration!
Yes…same here! I really wanted something to hold on to and maybe pass down. It’s like a gardening scrapbook of sorts 🙂
I have a not-nearly-as-great binder and am totally inspired to step mine up. We moved to Wyoming from the west coast 3 years ago. It is a total relearning of gardening. We’ve yet to have a successful garden. I’m hopeful this will be the year. 🙂
Ohhhh, yes. I have designed my perfect garden binder over and over again in my head…and have never actually done it. Sometimes starting any kind of organizing project is the hardest part. I really do need to just do this. I DID however (just a few weeks ago), finally get my recipes in order.
Thanks for the inspiration. I wish you lived next door.
Very great! Every year we TRY a garden. It never seems to be a success. I am going to make a garden binder. I especially love the having it divided by month so you know for nest year what you already need to plant that month by just a simple monthly check in.
This is the first year I’ve kept a garden binder. I was so excited to see your version! I like your tip on using the clear sheet protectors with the seed packets right in there. I’ll have to add that to mine. I’ve been taking pictures of my yard as new stuff is coming up… It helps me in the fall when I’m planting spring bulbs and can’t remember where they came up last year. Thanks for the great ideas!
Hi Foks, Just found your blog from a reblog I got. Love what you’re doing here. I was just lamenting the other day that the garden binder/journal always gets off to a smashing start, but then fizzles when the season grinds into high gear. My goal is to keep it going all season long this year.
I keep a journal too, but I love this much more. Thank you!
The Soulicious Life says
Really good idea, if only to remember what I planted and where each year. Thanks!
Exactly! It doesn’t have to be elaborate…mine is actually very plain, but functional 🙂
Bob Dz says
I also suggest adding informative gardening articles, and a “new ideas” section. I see things online that I want to try, and then when next gardening season comes around, I have already forgotten all about it. Now I can drool over my seed catalogs AND garden journal in the “off” season.
YES! That is an excellent idea Bob, and so very true!
Hi Andrea, just a question about those plastic sheet protectors.
I am not sure that keeping seeds in plastic (though they are in their own little bags) is a good idea (for what I have read about it) because they could turn moldy. But as you have this going on for a while now, can you confirm that there is nothing wrong about it, please ? I mean for a bag of seeds kept several years.
Thank you very much to confirm that you had no troubles with this.
By the way, your blog is simply amazing. I do really appreciate it. Kindly,
Hi Macaron! Yes excellent point, and I’m sorry I didn’t clarify that in the post. I have only ever started plants from heirloom seeds, so naturally we save seed year after year. The seed packets in my binder are empty ones and serve as a visual. I keep the actual seeds in small glass jars. Great question!! And thank you for your kind words regarding the blog 🙂
I too keep a binder. I like it better than a journal because you can slip the seed pkts in and if you don’t have time to write much, you can fill in later. I also have sections for pests and natural pest control and another -this one is BIG;) – for projects I want to make for the garden!
Oh, and I use graph paper to lay out the garden plan each year and now I have 10 years of those saved in the binder too! I find this hand when I am planning.
That is excellent Alylou! Isn’t it so much fun to go back and look through all the years 🙂
Yes! oh I could rhapsodize for hours over how the garden has evolved over the years, along with me as a gardener!
I really like this idea! My mom always had a veggie garden while I was growing up and now I’m doing it while my kids are growing. About 4 yrs ago I started my first raised bed with a plan to slowly add to it yearly, this year I added beds #8 and 9! It’s been a learning process and I find I’m learning more from the Fail aspects than the Wins. In the fall one blogger I follow asked, “What did you learn this year while gardening?” I started with a small paragraph but every time I went to hit post I thought of something else, until I had about 6 very full paragraphs and I was amazed at what I had compiled in one year of gardening. I think I’ll begin my binder this week and hunt down that post of mine to start it off! Thanks again for the great idea.
I couldn’t agree with you more Stevi! I wish gardening were as simple as putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow! I have failed so many times, and each year I learn about 6 very full paragraphs myself 🙂
This is my first year with a garden. Thanks for this great idea. I feel in over my head already and this is great!
Tara @ simplymadehome.blogspot.com/
I have always drawed out & planted with my cost but always threw away after each growing season. Firguring I’d change all over next year. This Year I am doing my first square foot garden (Mel Bartholomew-All New Square Foot Garden-http://www.squarefootgardening.com/) & cutting my garden down by 80% but still getting same amout of food out (if not more in my book for now I can add different types) I am starting my first journal. I want to see how much we are going to save in each year. I also liked you ideal of what to do on each page to show plant detail & all. Thanks for helping me put this together. I am so excited this year!
questions: How do you attach the seed packets? Are the packets empty?
Hi Jamie! I just glue or tape them on…they are empty. I keep my seed stored in a glass jar.
Joycelyn Musgrove says
I have my first garden planted this year. This is a wonderful idea that I will start making now!
I love the idea of a garden journal. I forget when and what I planted (what didn’t work more than anything.) Just got a new huge yard and want to make sure I don’t waste time and money.
Brilliant and simple. Which makes it double brilliant. Thanks. (and put me on the list of people who wish you lived right next door!)
Bare Root Hedging says
The idea was great 🙂
Emily @Random Recycling says
Such a great idea. I have some extra binders from Naked Binder that are so perfect for the job. 🙂
Andrea, so glad I read this article. I felt so discouraged when I couldn’t remember what I planted and where and dates planted, sprouted and transplanted, etc. So encouraged that I’m not so different from lots of other folks. I need raised beds. Two or three feet high. I was thinking of using bales of hay to put planter pots on. Do you know if baled hay causes problems like mold or rot or pests? How long can the same bale be used? A year or every year?
Thanks for the idea! BTW- Lefties are pretty neat ; )
Also- Amazon Sells 4 Pouch sheet protectors that fit even most larger seed packets.
And I LOVE the Staples Better Binder, they are SUPER DUPER durable.
And Frugalliving.about.com has some pretty neat print outs for garden journaling. I found that I had to edit some, but most were great or at least gave some great ideas to make your own on Excel.
Happy Harvests Everyone!
Kevin @ Zentiz says
This is a very good idea. It is a total relearning of gardening. We’ve yet to have a successful garden.