As I sit and pore over seed catalogs… I mark the calendar with the last frost date… I discuss with my family what we should grow… I glance at the mounds of snow blanketing the raised beds when I’m out feeding the birds… I dream… I wait.
And then one day, the soil is free of frost and the sun feels warm on my back and we plant the snap peas. The garden awakens again.
Every year I make a promise to myself that I will keep a record of the garden. That I will note what we plant, when we plant, where we plant, what we harvest… the details, great and small, that together tell the story of our work.
And so was born the family garden journal.
The journal is designed with several blank forms to aid you in record keeping and note taking. It is also, however, meant to incorporate pieces of your own design and choosing.
Let me first show you the forms (which can be downloaded at the end of the article.)
The bulk of the journal is this planting record form that prints two to a page (and can be printed front and back to save paper.) As you can see, it provides space for recording the details of each plant in your garden. Here is an example I worked on with my five-year-old daughter.
I included a sheet to download of gray outlined rectangles that roughly fit the blank spaces for illustrations. I find that being able to offer small pieces on which to draw appeals to my kids and also allows them to draw more freely without feeling any pressure to “be perfect” on the finished page. These rectangle drawings can then be pasted into the spaces on the printed page. The other blank rectangular space can be used for your notes.
The layout form provides space for recording the location of various crops, as well as planning for optimal crop rotation for the following year.
The calendar form is to be printed for each month that constitutes your gardening season. Record first and last frost dates, and use it as a planning tool for mapping out your planting schedule. The lines that divide the days are grayed a bit, as I feel garden planning does not always demand daily adherence, but rather weekly tasks and goals. It is however sometimes helpful to be able to mark a specific date.
Jot down ideas, dreams, plans and schemes for the year or years to come on this page.
Gardening speaks, I think, to the fine line that dissects science and art. Surely without attention to the biological needs of the plants, you would have little to show for your efforts. But so too, without attention to its beauty, would you have little to appreciate for your efforts.
The forms above are just that… fairly rigid spaces to record the science of how it is you helped your garden grow. The rest of the journal is left to you to record its beauty. Fill it with drawings, your own and your children’s… with leaf rubbings and pressed flowers, with photographs and poetry. Record how you and your family grew in and with that garden. By the end of the season you will have a treasured collection of papers that tell the story of that year’s garden. To preserve these pages, bind them as follows.
Choose two pieces of cardstock for the front and back cover. Lay a ruler ¾ of an inch in on the long edge of the front piece and score it with a sharp pointed object (a bone folder or chopstick work well). Fold the edge upwards.
Stack all your inside sheets neatly and hold them together with binder clips on three sides. Lay a ruler ½ inch in along the long edge of the stack and make a mark at every inch. Repeat the same on the front and back covers.
Use a sharp pin or needle to poke holes through all the marks you have made on the covers and the inside papers.
Using a heavy thread and tapestry needle, begin sewing the spine of the journal together as follows. Come from the back cover up through to the front cover on the topmost hole.
Continue whipstitching through each hole from back to front along the entire spine of the book.
When you reach the end, reverse direction and sew back up the spine from front to back, creating a triangle stitch pattern along the edge of the journal. At the last hole slip the needle under the topmost stitch and bring the thread back to meet the tail from your first stitch. Tie the two ends together in a square knot and snip the threads close to the knot.
Creating this journal again each year will surely improve the science of my garden. But more importantly, it will help me remember many years from now, the small hands that dug alongside me as we planted and weeded and popped warm tomatoes off the vine into our mouths.
Liv is a homeschooling mama to three little girls. With a garden buried under record snowfall, she is feeling the itch to get her hands in the dirt all the more this year. She blogs at 54stitches.