I've mentioned my haphazard approach to keeping a garden journal. As pathetic as some of my attempts have been, I keep trying because I really do find them helpful. I grow a lot of different plants and there is no way I could possibly remember all their variety names. I tried spreadsheets and databases, but after awhile there was simply too much information and I find a picture triggers my memory better than searching through words.
At the very least, I take photos throughout the seasons, including winter. This tells me when things bloom or fruit, how long they look good and whether they had problems or thrived. Awhile back I suggested a more detailed, low effort way of keeping a journal, by organizing all those plant tags in plastic photo sleeves and jotting down pertinent information right on the sleeve. You could also include photos of your garden. I'm feeling a little better organized with this approach.
Gardener Teresa Morrogh has taken a similar idea even further with the Garden Scribe plant organizer. It's kind of a big scrap book for all your plant details. It's still a 3-ring binder and there are still photo sleeves, but the GardenScribe is set up to help you group your plant info in a meaningful, easy to access way.
There are separate sections for perennials, annuals, biennials, shrubs, trees and vines. Each section is filled with Plant Detail sheets and an index page, like the ones above. The detail sheet has a plastic pouch for your plant tag and/or photo and a header asking for the botanical and common name. Easy enough, if you have the tag. Then you just check off the boxes for Plant characteristics and growing conditions, like: Shrub - Full sun - Deciduous - Zone 5 - Mature size 3 ft. x 5 ft. - Bloom period: spring, drought tolerant, cutback in spring, and so on. So by doing a little filling in and checking off you now have the compete care of the plant.
The three final sections on the Plant Detail sheet are for history (where did you buy it, when did you plant it, where did you put it?), Pests and Diseases (what was wrong and what did you do about it?) and a section for additional notes. I've tried a few pages so far and I think the info is pretty thorough. Plus it only took a few minutes for each plant.
While the plant info is well thought out and easy to input, the overall organization of all these sheets seemed a little less optimal, at first. You are supposed to code each page consecutively and enter them on the index sheet at the front of each section. For instance, if your first annual is Salvia 'Blue Better", it would get the code A (for annual) and 1 (for first). The second sheet you do is 'Yellow Prism' petunia and it is coded A2 on its sheet.
Then you list them on the index sheet:
I can see that becoming unwieldy in a short time. However I do like the idea of having a Quick List section, where you can set up groups of plants either by area of the garden, season of bloom or maintenance requirements. These lists will tell you where to quickly find the sheets for the plants you want to review. If all the plants that need dividing in the fall are listed as P3, P7, P12 and V13, you just thumb to those pages, which were conveniently set up in numerical order. There is a Garden Layout section with graph paper and a nice landscape template, for those who like to see their plans laid out. I have never been fond of counting 1/4 in. squares, but I do enjoy playing with landscape templates and this is a pretty versatile one, scaled to the 1/4 in. graph paper.
There are two binder packages:
You can also purchase refills of any of the sheets, in packs of 10 each. The binders and section dividers are also available separately, in case you want to customize yours or if you need replacements.
All in all, I'm finding the GardenScribe to be a quick way to keep my plant info organized. Whether I will stick to it when things get crazy in the spring is anybody's guess, but like anything else, it takes time to make it a habit. I still wish there were a quick, easy way to save this information electronically and I'm guessing there will be a good app for that in the near future, but if you are trying to get a handle on what plants you have planted where or if you just like having a physical book in front of you to leaf through (as so many of us still do), I think GardenScribe would definitely be a help.
You can find out more, including how to order one, at the GardenScribe website.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.