Winter is a good time to start your garden journal

There are books and books out now about organizing but, seriously, organizing my garden too? Yeah, that sounds like work, but do consider these organizing tips that can help you in your garden.

Right now calendars are on sale. Perfect. You don’t have to hang it on the wall – just put the calendar among the files on your desk. Then document things as they happen on the day they happen: planted a holly, first forsythia blooms, deer spray, divided grasses. As you read gardening magazines, you can write a few tips in the calendar to remember when to do things: order bulbs in early September, photograph garden in late summer before perennials die back, etc. As the years go by, the small calendar stack becomes your record. Clever and quick, huh?

I keep a lined journal for the garden classes and symposia I attend. That way I know where to look for ideas from a class, and I can review past notes as I wait for the next class to start. Looking for classes to attend? Check out the calendar on the home page of my website (conniecottingham.com) for classes and events in the Southeast.

You may want a garden journal too. Although a lined journal makes sense, I have switched to a sketchpad with a hard back, where I can draw plant bed layouts and ideas, and tape photos, plant tags and clippings from catalogs. It may look a bit eclectic, but I like the creative layout and who sees it besides me?

Speaking of photos, it is good to document your garden in pictures. You will notice things in photos that you have become blind to (if you paint that shed sage instead of dazzling white it may hide in the background), and you have a record of what is growing where (very handy when some of those plants are sleeping under mulch or it is time to plant more daffodil bulbs). I often photograph the plant tag with the photo; it is wise to include plant names in the file name. Pictures can be pasted into your journal or your online photo file can have subfolders: projects, areas of your garden, ideas, years – whatever works for you.

I have some organizing tips too. I like keeping my long-handled tools together in a cart that lets me roll all my tools out to where I am working, then put them all back in one easy trip. I cannot find one even similar to mine online, but this one would work. Short-handled tools go under this rolling garden seat. All seeds go into one metal tin. Hats hang at the back door on a rack made from a rake. Potting soil and bird seed goes into metal trash cans with a scoop inside and tight-fitting lids.

Yeah, documenting and organizing your garden sounds like work when you are busy living your life. I am a garden writer, so I need to be organized about my gardening. Hey – I have a file drawer by my desk where current plant catalogs are alphabetized. Try just one idea; it will prove its ROI. And I will admit – although I have all of these systems, my level of organizing ebbs and flows. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are for.