E. Spencer Toy

It keeps track of plant labels, seed packets, and more

When a friend asked me how long pressure-treated posts last in my garden, I confidently answered, "Ten years." I know this because I keep a garden journal. It remembers the important things I would forget ― things that help me grow plants successfully.

I assembled the journal in a large three-ring binder with front and rear pouches. Then I filled it with the following materials from a stationery store for about $60 (but you could do it for less if you shop wisely).

• Graph paper for garden plans

• Wide-ruled paper for notes

• Four vinyl pouches for labels, seed packets, drawing tools, and dried flowers

• Tabbed dividers

• Vinyl pockets to hold magazine clippings

Organizational scheme

I break my journal into the sections that follow, but you could arrange yours by month.

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. In these four sections, I record what goes on from season to season. For example, when I noticed how well Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' went with 'Autumn Joy', I made a note in the Fall section. When I heard the year's first frogs (which coincide with the first mosquitoes), I noted it in the Winter section.

"Got to try this." Here I've reminded myself to experiment with 'Spanish Roja' garlic, 'Yellowstone' landscape rose, and a new kind of weeder. When I clip an article, I slip it into a vinyl pocket.

Landscaping notes. Here I keep a plan of my landscape with plant names penciled in, to help me reinvent or rework landscaping ideas. After planting, I stuff the identifying labels into the vinyl pouches.

Annual recaps. When I rip out vegetables and annuals, I note winners and losers in this section.

Miscellany. Here I note things like the address of a sensational camellia mail-order supplier.

Challenges and solutions. The place to keep tabs on insects, diseases and weeds.

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