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Garden Help Desk: Benefits of a gardening journal

By USU Extension - | Mar 4, 2023

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Flowers, fruits and vegetables need the right soil nutrients in the right amounts if you want them to flourish. A home garden soil test will tell you if your flower and vegetable gardens need any special soil preparation.

What can a garden journal do for you?

We’ve talked about garden journals before, and what a journal can do for a gardener. Your journal is the place where you keep a yearly record of your garden-what and when you planted, how each variety did, how the weather worked for or against you, and all the other things that happen in a garden.

If you haven’t been keeping a garden journal, now is a good time to start. You don’t need anything special for keeping a garden journal. Anything that lets you keep a record of date and information will do — a clip board with pencil and paper, a calendar with room for notes, a stack of sticky-notes with a blank paper for storing and organizing the notes, a notebook, the notes app on your smart phone, or even a bound journal.

If you already keep a garden journal, make sure you’re getting the most of it. You’ve probably already been using your journal to decide what you’ll plant and when you’ll do it, but have you discovered how your journal can help you with pest and disease management, too?

Keeping a record of pest problems will help you anticipate their arrival and prevent the problem instead of trying to get things back under control once the problem is bad enough to get your attention. For example, aphids and thrips can arrive in your garden for a few weeks before their population and damage are noticeable. If you made a note about when you saw their damage last year, you can start scouting more frequently a few weeks before that date this year and begin some soft pest control options, like insecticidal soap, while their population is low.

Courtesy Meredith Seaver

Tomatoes can get the same diseases that affect peppers potatoes. Growing those vegetables in the same place year after year increases the chances you'll have disease problems. A garden journal makes it easier rotate your crops each year so that you can grow healthy plants with good yields.

Your journal can also help you with crop rotation and weed control.

If you had disease problems in your garden or flowerbed last year, your garden journal can help you choose varieties with better disease resistance or remind you where you had disease problems so that you can plant something different in that area this year.

Did you make a record of any perennial weed problems last year? Using your garden journal, you can avoid planting early spring crops in that area, giving you a few more weeks to do weed control without damaging your plantings.

Take some time this month to review last year’s garden journal and make it one of your most useful gardening tools this year.

What can I do now to get my garden ready for the year?

We’re all anxious to get out into our gardens and start growing, but there are a few things we should do before we start planting things. They’re all things we can do now while it’s too cold and wet out in our yards. Here are 5 things we can work on while we wait for good gardening conditions.

  • Select the right varieties for your garden conditions. Review your garden journal to see if some of last year’s choices did poorly because of the heat, cold, sun or shade conditions in your garden and choose better varieties for this year.
  • Get a soil test for your vegetable or flower gardens if it’s been more than a few years since your last soil test. It takes more than regular watering if you want your flowers and vegetables to flourish and be productive. Your garden plants also need enough of the right resources to do their best, but not too much. A soil test will take the guess work out of providing your plants with what they need. You’ll find all the information you need for a home garden soil test at https://usu.edu/analytical-laboratories/tests/home-soil-testing.
  • Check your tools. Does everything work the way is should? Are pruners, shovels and trowels clean and sharp? You don’t want to be out looking for replacements while you’re in the middle of a garden project.
  • Tune up your irrigation system before you plant. Whether you’re using sprinklers, drip irrigation, flood irrigation, or any other method, you need to know that your plants will have the water they need when they need it.
  • Subscribe to free USU pest management email advisories for up-to-date information about pest and diseases that may be active in your garden, lawn or general landscape.


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