Digital tools for keeping garden notes

garden notebook

If you haven’t already started a garden notebook, you might digital tools for keeping garden notes. I’m talking about computers, smart phones, tablets and digital storage. Yesterday I wrote about the advantages of using a “garden notebook.” Over the years my garden notes have evolved quite a bit. I started out, first, using a 3 X 5″ card file and a card for each garden variety I grew. This card file did an admirable job, with the exception that it did not provide a panoramic “view” of the garden’s progress each year. I could only examine the progress of individual varieties, or else, it got cumbersome.

Yesterday’s Post: On Keeping a Garden Notebook

I may have done an actual garden notebook for year or two, but, if I did, I lost the notebook in one of our many moves. Early on I started using a computer for my work and studies. By the mid 90s I switched using a computer. Since then digital tools for keeping garden notes have been my favorite way to keep track of things. There are good reasons for this. Two of them are:

  • I already have to spend a good deal of time in front of the computer.
  • I was less likely to lose my notes, if they are on the computer.
  • Since 5th grade I have always found it easier to write on a keyboard than by hand.

My style of keeping a garden notebook has evolved over decades. I’d like to share it with you.

George’s Method of Keeping Garden Notes

Garden notes, garden note, garden log
A page from George’s 2018 Garden Log
  1. Open a word processor and create a document.
  2. Name it something like Garden2020.doc, whatever name clearly reminds you what it’s for.
  3. For each entry start with the date. I use this format: 08/24/2020.
  4. On any given day I simply write down the date on a new line and record my observations. It’s that simple!

Essential Details to Record in Your Garden Notes

  • dates of planting, both seeds and transplants
  • varieties planted and how they do in your garden
  • date of first flower for fruiting crops
  • specific weather conditions which figure into the garden’s performance
  • pests and diseases dealt with, along with when they appeared and what worked to deal with them
  • date of first observed fruit (pods, berries or whatever)
A Native Seeds/Search bean, Tarahumara Pink Green Bean
I keep notes on when crops flower, produce a crop and mature seed.
  • date of first mature fruit and/or first mature seed

It’s particularly helpful to record dates which help one to know days to maturity.

If you record planting dates and the date of first fruit, then, in the future, you can better plan, knowing how long it took to obtain a crop, starting at that specific time, in your specific climate and conditions.

Specific Tips for Using digital tools for garden notes (George’s Method)

  • At the start decide what name or acronym you’re going to use for a given crop. Then use it consistently. Later, you’ll be able to use the word search feature of your word processor to find all your observations about a given variety, and that, without hunting around. It will be fast and easy. An example: Instead of writing out “Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin” every time, I use “OTCP.”
cornfield pumpkin, old timey cornfield pumpkin, heirloom squash, heirloom pumpkins,
“Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkin” takes time to write. In my notes I refer to it as “OTCP.”
  • Be consistent in how you note dates. If you use April 15, 2018 on your first entry, then stick to that format. If you use 4/15/2018, then stick with that format. This will help you to use that word search feature to move through the document more rapidly.
  • Be sure to back up your file(s). A simple document could even be “backed up” by e-mailing it to yourself. A thumb drive would work even better.
thumb drive, usb backup
A little thumb drive can hold a whole lot of images and notes. Keep at least 2 backups for safety’s sake. They can break down.
  • If you keep notes over the course of years, you can choose either to start a new document for each year or to keep just one document, and start each year. A word search for the given year would take you straight to the beginning of that year’s notes.
  • For readability it’s helpful to format your paragraphs as “hanging paragraph’s,” so that the first line comes a bit further over to the left than the rest of the lines.
  • Take pictures of your crops. If electronically stored, be sure to rename your pictures with the variety name and date as part of their label.  These may even be inserted into your notes. I keep mine separate but one might like to illustrate their garden notes.
regionally adapted bean, Woods Mountain Crazy Bean
Adding photos to your garden notes helps conserve more details and adds to the pleasure of reviewing the notes.
  • If you use a smart phone, try using the notepad/memo feature to record observations when you are in the garden. These can then be emailed to yourself and pasted into your notes. I received a tablet for my birthday, the memo app in that, allows me to insert pictures into my memos and email them to myself as illustrated documents.
  • In the off season, when you’re not able to work outside, so much, take advantage of the time to read and edit your notes. The beauty of the electronic document is that you can do this and still keep it neat.


Have you developed a unique and useful way of keeping garden notes from your garden? We’d love to know. Use the comment area to tell us.

Here’s an article on developing a garden journal using a 3 ring binder.


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